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1.1              Background to the Study

 In recent decades, poverty has evolved as the single most daunting challenge confronting humanity. In Africa, the scourge of poverty is not only deeply-rooted and widespread, but somewhat paradoxical. This is so because, despite the upward trend in the average real growth rate over the past five years, endemic poverty has persisted. Perhaps, nowhere else in the African continent is the scourge more prevalent than in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where about 56.6 percent of its 936.1 million populations live below the national poverty line (World Bank, 2013). Contemporary trends reveal that, the depth of poverty – that is, how far incomes fall below the poverty line – is greater in SSA than anywhere else in the world.

The issue of poverty has, in the last two decades, become an intractable problem among the governments of developing nations of Latin America, Asia and Africa that constitute about two third of world population (World Bank, 2006). The mass media, both local and international have sensitised the international community to this plight. It is against this backdrop that the United Nations in September 2000 constituted a global compact group to address the issue of biting poverty ravaging the world. The outcome of the committee’s efforts is the emergence of 15 years Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which is binding on all the governments of developing nations. Although it appears the whole continent of Africa is vulnerable but this paper focuses on Nigeria

In Nigeria, the problems of poverty is multi-faceted, among which are lack of access to good health facilities, high infant mortality, lack of essential infrastructure, unemployment and under-employment as well as endemic and entrenched corruption. Thus, with about 69 percent of the poor living below the poverty line, that is, about 112 million Nigerians in 2010 (NBS, 2010), it becomes quite worrisome. More worrisome is the fact that, poverty situation in the state has shown a rising tendency in the past couple of decades, accounting for the nation’s low development indicators and its ranking among the poorest nations in the world (OXFAM, 2003). Majority of Nigeria’s population live in poverty with insufficient income to cover minimum standard of food, water, fuel, shelter, medical care and schooling (World Bank, 1996).

Given the nation’s endowment with natural resources, its poverty profile presents a sober picture of a nation in decline. On the other hand, contemporary development thinking since the 1990s has placed a high premium on democratic governance as a catalyst for poverty reduction and sustainable development. The World Bank (1992) viewed governance “as the means in which power is exercised in the management of a state’s economic and social resources for development”. The World Bank further averred that for development to succeed in any state there must be sound development management, a well-run market economy, together with an effective liberal democratic political regime (Cardoso, 2001). Thus, good governance has come to be associated with liberal democracy as a necessary element for sustainable development (UNRISD, 2000). Indeed, governance is a broad concept covering political, economic and social dimensions.

Operating in three major domains – the state, civil society and private sector, governance reflects all the ways in which societies distribute power, and manage public resources and problems (Gettu, 2001). Therefore, good governance is central to national development (Corkery, Land and Bossuyt, 1995). It is in light of the above that the present attempts to investigate the impact of good governance and poverty alleviation in Nigeria with a focus on selected local governments in Benue state from 2015 to 2016.

1.2              Statement of the Problem

The issue of poverty presents a case of paradox in Nigeria. Although the state is abundantly rich in land, human and natural resources, yet more than 75 percent of her 160 million people including women, youths and children residing in the rural communities still live below poverty line (Oshewolo, 2010). Nigeria is the world’s largest community of black race, the most populous nation in Africa and the 7th in the world. An oil rich state, with her 2.5million barrel per day, Nigeria ranks as Africa’s largest oil producing nation and the 6th position in the world.

Apart from oil, Nigeria also has a large deposit of gas which is adjudged to be greater than oil. Since her oil discovery in the early 1970s till 2005, Nigeria has earned over N3.2trillion from oil exploration (World Bank, 2008). This figure rose between 2009 and 2010 when she realised US$196billion within four years (National Bureau of Statistics, 2010). Besides oil and gas, Nigeria has 37 other solid mineral deposits (yet to be explored) in commercial quantity (FOS, 2009). Despite her enormous natural endowment and massive wealth, Nigeria is still surprisingly, included among the 50 states of the world where poverty level is still unreasonably high (CBN Brief, 2002).

