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Background to study
Poverty is a universal problem facing mankind, with serious consequences. It can be described as a multi-dimensional phenomenon, which lacks universally accepted definition. For instance, its economic dimension centres on nature and level of material deprivations which afflict the poor, and distinguishes them from the non-poor.
According to the Encyclopaedia Americana poverty is viewed from two different perspectives as signifying “monelessness and powerlessness”. Monelessness means not merely an insufficiency of cash but chronic inadequacy of resources of all types to meet basic human needs as nutrition, rest, shelter, etc and powerlessness refers to those people who lack the opportunity and choices and whose lives seem to be controlled by forces and persons outside their control – maybe by people in positions of authority or perceived evil forces or ill-luck.
As there are varying divergent views on the concept of poverty, we could observe that poverty exists when people lack the means to satisfy their basic needs. In Africa, and in particular Nigeria; the colonialists imposed capitalistic economic system which allowed for exploitation and domination of the rich individuals and companies in the available resources including exploiting the labour of others to increase their wealth. Besides, when the colonialists shifted emphasis from food crops to cash crops as deliberate government’s policy in order to serve the needs of the industries in the metropolitan Europe, shortage of food began to manifest amongst the rural dwellers who constituted 80% of the country’s population.
Furthermore, the lack of commitments and focused leadership at all levels of governments, daily eroded value systems and impoverished the people; to the extent of the deprivations, prevalent hunger, disease, poverty and dearth in infrastructural development and amenities. The combination of the economic and political structures inherited by post independent African countries, especially Nigeria had paved way for social crises which the new leaders had failed to successfully address in most cases, the major population of Nigerians who live in rural areas had continued to experience low quality of life, misery, hopelessness scarcity of food, lack of shelter, poor health care delivery systems, high infant mortality rate, high level of illiteracy and above all, manifesting characteristics of under-development in all the ramifications. No doubt all these unenviable scorecards have continued to bring pressure on leadership.
Unfortunately, most of the post independence leaders who took part in Nationalist movements, and took over governments from the colonialists soon became authoritarian and did not care for the development and welfare of their people. Besides, leaders are continuously being overwhelmed by the severity of poverty, hunger and disease afflicting the people. And with the lack of capacity and resources in some cases to tackle these problems and those of development with international relations, they resort to silencing the agitations of the masses for improved living conditions and welfare, through high-handedness, clamping down on discerning voices against their government. Some of these leaders opt for a single party system in practice and do not tolerate oppositions and plurality of parties.
However, in the new world order, authoritarian leaders and governments who are highly insensitive and hiding under the cloak of democracies to afflict their citizens with mismanagement of resources, non transparency in government business, denials of rights of individuals under the United Nations Charter and presiding over under-development; have no place in the comity of nations, who have indeed democratised and in keeping with the tenets of democracy worldwide.
Indeed, such leaders and their governments run the risk of being sanctioned and isolated in all aspects of endeavours. Because of the increasing agitations by the people for better conditions and welfare, the social crises and strife ensuing, coupled with the threat of sanctions from the international community; Nigerian political leaders and their governments had admittedly recognized the need for improving the living standards of their people, as a sine-quo-non for peace and harmony.
In these regards, the Federal Government of Nigeria had designed several programmes aimed at alleviating poverty and improving the living conditions of its people. Some of these programmes since the 1970s include:
• Operation Feed the Nation (OFN)
• Green Revolution
• DFFRI, Peoples Bank, Community Bank
• Structural Adjustment Programme
• Better Life Programme and Family Support Programme
• Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP)
• National Directorate of Employment (NDE)
• Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure
• Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP)
• National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP)
• National Economic Empowerment and Development
All these are geared towards raising the living standards of rural people and the urban dwellers, with the anticipated peace, harmony and development resulting thereafter. Nigeria is a country of about 120 million people, covering 4470km coastlines with enormous resources of natural gas and coal, vast array of solid minerals like gold, coal, tin, kaolin, columbite, zinc, limestone; etc.
One of the largest resources of tropical timbers, varied vegetation and topography with favourable climatic condition that require the growing of a wide range of food and cash crops all the year round, Nigeria is one of the continent’s poles of development. She is in a position to influence development in both West African sub-region and Africa in general. Therefore, the rating of Nigeria as one of the poorest in Africa and yet with other unenviable indices of underdevelopment calls for the need for political leaders to rise to these challenges and turn things around for the better.
Despite the various poverty alleviation programmes by successive governments, and the huge budgeting outlays attached to these programmes, the rural areas and the people have remained poor. Some of the features of this poverty are lack of basic social amenities, malnutrition, disease and ignorance. It is argued that all these problems resulting from policy inconsistencies, lack of political will, bureaucratic red tape, lack of transparency in business of government, lack of consumer oriented consultations in policy initiation or formulation, lack of capacity for policy implementation, obstacles arising from political and social considerations, poor leadership, inadequate support institutions and resources for policy implementation; all these are exacerbated by political instability and social crises. With these score cards, Nigeria will not be able to sustain a stable political system which would be supported by its citizens for accelerated development, which means that Nigeria would not be able to offer the desired leadership expected in West African sub-region and Africa in general; and the central role as a development centre and pole in international affairs would remain a mirage.
Economic development considers human living conditions especially the individual well being as a more important focus of attention than the institutions and organizations within the social system (Ukpong 1994). Therefore economists of development persuasion are interested basically not only in the wealth of nations the highlights of which appear in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and aggregate economic indicators but also, they are interested in how the wealth is distributed among individuals and groups of people in a country or if there is inequality in the distribution of available resources within a country even if that country is endowed by adequate resources.
