AN APPRAISAL OF THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT IN POVERTY ALLEVIATION IN NIGERIA
One of the primary purposes of every government is to improve the welfare of its citizenry. The basic idea of welfarism encompasses all concerted efforts directed towards the betterment and the improvement of the living standard of the people thereby achieving economic development. Nigeria is a country endowed with abundant human, material and natural resources. These vast resources are capable of forming a solid base for socioeconomic development, granted political leadership, good governance and exemplary leadership as well as the development in human skills. Nigeria has a high potential of becoming a great nation.
At independence, Nigeria had a high expectation of launching into a take-off stage within a reasonable period of time. However, the economy was dualistic with a large traditional agricultural-based rural sector and a small modern urban sector. Most of the manufacturing industries and almost all the modern infrastructures were located in the urban areas. The majority of the people lived and farmed in the rural areas with little or no economic/social infrastructure, neither had they the required skills to develop themselves.
The developmental challenges that face the post-independence government were enormous. These developmental challenges included at the minimum, the provision of education and health services to the people, the provision of social and economic infrastructures to the vast majority of the people, the management of the vast human and material resources and the development of people’s skills toward enhancing their economic wellbeing. It is worth noting that the manner in which some of these challenges were addressed was the adoption of a four-year demand management economic policy in the form of economic stabilization Act of 1982, the austerity programme of 1984 and the National Economic Emergency Measures of 1985 for economic recovery and self-reliance. But all had only marginal effects because of lack of continuity in past policies. And a two-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) had to be adopted to broaden the productive and resource base of the economy, eliminate distortion, reduce the role of government, encourage competition and make the economy self-reliant.
The inability of SAP to achieve its stated objectives was attributed to its short-time frame, and the poor sequencing of its reform, couple with the general poor implementation of policies, policy instability and lack of political will of most administration to continue with the existing policies.
It is obvious that due to policy errors, stay-maid by non-continuity in the existing policies of the past, the Nigerian economy suffered from fundamental structural defects and remained in a persistent state of disequilibrium. The productive and technological base was weak due to non-policy programmes on the development of people’s potentials, initiative and skills, the infrastructures that were urban-based were poor, inadequate and lack of maintenance, the effectiveness of incentives was low, giving rise to inadequate utilization of the factors of production.
The need for policy redirection in Nigeria became more obvious with the revelation of the consequence of the past policy errors. This policy redirection becomes imperative because, the improvement in the living condition of the people in every nation is often the major concern of every good government. Emphasis were therefore redirected on policy programmes that will develop the people’s skills, initiative, creativity and potentials with a view of empowering them to become economically productive and self-reliance mainly because of
– The problem of rural/urban migration which has reduced the number of youthful and vibrant members of the rural community.
– The reduction of the pressure poor people have on their representatives in government as well as their local council administration.
– The reduction in the number of unemployed that work in the agricultural sector in most rural areas.
– The ever increasing number of the poor in the country.
Statistics shows, that this high level of poverty ranges between 65-75 percent in rural areas, indeed this percentage of the poor have been increasing over the decades in the country. At any rate, it is the aforementioned reasons that policy programmes on vocational skills acquisition and youth empowerment for self-reliance, self-development and self-sustenance has become an important concerned of every government in Nigeria. According to Prof Jery Gana, this concerned becomes distinct pre-occupation and actually attain the highest priority rating under the administration of General Ibrahim Babangida. To him, never before had the country witnessed the kind of concerted and comprehensive war which the administration relentlessly wedged against the rural poverty, against the deprivation of the people and against the powerlessness of the people.
As a matter of fact, until the mid-1980s there was no comprehensive national policy on youth empowerment, vocational skills development/acquisition for self-reliance, although various sectoral policies often touched on human development. Yet there has been effort to fashion these desperate ideas of human development via skills acquisition for youth into appropriate objectives and coherent strategies and action for empowerment in Nigeria.
