REMARKS BY RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA AT SENSITISATION PROGRAMME TAGGED ‘KICK OUT POVERTY’ TO MARK UN DAY FOR ERADICATION OF POVERTY
REMARKS BY THE SPEAKER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA AT SENSITISATION PROGRAMME TAGGED ‘KICK OUT POVERTY’ TO MARK UNITED NATIONS DAY FOR ERADICATION OF POVERTY HELD ON SUNDAY, 15TH OCTOBER, 2017
On behalf of my colleagues in the National Assembly, I congratulate the Organisers of the charity walk which has been ongoing since 2004. I have it on good authority that your activities have over time impacted on economically disadvantaged widows, orphans, displaced persons and other less fortunate children. It is my hope that the Charity football match and the Appeal Fund will assist your noble efforts to literally and metaphorically, kick out poverty in Nigeria.
2. As you are probably aware, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the declaration by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly Vide Resolution 47/196 of December, 1992 that 17th October of each year should be set aside as the International day for the Eradication of Poverty. This year also marks the 30th Anniversary of the call to Action by Rev. Father Joseph Wrensinski – which inspired global efforts towards overcoming extreme poverty. This year’s theme is entitled: ‘Answering the Call of October 17 to end Poverty: A Path towards Peaceful and Inclusive Societies’.
3. May I also quickly remind us that today, Sunday 15th October, 2017 is UN’s International Day for Rural Women which is being marked with the theme: ‘Challenges and Opportunities in Climate-Resilient Agriculture for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls’. Also significant is the fact that tomorrow, Monday 16th October, 2017, the United Nations shall yet again mark the World Food Day. The Director-General of Food Organisation (FAO) will be joined by His Holiness, Pope Francis and Ministers of Agriculture attending the Group of Seven (G7) meeting for the official ceremony at FAO Headquarters. Traditionally, the message from His Holiness is delivered during the World Food Day (WFD) ceremony but this year, the Pope has elected to attend in person.
4. The foregoing shows the link between food security, rural development and poverty eradication. For us in Nigeria, there could not have been a better period to organize this sensitisation programme. It is an undeniable fact that many Nigerians are experiencing grinding poverty arising from many factors including the recent economic recession.
5. Ladies and Gentlemen, recent data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics indicate that fewer than 112 million Nigerians (representing 67.1%) of the country’s estimated population of 167 million people) now live below poverty level. The global poor is already above the One Billion mark. UNDP sources rate Nigeria’s poverty rate at 62.6% per capita income at $1,280 and human development index at 0.47. These figures are simply unacceptable and challenges all of us to rise to the occasion and vanquish poverty, want, disease and ignorance not only in Nigeria but in the whole world. It is inconsistent with the social objectives set out in Chapter 2 of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in our Constitution.
6. I dare say that there is also a nexus between poverty and social unrest and insurgency. Thus, as it is clear from the theme for this year’s International Day for Eradication of Poverty, poverty eradication is a sure path to peace building. A society with more satisfied basic needs is less likely to turn to violence in solving its problems.
7. To be sure, Nigerian as a country has evolved several programmes and policies and also set up several institutions to deal with the menace of poverty. These can be identified in the National Rolling Plans. Some of these programmes include: Operation Feed the Nation OFN), Green Revolution, Better Life for Rural Women, Family Economic Advancement Programme and more recently, National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP). They also include Primary Healthcare programme (aimed) at bringing preventive health to the grassroots); Agricultural Development Progrmme (ADP) in all states of the Federation; establishment of the People’s Bank (to extend small credit facilities to small businesses in the formal sector of the economy); National Economic Recovery Fund (to provide easy access to credit by small and medium scale enterprises); National Directorate of Employment (to promote self-employment); SURE-P (a waste to wealth, self-employment programme); SMEDAN; NHIS; Several Agricultural and rural development policies, programmes and institutions are in place. Indeed the entire MDG and now SDG programmes which Nigeria is committed to deals substantially with the question of poverty eradication.
8. Some of these programmes have been successful, some have not due to a variety of reasons which include, poor funding, lack of proper coordination and commitment, poor design and evaluation mechanisms, lack of continuity occasioned by regime change, corruption, lack of ‘community ownership’ arising from top-bottom approach, etc.
9. The National Assembly of Nigeria has been involved over the year in the fight against poverty. You may wish to note that, the National Assembly is presently processing a Bill which seeks to create a National Poverty Eradication Commission. The objective of the Commission is to among other things, ensure the sustainable implementation of poverty eradication programmes, maintain outreach with International Donor organisations and create social safety nets for the poor. Also, both the Legislative Agenda of the 8th House of Representatives and the Senate emphasise the commitment to promotion of pro-people legislative measures and interventions to reduce poverty. In the House of Representatives in particular, there is a standing Committee on Poverty Eradication. Indeed, the National Assembly has either passed or is in the process of passing many laws aimed at building infrastructure and tackling poverty. Indeed government anti poverty programmes and Sovocial Safety Nets policy and programmes like N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfers to the poor, School Feeding Programme, has received enthusiastic budgetary support by the National Assembly.
10. Hon. Minister, Hon. Members, Ladies and Gentlemen, going forward, I propose that we should do the following:
(i) focus on an integrated human development policies, including income generation, human capital development and capacity building programmes for the poor;
(ii) an increased role for non-state actions like NGOs, faith-based organisations, Community based organisations etc in the fight against poverty;
(iii) greater participation and partnership of the Media in highlighting the poor and vulneratble in our society as well as the opportunities available for exiting their pathetic conditions;
(iv) a legislative and legal framework for ensuring the sustainability of pro-poor programs, policies and projects;
(v) greater investment by the Execute arm of government in providing opportunities and safety nets for the poor, less privileged and vulnerable in our society and
(vi) greater emphasis on availability of affordable quality education for all.
11. In conclusion, I wish to state that this sensitisation effort should not end here. Poverty is a serious malaise that has far reaching consequences on society. That is why the elimination of poverty occupied the number one position on the targets of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. In Nigerian parlance, ‘poverty is a disease’. We all have a duty to work towards eliminating poverty by the year 2030 as enunciated in the Sustainable Development Goals. Let us all be guided by the admonition of Nelson Mandela during the famous “Campaign to make Poverty History” where he said thus: “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times – times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation – that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils . . . Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”
12. I thank you all for listening and may God bless your efforts in tackling poverty and bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.