There is every likelihood that few people will be enjoying better living conditions while the majority would be languishing in a state of abject poverty, more problematic conditions arise in a situation whereby the country’s material and human resources are under-utilised and unevenly distributed among the different component units of the country and to the extent that what it has cannot satisfy the yearnings and aspiration of the generality of the people who want to use them.
Coupled with the above scenario is the absence of the enabling environment for sustainable development. In such a situation, even if the distributive system is functioning properly, there is likely to be shortages of essential needs of people. In this case the country is said to be poor. It was Hoffman (1975:13) who once described an underdeveloped, poor or backward country in these words: “Everyone knows an underdeveloped country when he sees one. It is a country characterized by poverty with beggars in the cities and villages eking out a bare subsistence in the rural areas. It is a country lacking in industries or factories of its own usually with inadequate supplies of power and light, it usually has insufficient roads and railroads, insufficient government services, poor communications, and
insufficient social infrastructures.
Nigeria is faced with most of these problems. That is why Nigeria has been ranked as one of the poorest countries of the world. Today in Nigeria, one of the principal concerns of both the federal and state governments is the formulation and execution of policies designed to propel the nation’s economy to push up per capita output. It is expected that the rising output should raise the incomes of most Nigerians every year. Yet poverty not only persists, but also tends to exacerbate; clearly the rate of poverty is greater in recent times than in the past. Many attempts have been made by both the Federal and State governments to reduce the incidence of poverty and inequality in Nigeria.
The Federal government for example has offered balanced wage adjustments since the Udoji Salary Review of 1974 aimed at reducing the income gap between high and low income earners and also to raise the standard of living of the people, particularly workers. Also the federal government introduced a progressive income tax system with the aim of narrowing the gap between the take home pay of people at different salary levels and to bring about some sense of equality among the income earners.
The introduction of Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) by the military administration under General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1976 and the Green Revolution of the then President Shehu Shagari in 1980 and the salary review of May 2000 were all attempts at reducing poverty in Nigeria. But the efforts so far appear not sufficient to move majority of Nigerians out of poverty bracket.
It is the objective of this research study therefore, to explore the whole concept of development and poverty, causes and consequences of poverty and inequality, and how best to tackle the problems which poverty and underdevelopment had created.
Over the decades, empirical statistics from the research findings on the level of poverty, especially at the rural setting shows that poverty had continued to exist and indeed degrade as well as ravaged the quality of life of the people in the rural areas in Nigeria. Worried by this trend, successive Nigerian governments had tried to tackle poverty in Nigeria, through the design and implementation of several poverty alleviation measures aimed at stemming the ugly trend of poverty in the land.
Since the 1970s, there had been such poverty alleviation programmes like: Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), Green Revolution, Direct intervention in rural development code-named (DFFRI), People’s Bank, Community Bank, National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Better Life Programme; Family Support Programme, Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), universal Basic Education UBE etc. These programmes by the various governments of Nigeria were designed by policy makers and targeted at poverty alleviation in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, the quality of life of the majority of Nigerians had remained unenviable and embarrassingly low, despite the huge budgetary allocations by these governments to these poverty alleviation programmes.
Reports from World Bank, WHO, and various NGOs home based and abroad had at various times confirmed the worsening economic and social situations in Nigeria with the unbelievable ratings as 23rd poorest country in the world, and the 2nd most corrupt country in the conduct of government business (courtesy of Transparency International). All these had been, in spite of the fact that, Nigeria is the current 6th World’s largest producer of crude oil and with the greatest endowments in solid minerals, agricultural potentials and human capital of over 120 million people.
Statement of problem
Nigerians and observers are anxious to know the impact of huge financial allocations to various poverty alleviation programmes, since the 1970s, as the problem to be addressed had continued to worsen, deteriorate and further afflict more Nigerians with the end not in sight. Besides, government needs to know why her poverty alleviation programmes had not yielded the desired impact on the masses, so as to enable her approach the poverty issue more programmatically.
This study therefore, identified the problems responsible for the persistence of hunger, disease and squalor in the rural communities in Nigeria, despite efforts by governments to solve them. The study has made recommendations that will assist the government through the policy matters, to come out with more realistic, implementable and rural based programme that would address the issue of poverty in Nigeria.
Researchers and social scientists are likely to find this study exciting, especially with the novel concept of Bottom-Top policy-design and implementation strategy enunciated. Furthermore, this study would provide the required clues for governments and NGOs to tackle the poverty problems at the root. And when this is achieved there will be improved social and political stability, which will stimulate and enhance economic growth development and improved welfare for the people.
The objective of the study includes the followings:
a) To determine the impact of various poverty alleviation programmes of government on the lives of rural dwellers
b) To examine poverty alleviation programme package that is best be suited and easily implementable at the rural level,
The researcher sought to provide answers to the followings:
c) What impact has the various poverty alleviation programmes of government made on the lives of rural dwellers?
d) What poverty alleviation programme package would best be suited and easily implementable at the rural level, where the majority of Nigerians live?
Significance of study
In this regard significance of study will be both on the theoretical levels and
practical levels. Theoretically, this study seeks to highlight and widen scholarly perceptions of poverty alleviation programmes in Nigeria. Practically study will be a response to the intellectual challenges involved in enhancing an understanding of the unending concept of poverty.
Also, this study will be of vital importance to scholars on poverty reduction and the global reading public, and as such serve as a further take off point for future inquiry in the study under review.
Scope of study
The study is restricted to analyzing is effects of poverty reduction programme of federal government on rural communities in using rural communities in akwa Ibom state, as case study.
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