It is in realization of the above that the government of General Ibrahirn Babangida through the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) made ‘self reliance’ the core of its policy programme. Thus, the Directorate apart from vocational skills development and youth empowerment was also charged with responsibility of ‘creating the enabling environment that will allow the youth to release their creative energies and exercise their initiative in pursuing their developmental objectives”. Taken as its first value, the creation of enabling environment will involve mobilizing the people, putting in place ‘all the skills acquisition/training facilities the people needed to pursue and/or achieve their developmental objectives.
The Directorate continued with its skill acquisition and empowerment programme. But as has been the practice of non-continuity in the existing policies, the Obasanjo administration in 2002 introduced the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) with self-reliance as its core objective. Thus, NAPEP’s chief aim is skill acquisition and youth empowerment.
Expectedly, NAPEP has key objectives and activities of vocational skills development/acquisition and empowerment of Nigerian youth for self-reliance, self-sustenance and self employment thus uplifting their socio-economic wellbeing. The program seeks to address the twin problems of unemployment and poverty in Nigeria.
1.1 National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP)
NAPEP was established in 2001. Different ministries and agencies were recognized as core poverty alleviation ministries and agencies. Some of these ministries and agencies are: Agricultural and Rural Development, Education, water resources, Industry, employment, labor and productivity.
Women affairs and youth development, health, NACRDB, NDE etc. Some of the functions of NAPEP through the different ministries and agencies are:
- Capacity building and vocational training through the capacity acquisition programme in the major pro-occupations of the nation’s labor force e.g. plumbing, glazing and painting, mechanical, electrical and electronics technicians apprenticeship.
- Data generation and statistics on employment among, by maintaining a record of unemployment among youth and others at the “labor office in each state and local government council”.
- Job and employment opportunity creation. This is to expose as many youth as possible to the opportunities for or the –job training and skills acquisition and concurrently maximize employment opportunities.
- Promotion of awareness in the activities and opportunities in the expiration of solid minerals resources for employment and promotion investment.
- Co-ordination and control of activities in teaching and application of science and technology in the locality.
- Enterprises development and promotion like establishment of local resource based cottage industries.
- Rural infrastructural development, like power supply, water supply, transportation, housing, communications and farm development etc.
Social welfare services like, quality special education, quality health care delivery services, rehabilitation programmes for destitute and the disabled, credit delivery for all group.
Despite the excess of poverty alleviation programmes which past governments had initiated and implemented, by 1999 when the Obasanjo administration came to power a World Bank’s report indicated that Nigeria’s Human Development Index (HDI) was only 0.416 and that about 70 per cent of the population was vegetating below the bread line.
These alarming indicators prompted the government to review the existing poverty alleviation schemes with a view to harmonising them and improving on them. Three presidential panels were set up in this regard.
They were: the Presidential Panel on the Rationalisation and Harmonisation of Poverty Alleviation and Agencies headed by Alhaji Ahmed Joda; Presidential Technical Committee on the Review of all Poverty Alleviation Programmes headed by Professor Ango Abdullahi; and Committees on Youth Policy, Concept of the Youth Empowerment Scheme and the Blueprint for Poverty Eradication Programme headed by Professor A.B. Aborishade.
The findings and recommendations of these presidential panels coalesced in the formation of the National Poverty Alleviation Programme (NAPEP) in January 2001. This new scheme has been structured to integrate four sectoral schemes.
The first is the Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES), which is concerned with providing unemployed youth opportunities in skills acquisition, employment and wealth generation. To achieve this, the scheme has been further subdivided into Capacity Acquisition Programme, Mandatory Attachment Programme and Credit Delivery Programme.
The second is the Rural Infrastructure Development Scheme (RIDS). The objective of this scheme is to ensure the provision and development of infrastructure needs in the areas of transport, energy water and communication especially in rural areas. The scheme has been broken into four parts: the Rural Transport Programme, the Rural Energy Programme, the Rural Water Programme and the Rural Communication Programme.
The third is the Social Welfare Services Scheme (SOWESS) which aims at ensuring the provision of basic social services including quality primary and special education, strengthening the economic power of farmers, providing primary health care, and so on. This third scheme consists of four broad sub-categories which are, the Qualitative Education Programme, Primary Health Care Programme, Farmers Empowerment Programme and Social Services Programme.