According to the statistics released by the World Bank and the IMF, Nigeria ranked 152nd among states with the lowest Human Development Index (HDI), 54th among 77 other developing nations where poverty level remains high and upward swinging (UNDP, 1998, p.26; Sanni, 2003, p.10). The National Bureau of Statistics (2012) also observes that the number of people living in poverty in Nigeria has risen from 54.7% in 2004 to 60.9% in 2010 translating to 112 million poverty-infested Nigerians despite the 7.6% growth claim by the government.

The Punch newspaper of Wednesday, July16, 2008 reported that over 24 milion Nigerian youths are jobless while about 1.6 million out of over 16 million employed youths were under-employed (National Manpower Board, 2008; National Bureau of Statistics, 2008). Besides, the Economist (2006, p.7) in its survey also offered a fresh perspective to Nigeria’s poverty profile. It states, “more than 4 out of 10 Nigerians live on less than N1, 320 per capital per month”. This is approximately US$8.2 per month or 27cent per day which, according to UNDP barely provides for a quarter of nutritional requirements of a healthy living. The report further added that “life expectancy is pegged at 50.1years while infant mortality rate is 112 per 1000 births; adult literacy 59.5% and access to clean water is 50%” respectively.

In Nigeria as in other developing nations, there is a geographic dimension to poverty issue as can be seen by its level of pervasiveness in the rural settings than in the urban centres. According to Aigbokhan (2000) and FOS (2004), about 63.8% of Nigeria’s population translating to about 80million people including women, youths and children are resident in the villages and are poor.” Oshewolo  (2010)  also observed that in 2004, the urban population with access to water was 67% whereas it was 31% in the rural communities.

The development situations in the rural areas are even made worse as basic infrastructural facilities are non- available or are in state of disrepair. There are no good roads, no standard school, no adequately equipped hospital; which depicts absence of government. This situation has induced mass rural-urban migration which leads to mass un-employment with its attendant social ills such as armed robbery, hired assassination, drug abuse, raping, prostitution, teenage abortion, ritual murder; advance-fee-fraud and the most recent development, kidnapping and terrorism. All these have contributed largely to making Nigeria unsafe for both the rich and the poor.

Poverty, like an elephant, is more easily recognised than defined (Aboyade, 1975). Notwithstanding its multidimensional nature that lent it to various controversial definitions, poverty has been defined by the World Bank  (2004) as that level of income below which a certain percentage of the population is to live.

The UNDP (2009) provided an all-embracing definition of poverty as “denial of choices and opportunity, a violation of human dignity, lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in the society, not having enough to feed, to cloth a family, not having access to school and health facilities, lack of land to farm or employment to earn a living, not having access to credit facility, insecurity, discrimination and exclusion of individuals, households and communities; susceptibility to violence, living on marginal or fragile environments without access to clean water or good sanitation”.

Previous studies focused on how the various poverty alleviation programmes of government, have impacted on the general populace by looking at poverty alleviation measures put in place by successive governments and how these programmes have impacted positively or negatively, on the people. However this study focuses on poverty alleviation programmes from the perspective of rural people, who constitute over 70% of Nigeria’s population and prescribe realistic poverty alleviation programmes that would lift the people out of the abyss of poverty scourge. The various poverty alleviation measures have been critically examined as models of development and identified with the target population, (rural and urban dwellers), in terms of what package of poverty alleviation programme, would benefit the rural masses and the poor ones in the urban areas.  The research investigates new orientation in the partnership between policy makers and the masses, whom poverty alleviation programmes are targeted, with a view to making the conception of such policies to be masses or consumer based, in order to ensure that policy package designed by the masses and included in the government’s package are aimed at solving their poverty induced problems. Based on the foregoing, this study provokes the following research questions:

1.3       Research questions

The following research questions were formulated:

1)      How did good governance impact on poverty alleviation in Benue state between 2015 and 2017?

2)      To what extent did good governance contribute toward agricultural development and poverty alleviation in Benue state between 2015 and 2017?

3)      How did good governance bring about improved foreign direct investement in agriculture towards poverty alleviation in Benue state between 2015 and 2017?

1.4       Objectives of the Study

The specific objectives of the study are as follows:

1)      To ascertain the impact of good governance on poverty alleviation in Benue state between 2015 and 2017.

