The federal government on Wednesday said the preference of state governors to build flyovers and airports instead projects that can improve life in the rural areas is not helping its programmes to alleviate poverty in the country.
The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, stated this while reacting to a question after the Federal Executive Council FEC meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He told reporters that 72% of the poverty in Nigeria was found in the rural areas, which he said had been abandoned by governors.
Agba, who said the federal government on its part had done its best on poverty alleviation, added that the priority of governors have not made the citizens to feel the impact of those initiatives and investment that had been done in the area.
He said governors focused on building flyovers, airports and other projects that were visible in the state capitals rather than investing in areas that directly uplift the standard of life of the people in the rural areas.
The minister said states which were in charge of land for agriculture had not invested in them for the desired effect on their rural citizens.
He advised governors to focus on initiatives that could pull the majority of the people out of poverty.
When asked to explain what he and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, were doing to address the suffering of Nigerians, Agba said: “Question was, what was the Minister of Finance and I doing with regards to hardship in Nigeria, right. So, suggestion is that both of us are the ones creating the hardship for us to resolve it.
“In the first place. I just returned this morning from Brussels where 106 countries nowadays are 27 countries from Europe and 79 countries from the Organization of African Caribbean and Pacific countries. What was the deliberation on? Basically on how should the world over tends to do around food and energy and energy crisis.
“I think that it’s always good for us to put things in the right perspective. Like I say to people, when you say government, we should be able to specify which government we are talking about. Is it a federal government? Is it a state government or is it a local government? Because we all have different responsibilities. And it is for this reason that we last year started some work on the multi dimensional poverty index, for which we recently released the report and it was lunch by Mr. President.
To say in the past, we’ve always looked at monetary poverty. But poverty like we know has different pieces, different intensity and different causes. And it is for this reason, I went around the 109 senatorial districts in Nigeria, to carry out those survey and to be able to say specifically, where this hardship is.
“The result clearly show that 72% of poverty is in the rural areas. It also showed clearly, that Sokoto state is leading in poverty with 91%. But the surprising thing is Bayelsa being the second in terms of poverty rating in the country. So, you see the issue is not about availability of money. But it has to do with the application of money.
“In the course of working on the national development plan, we looked at previous plans and say why they didn’t do as much as was expected. We also looked at the issues of the National Social Investment Programme.
“At the federal level, government is putting out so much money but not seeing so much reflection, in terms of money that has been put in alleviating poverty, which is one of the reasons the government also put in place the national poverty reduction with growth strategy.
“But if the federal government puts the entire income that it earns into all of this without some form of complementarity from the State governments in playing their part. It will seem as if we are throwing money in the pond. Because the governors basically our only functioning in their state capitals.
“And democracy that we preach about is delivering the greatest goods to the greatest number of people. And from our demographic, it shows that the greatest number of our people who live in rural areas, but the governors are not working in the rural areas.
Right now 70% of our people live in rural areas they produce 90% of what we eat. And unfortunately 60% of what they produce is lost due to post harvest loss and it does not get to the market.
“When we’re talking about food prices, like I mentioned right now as driving inflation, prices of food at the farm gates are low. But when you now take it to the urban areas, you find out that the prices are high due to supply chain disruptions, lack of infrastructure to take them there.
“I think from the federal government side we are doing our best. But we need to push that rather than governors continuing to compete to take loans to build airports that are not necessarily where they have other airports so close to them. Or governors now competing to build flyovers all over the place and we applaud they should concentrate on building rural roads so that the farmer can at least get their products to the market.