The Federal Government has blamed state governors for the rate of poverty in the country as a whole due to the executives priotising the construction of heavy pieces of infrastructure such as bridges and airports in cities rather than improving the lives of the rural poor.
The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, made this assertion while briefing State House correspondents shortly after this week’s Federal Executive Council meeting chaired by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
He noted that 72 per cent of the nation’s poor reside in rural communities, said the governors had abandoned the critical demography, preferring to spend state resources on the capital cities instead.
He said “The governors are basically 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 demography, it shows that the greatest number of our people live in rural areas, but the governors are not working in the rural areas.
“Right now 70 per cent of our people live in rural areas. They produce 90 per cent of what we eat. And unfortunately 60 per cent of what they produce is lost due to post harvest loss and it does not get to the market.
“I think from the Federal Government’s side we are doing our best. But we need to say that rather than governors continuing to compete to take loans to build airports that are not necessary, where they have other airports so close to them, or governors now competing to build flyovers all over the place, we appeal that they should concentrate on building rural roads so that the farmer can at least get their products to the market.”
Citing the findings of a recent survey he conducted across the 109 senatorial districts nationwide, the Minister said Sokoto state ranked the highest on the poverty scale, followed by the oil-rich state of Bayelsa.
“The result clearly shows that 72 per cent of poverty is in the rural areas. It also showed clearly that Sokoto State is leading in poverty with 91 per cent.
“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,” he said.
Agba lamented that despite the federal government’s intervention to alleviate poverty, the results did not reflect the amount of investment made in the area.
He said, “In the course of working on the national development plan, we looked at previous plans and asked why they didn’t do as much as expected. We also looked at the issues of the National Social Investment Programme.
“At the federal level, the government is putting out so much money but not seeing so much reflection in terms of money that has been put into alleviating poverty, which is one of the reasons the government also put in place the national poverty reduction with growth strategy.