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1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The worrisome level of poverty and understanding how to reduce or eradicate the scourge of poverty has been the major thrust of all development plans both in developing and developed economies. There is no gain saying the fact that policies designed to foster economic growth significantly reduce poverty. Nevertheless, policies aimed specifically at reducing poverty are also very important.
Timothy Besley (1997) in his study on “perspective on programme design for alleviating poverty” took two disparate approaches to programme design, which he called the technocratic and the institutional approaches. The technocratic approach is usually associated with economists, focusing on targeting, exploring the theoretical and empirical implications of trying to direct limited resources to people with the greatest need. These efforts emphasize the difficulties of identifying target groups and use creative approaches to programme design that substitute for detailed information required to achieve first-best results. Central to such explorations are the incentive effects of
programme design, which underscore the need to know key behavioural parameters, such as labour supply responses in order to formulate policy.
The other approach, institutional approach is more common among non-economists. The proponents of this view maintain that why programme for the poor do or do not work has much to do with social institutions than with policy design. In their view, anti-poverty policies fail because the poor lack information and voice which would have helped them in participating to design appropriate policy to help them fight poverty. Thus, improving the lives of the poor requires their active participation through a two-way communication, development of institutions that work for the poor and improving government performance.
In Nigeria the wide spread of the scourge of poverty and its multi-dimensional attack on various households has necessitated an equally multi-dimensional approach to its fighting. The headcount poverty index in Nigeria was 28.1%, 46.3%, 42.7%, 65.6% and 54.4% in 1980, 1985, 1992, 1996 and 2004 respectively. While in Enugu State, it was 12.8%, 37.7%, 32.3%, 57% and 31.1% within the same periods (NBS). The trends follow the same pattern in Nigeria and in Enugu State.
Disaggregating the poverty incidence by sector shows that poverty is more of a rural phenomenon than urban concern in Nigeria. The rate of urban poverty was 17.2%, 37.8% and 37.7% in 1980, 1985 and 1992 while that of the rural poor was 28.3%, 51.4% and 48.0% for under the same period, (NBS). Another dimension to measuring poverty of was the human development index (HDI) developed in 1990 and published under the Human Development Report of the United Nations. The human development index (HDI) looks beyond GDP to a broader definition of well-being. It provides a composite measure of three dimensions of human development: living a long and healthy life (measured by life expectancy), being educated (measured by adult literacy and enrolment at the primary, secondary and tertiary level) and having a decent standard of living (measured by purchasing power parity, PPP, income). The index is not in any sense a comprehensive measure of human development. It does not, for example, include important indicators such as gender or income inequality and more difficult to measure indicators like respect for human rights and political freedoms. What it does provide is a broadened prism for viewing human progress and the complex relationship between income and well-being.
According to the report the HDI for Nigeria in 2005 was 0.470, which gives the country a rank of 158th out of 177 countries surveyed. Nigerian’s life expectancy at birth was 46.5 years while her adult literacy rate (ages 15 and older) was 69.1%. Her combined Primary, Secondary and Tertiary gross enrolment ratio was 56.2% with GDP per Capita (PPP) US$1,128, in 2005.
The gulf between the technocratic and institutional approaches to fighting poverty is evident in the place and or role assigned to public relations officers in poverty alleviation programmes. The technocratic approach rarely refers to the role of information and communication experts, while the institutional approach considers them vital to the attack and sustainable eradication of poverty in developing economies. Under the right circumstances, information and communication have been shown to be capable of inducing social and economic development in terms of increased income generation, good health, improved education, employment, agriculture, trade, etc, etc.
Strategies to fight and reduce poverty in Nigeria and Enugu State are carefully documented in various official documents like the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) and State
Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (SEEDS) respectively, amongst others. Most scholars, policymakers, aid donors and even aid recipients recognize that information is power and that a well managed information is a necessary fundamental ingredient of sustained economic development and hence, poverty reduction.
J.E. Stiglitz commenting on the sources of the global economic crises contends that “information and incentive problems played important roles in the financial market scandals of the 90’s and in the financial crises of the 2007/2008”. But, unfortunately, in NEEDS and SEEDS documents information was visibly not committed as a strategy for creating a sustainable economic development and poverty reduction. Rather, information was confined to its old function of dissemination, education, and awareness raising. One could be tempted to believe that the inability of these documents (NEEDS and SEEDS) and others to place information as a strategy to reducing poverty was informed by a very limited set of locally empirical measures of information as a strategy for economic development and poverty reduction.
