The federal government says the preference of state governors to build flyovers and airports instead of projects that can improve life in rural areas is not helping its poverty alleviation programmes.
The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, said this while reacting to a question by State House reporters yesterday after the Federal Executive Council meeting.
He noted that 72 percent of poverty in Nigeria was found in the rural areas, which, he said, had been abandoned by governors.
Agba said the federal government had done its best on poverty alleviation.
He said governors’ priorities had not made Nigerians feel the impact of those initiatives.
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He said governors focused on building flyovers, airports and other projects that were visible only in the state capitals rather than invest in areas that directly uplift the standard of life of the people in the rural areas.
He also said states in charge of land for agriculture had not invested in them for the desired effect on their rural citizens.
He advised governors to focus on initiatives that could pull the majority of the people out of poverty instead of building skyscrapers which did “not put food on the table.”
When asked to explain what he and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, were doing to address the suffering of Nigerians, Agba said: “So, suggestion is that both of us are the ones creating the hardship for us to resolve it? I think that it’s always good for us to put things in the right perspective. When you say government, we should be able to specify which government we’re talking about. Is it the federal government? Is it a state government or is it a local government because we all have different responsibilities.
“But poverty, like we know, has different pieces, different intensity and causes. And it’s for this reason I went round the 109 senatorial districts in Nigeria to carry out the survey and to be able to say specifically where this hardship is.
“In the course of working on the national development plan, we looked at previous plans and said why they didn’t do as much as was expected? We also looked at the issues of the National Social Investment Programme.
“At the federal level, government is putting out so much money, but not seeing so much reflection in terms of money that has been put in alleviating poverty, which is one of the reasons the government also put in place the national poverty reduction with growth strategy.
“But if the federal government puts the entire income that it earns into all of this without some form of complementarity from the state governments in playing their part, it’ll seem as if we’re throwing money in the pond.
“The governors basically are only functioning in their state capitals. And democracy we preach about is delivering the greatest goods to the greatest number of people. And from our demographic, it shows that the greatest number of our people who live in rural areas, but the governors are not working in the rural areas.
“Right now, 70% of our people live in rural areas, they produce 90% of what we eat. And unfortunately 60% of what they produce is lost due to post harvest loss and it does not get to the market.
The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) did not respond to the allegations.
The vice chairman of the forum and Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagudu as well as its spokesman, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, neither answered phone calls nor responded to text messages sent to them by Daily Trust seeking their reactions.
By Muideen Olaniyi & Saawua Terzungwe