The last is the Natural Resources Development and Conservation Scheme (NRDCS). The vision of this scheme is to bring about a participatory and sustainable development of agricultural, mineral and water resources through the following sub-divisions: Agricultural Resources Programme, Water Resources Programme, Solid Minerals Resources Programme and Environment Protection Programme.
The target of the National Poverty Eradication Programme is to completely wipe out poverty from Nigeria by the year 2010. The formulators of the programme have identified three stages to the attainment of this ambitious target.
The first stage is the restoration of hope in the mass of poor people in Nigeria. This involves providing basic necessities to hitherto neglected people particularly in the rural areas.
The second stage is the restoration of economic independence and confidence. The final stage is wealth creation.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Traditionally speaking, the primary business of government and its institutions is the promotion of social wellbeing through policy programmes that are designed specifically for such purpose. However, before embarking on programme implementation, there is often the need to appraise the institutional capabilities of the implementing organization to ascertain its competence in implementing such programme. If they lack the institutional capacity, then government can decide whether to create new institution, upgrade the existing ones or retain their staff in order to equip them with the technical competence needed to implement the policy programme accurately. In Nigeria the tendency to proliferate policy programmes is very high, resulting in too many programmes without clearly defined areas of responsibilities and authority, rather than strengthening the performance capabilities of the existing programmes and re-orientating them for innovative task, new policy programmes are created and more often than not on top of the existing ones. For instance, NAPEP created on top of NDE. In actual functioning, these programmes run into conflict with one another, largely because of the duplication, overlapping functions and lack of coordination.
The incremental theory by Charles Lindblorn holds that “an administrative action of past policies usually involve a continuation of past policies which are tried with least possible (incremental) modification to suit the changing circumstances”. But policy continuation or modification has been one of the greatest challenges facing successive administration in Nigeria. For instance, the National Directorate for Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI), a policy programme of government in 1986 was designed to open up rural areas, through a boost in agricultural production, provision of basic infrastructural facilities — potable water, electricity, health-care services, roads, etc with the involvement of the rural people in the implementation of its goals. Thus, DFRRI was to utilize/encourage creative potentials of the rural people, develop their skills for effective participation in the implementation process. Policy discontinuity stay-maid the programme, as it was replaced by the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF) whose objectives and activities were similar. Also the Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP) introduced in 1985 with the aim of boosting the productive capacity of the rural people by empowering them to support in establishment of cottage industries and other related businesses to raise their income and standard of living, could not go beyond the administration that established it.
In a similar vein, the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) whose programmes of Youth Empowerment and Vocational Skills Development was aimed at training of youth for skills acquisition into various trades, after which they are empowered for self-reliance as well as make them economically productive in the society was instead of strengthening and re-orientating it for effective performance, replaced with the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) whose programmes of Youth Empowerment Schemes (YES) has similar objectives and activities as well as the targeted masses. The NAPEP, like NDE, has as its core objective skill acquisition and empowerment of youth for self reliance.
The question now is, why has there been no continuity in policy programmes especially those that relate to socio-economic wellbeing of the people? Put differently; why the change from NDE to NAPEP when both emphasized on skills acquisition and youth empowerment for self-reliance? Do the NAPEP’s skills acquisition/development and youth empowerment programmes more focused? If the answers to the above are affirmative, then, why the heap of problems militating against the contributory role of the scheme to the socio-economic development of the people of Kachia Local Government Area of Kaduna?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objective is to appraise the role of government in the alleviation of poverty in Nigeria (1999-2007. The specific objectives are:
- To identify the impact of NAPEP in the eradicating poverty in Nigeria strategies for poverty reduction
- To identify the various government programmes on poverty alleviations.
- To ascertain whether the programme, NAPEP’s skill acquisition and youth empowerment programmes has made positive impact people.
- To make a comprehensive analysis of the general performance of NAPEP’s skills acquisition and youth empowerment programmes as it best serves the rural people.