2)      To Evaluate the extent good governance contributed towards agricultural development and poverty alleviation in Benue state between 2015 and 2017.

3)      To Determine how good governance influenced foreign direct investment in agriculture towards Poverty alleviation in Benue state between 2015 and 2017.

1.5       Significance of the Study

The significance of this research will manifest in both theoretical and practical levels, since it will be useful to our society where poverty alleviation and good governance has become a necessity due to the state of the nation after the battered condition the military era left it in. At the theoretical level, the study will provide scholars and commentators with the idea and knowledge about good governance in Benue state. Also, contributions from this study will not only consolidate the existing body of knowledge in our discipline but will also serve as a veritable reference material to students, academics, researchers and others who have interest in this issue under study. This research study will equally serve as a good reading material for all those who seek knowledge, especially those who desire to enrich their knowledge on the issues related with this research study.

In its practical aspect, the value of this study will, in the first place, provide Nigerian leaders with the fundamental reliability and understanding of the good governance in Benue state, thereby keeping them abreast on the possible measures suitable for the promotion of state at large. Secondly, this study will also be more beneficial to the younger generation, because it will serve as a basis for building structures that will promote the aspirations, especially those who are aspiring for leadership positions. Thirdly, this research study will also be beneficial to policy makers in general, for adequate integration of more women and the younger generation into the decision making process.

1.6  Hypotheses

1)      Good governance has insignificant impact on poverty alleviation in Benue state between 2015 and 2017 because of inadequate investment in agricultural technology.

2)      Good governance did not contribute significantly towards agricultural development and poverty alleviation in Benue state between 2015 and 2017 because of inadequate engagement of youths.

3)      Good governance did not significantly influence foreign direct investment in

agriculture towards poverty alleviation in Benue state between 2015 and 2017 because of inadequate policy.

1.7             GAP IN LITERATURE

In a bid to understand the impact of good governance and poverty alleviation in Benue state a review of the pertinent literature by scholars who have written on the subject matter is necessary to investigate how Benue state have been able to contribute towards poverty alleviation through agricultural empowerment between 2015 and 2016.

Poverty is a global phenomenon which affects continents, nations, and people differently. It afflicts people in various depth and levels at different times and phases of existence. There is no nation that is absolutely free from poverty. Nigeria is the most populous African country and the country reflects most of activities in Africa. Nigeria reflects most parts of Africa in that it inherited arbitrary state boundaries from its colonial age and was under military authoritarianism for most part of its existence as a nation, said of Nigeria that “it earned around US$500 billion in oil revenues since the 1970s, yet remains mired in poverty”(Alumona, 2009:2)  Barely, some years after independence, hope and expectations were high on the new emerging state that has been under the stranglehold of colonialism for many decades given its huge resource endowment-human and material resources  In buttressing the above analysis, Innocent et all Omotola (2014) asserts that poverty as a global phenomenon but admits that the intensity and scale vary from one society to another. It asserts that there is widespread poverty in Nigeria despite its great endowments. The paper notes that successive regimes in Nigeria have been introducing different programmes to alleviate poverty. It established a link between poverty alleviation programmes (strategies) and governance and blamed the failure of such programmes on absence of good governance.

            Consequently, it was discovered that there are various opinions to the explanation of poverty in Nigeria. While some see poverty as the lack of basic amenities, others see poverty as poor investment in human capital on the whole; there was a convergence among different authors that Nigerians are poor. The survey study shows that the awareness level of NAPEP and her programmes are quite okay, but the implementation level remains very minimal in Ogbadibo LGA. (Agbara; 2016)

Basically, The concept of ‘good governance’ conveys the qualitative dimension of governance that indicates effective, efficient, participative, or democratic form of government which is responsible for transparent and accountable management of human, natural, economic and financial resources for equitable and sustainable development. Addition of the adjective ‘good’ to governance has given a sense of enhancement and almost become an obsession in the recent debates on international development and public administration in developing countries. (Lutfor, 2016).

From all these extent, literature has failed to articulate the impact of good governance and poverty alleviation in Nigeria with a focus of selected local governments in Benue state from 2015 to 2016.

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