Communication is the essence of human society, and human beings have developed the most complex systems for exchanging information. Our
societies are even defined by our communication systems, such as English-speaking or French-speaking people. Undeniably, Information is power. Consequently, effective information dissemination, its functional understanding (strategic communication) and ability to effect a behavioural change in the targeted audience are sine qua non in the fight against poverty and the creation of sustainable economic development. Poverty has multiple and complex causes. The poor are not just deprived of basic resources like good food, shelter and cloths; they lack access to information that is vital to their lives and livelihoods. They lack information about market prices for the goods they produce, about health, about the structure and services of public institutions, and about their rights. They lack political visibility and voice in the institutions and power relations that shape their lives. They lack access to knowledge, education and skills development that could improve their livelihoods. They lack access to information about income-earning opportunities in the formal sector and so most of their activities are captured in the informal sector where wages and conditions of service are very poor. The importance of information as a veritable tool for
fighting poverty has been widely recognised world over, (see ADB, 2005, DFID, 2006, Okiyi G.O., 2007 etc).
The National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), which was created in 2001 as a Federal Government of Nigeria agency responsible for monitoring and coordinating the various governments’ poverty reducing activities also recognises the need to use information to fight poverty and so created a programme to that effect. The programme is called Community Economic Enlightenment Sensitisation Scheme (COMEESS). The central objectives of COMEESS are to communicate and enlighten the public of governments’ programmes aimed at reducing poverty and to show how best the programmes of government can be accessed. NAPEP has a monthly publication called “Touching Lives”. In it the agency highlights its achievements and on-coming programmes. The National Poverty Eradication Council (NAPEC), which has the President as the Chairman is the apex body controlling NAPEP and its activities. NAPEP was also empowered to intervene in critical times using specific instruments to bring up the level of income of specified people within the specified sector. The agency has a National Coordinator, who reports directly to the President and thirty-six states
coordinators and one for Abuja. The states coordinators coordinate the day to day activities of the programme and report directly to the National Coordinator. It also maintains offices in all the local government areas in the federation. The local government offices are manned by Monitoring Officers, who report to the State Coordinator.
The Enugu State Ministry for Human Development and Poverty Reduction was created in 2003. It is charged with the responsibility of tackling matters relating to human capacity development and poverty reduction in the state. It has a commissioner who reports directly to the Governor. It equally has a Permanent Secretary and other 56 supporting members of staff. The ministry has no in-house journal where it publishes its programmes. It relies on the use of mass media in its information dissemination.
From the foregoing revelations, it is obvious that poverty-reducing agencies recognise the importance of information as it pertains to dissemination, education and general awareness creation more than it relates information as a strategy to fighting poverty. Improving information flows and communication services is a necessary but not sufficient condition to eliminate poverty. The quality, diversity and
relevance of information are as important as the sheer volume of information available in a society, or the scale of its communication networks. And even relevant information might not of itself be sufficient. A rural farmer could have the latest crop prices, but still be unable to get a fair price for his or her crop because of unequal power relations with middlemen or poor road networks. Information and communication can be used as tools to exert power over others, encourage violence or perpetuate inequality or prejudice. While improving information and communication flows, and infrastructures, within a society might foster economic growth at a macro level, the benefits of that growth can be distributed very unequally within the society. Therefore, addressing the information and communication needs of the poor must form one important component of a wider strategy to tackle poverty. This must begin from the point of policy design and continue all through the project’s life cycle. In fact, for the strategy to be effective, it must involve all stakeholders in the programme’s life cycle. This work will therefore empirically investigate the true commitment of National Poverty Eradication Programme, (NAPEP) and Ministry of Human Development and Poverty Reduction, Enugu State
(MOHD&PR) to this supposition. And in the course provoke debates and suggestions on how best information could be managed and integrated as a strategy to reducing poverty in our high profile poverty communities.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Generally, Nigeria emerged from colonial status as a poor country. Her situation is weakened by poverty, disease and ignorance. The level of poverty in Nigeria seems to have continued to exacerbate despite various measures and strategies that Nigerian governments have adopted over the years. In spite of the abundant natural wealth and human endowment, the majority of our people still live in abject poverty. It is disheartening to see that in spite of the fact that Nigeria is the 6th largest crude oil producing country, it is still the 9th poorest country in the world. Though many programmes have been put in place to stem down poverty and unemployment rates, the question being asked by many is why have these programmes not sufficiently addressed this menace?
Poverty in Nigeria is multi-faceted, multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary. The Nigerian economy, until recently, has been characterized by the paradox of growth without poverty reduction, and
the trickledown effect of growth on the poor, slow response of government to the endemic and persistent problem of poverty and poor governance. Thus, far this characterization of the economy requires articulation for the purpose of designing programmes that are truly poverty reducing (NBS, 2004:5). The headcount poverty incidence in Nigeria was 28.1%, 46.3%, 42.7%, 65.6% and 54.4% in 1980, 1985, 1992, 1996 and 2004 respectively. While in Enugu State, it was 12.8%, 37.7%, 32.3%, 57% and 31.1% within the same periods (NBS, 2004).
Consequently, the above scenarios have continued to question the strategies adopted by agents responsible for making and implementing policies aimed at poverty reduction. The big question is therefore, what and what constitutes the required articulation that is evidently needed for the purpose of designing programmes that is truly poverty reducing?
It is generally believed in communication literatures backed by empirical evidences that information is power and that development communication is a veritable tool for fighting pover
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