1.4 Statement of Hypothesis
The following hypothesis was formulated to guide this study.
Ho: NAPEP as one of the government programmes to eradicate poverty has not made any impact in reducing poverty in Nigeria.
Hi: NAPEP as one of the government programmes to eradicate poverty has significant impact on poverty reduction in Nigeria.
1.5 Significance of the Study
Achieving significant results reducing poverty often hinges on what is done, how it is done, when it is done and whom it is targeted at. It is obvious from several studies that poverty reduction policies in Nigeria have failed to achieve their stated objectives. Several reasons may be adduced for this failure. It therefore requires concerted efforts by all stakeholders to contribute to the success of this all-important but elusive goal. Such efforts can only be meaningful if it stem from an empirical study in order to realize not only her own local targets and objectives, but also to help her in achieving the global lofty objective of eradicating poverty by the year 2015. Pointedly therefore, this study is going to be significant for a number of reasons.
- The study is expected to be a concerted effort to identify, articulate and highlight the existence, causes, and effects of poverty in Nigeria.
- It is an effort at streamlining poverty reduction strategies towards making them more potent, and hence more beneficial to the target population.
- The study is also expected to benefit a number of groups, especially stakeholders of poverty reduction efforts such as public and private sector players, planners, managers, coordinators and monitors of poverty reduction agencies and the poor who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the efforts and indeed the general public.
- The research is expected to become part of a data bank for operators as well as policy makers in poverty reduction activities.
- It will also arouse the interest of students and researchers to conduct more researches in the field of poverty reduction.
1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study
This study will be limited to an appraisal of the role of government in the alleviation of poverty. The researcher intends to centre the study on NAPEP.
Certainly, time, financial and other unforeseen constraint has precluded a detailed coverage of the study and could not permit the investigation of the whole programmes of NAPEP. The study is therefore limited to specific areas of NAPEP programmes with unique activities and objectives.
Under this NAPEP, the specific areas to be studied are: Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) which has
- Capacity Acquisition Programme (CAP) and
- Mandatory Attachment Programme (MAP) 7
The study also intends to cover the periods between 1999-2007. The periods and programmes are chosen bearing in mind the ushering in of democratic dispensation and the peak of poverty situation in Nigeria, and the objectives of this programme in making the people self-reliant via bringing the dividend of democracy to the grass-root level.
Added to the above limitation is the non-disclosure of relevant information especially those tagged “secret” in NAPEP office as well as lack of authentic and accurate data.
Despite all these limitations, the researcher has tried to make this work a success.
1.8 Definition of Terms
Poverty: The term poverty is defined in the perspective of this study as a state where an individual is unable to cater for his basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, unable to meet social and economic obligations, lack of gainful employment, skills, assets and self-esteem and has limited access to social and economic infrastructures such as education, healthcare services, potable water and sanitation and also has limited chances of advancing his welfare to the limit of his capabilities.
Unemployment: For the purpose of this study, unemployment is defined as a condition and/or situation in which able bodied persons who are physically and mentally fit and are willing to work, are unable to find work because of lack of employment opportunities. It is a condition in which those who are able or capable and eager to work find it difficult to obtain suitable jobs.
Development: The researcher views the concept of development as the fulfillment of the necessary conditions for the achievement or realization of universally acceptable aims and potentials of human personality, through the eradication of poverty, inequality and unemployment within the economic system of a nation. So development is therefore the realization of the full potentials of the society, which is the sustained improvement of the wellbeing of the people.
Self Reliance: In operation terms, self reliance is to be understood as the will to build up and use a capacity for autonomous decision making and implementation on all aspects of the development process including human development. It is an essential component of alternative strategies, pattern or mode of development which are directed at the satisfaction of the maximum needs of the entire population as the primary development objective. It is development through one’s own efforts.
Economic Development: The researcher look at economic development as a necessary element in development, a more equitable distribution of wealth and a cumulative rise in the material standard of living of an increasing proportion of the total population. In conclusion, all these definitions imply that it involves rising living standard.