Temple Chima UbochiSaturday, March 15, 2014
Bonn, Germany




Continued from Part 17

Poverty devastates families, communities and nations. It causes instability and political unrest and fuels conflict (Kofi Annan)

Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Unemployment is a weapon of mass destruction (Dennis Kucinich)

Despite earning more than $600bn in revenues over the last five decades, government has been unable to improve the lot of ordinary Nigerians (Obiageli Ezekwesili)

Witnessing the extreme poverty in remote parts of Africa can make you feel sad and powerless until you realize how little it takes to change these people’s lives fundamentally in sustainable ways (John Legend)

et’s continue looking at ways to create jobs in Nigeria:

Decongesting and de-emphasizing Lagos seaports (full utilization of Nigeria’s other seaports):

This topic will be long and would take much of our time. But let’s start by saying that Nigeria is a country of great potentials; but, the inept and corrupt successive leadership have failed to harness the huge potentials the country is endowed with for the good of the citizens. Instead, majority of Nigerians are living through grief and deprivation, when life should have been easier for all. Forbes Report reiterated what many people know already that “Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer, but poverty is widespread across the country and most of the estimated 170 million people still live on less than two dollars a day”.

Policy inconsistency, nepotism, inefficiency, waste, mismanagement, corruption, on the part of the leaders, have helped in creating poverty in Nigeria. Instead of the creating jobs, the Nigerian government is only creating unemployment and poverty. Eamon de Valera (1882 –1975) was right when he said that “We cannot afford idleness, waste or inefficiency”, we can’t just afford these vices, if we must move ahead as a country. But, who’s surprised about Nigeria? A country that wasted over $600bn revenue in five decades can’t help its citizens. Think about what that amount could have done in uplifting a large chunk of the population, if it has been well invested. The former Vice President of the World Bank, Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili, told Nigerians few days ago, about the wasted amount, when she added that poor governance especially the culture of corruption was largely responsible for Nigeria’s stunted growth when compared to its peers across the world. She explained that several countries rated along with Nigeria in the1960s have made greater progress in transforming from a country into a nation because the elite made a conscious effort to develop them. Ezekwesili gave concerned Nigerians goose bumps, when she noted “that the cost of rebuilding Europe after World War II was put at $148bn in today’s value but that this is less than half of the funds that were attributed to have been stolen from Nigeria since independence. The expense of such funds transformed the manufacturing, service industry and competitive factors of Europe. It cost $2bn ($349bn in today’s value) to rebuild Japan after the nuclear attack. By conservative estimate, our country has earned more than$600 billion in the last five decades and yet can only boast of a United Nations Human Development Index score of 0.4 out of 1 proximate to that of Chad and maternal mortality rate similar to that of Afghanistan. Nothing reveals the depth of our failures than such performance indicators considering the vastly greater possibilities that we have been bestowed.”

George Soros (1930) rightly noted that “Most of the poverty and misery in the world is due to bad government, lack of democracy, weak states, internal strife, and so on”. Concurring with the Forbes Report that says that although the Nigeria is one of the world's biggest oil exporters, most Nigerians live in poverty, especially in the rural areas, Zayyad I. Muhammad made his own points, when he wrote that the average Nigerian is a poor man. Indeed, Nigeria is a country of riches and poverty- splendid wealth in few hands and extreme abject poverty at most people’s doorsteps. The problem of poverty is colossal and pervasive in the country and it has many causes. The number of people living in poverty has increased due to rising disparities in the distribution of resources in the country. However, the basic cause of poverty in Nigeria is the absence of an enabling environment that will free the people from the prison of poverty; uplift their living standard and provide ways to assist them turn their dreams into reality.

It is a fact that primary factors that lead to poverty, such as overpopulation, unequal distribution of resources, lack of basic education, absence of employment opportunities, as well as environmental degradation are quite intractable and not easily eradicated, but the average Nigerian can leapfrog the ladder of prosperity; once the routes to achieving basic living standards are smoothened. Who should create these conditions? - The government at all the three levels. How? By imbibing the political will that propels new thinking within the political class as well as brings sustained all-inclusive economic growth.

In most cases, government actions and inaction create a good number of the causes of poverty. Therefore, the government that contributed in making people poor must also create conditions that will bring opportunities for prosperity. The hallmark of poverty in Nigeria is the high level of unemployment. If Nigeria can tackle the high rate of unemployment in the country; then one of the most important ways to smoothen the path for prosperity in the land has been found. We must acknowledge that even in developed countries, unemployment rates may be high and availability of employment also tends to fluctuate, creating periods of high joblessness. Nigeria being a country with high population, an unemployment level of only a few percentage means that millions of working-age people will be unemployed and unable to earn an adequate income. This should be an issue of great concern to the political leaders and managers of Nigeria’s economy.

Nigeria can create productive employment for its millions of unemployed citizens and those engaged in unproductive-manual jobs through various means. The country has artisans such as shoemakers, fashion-designers, carpenters, goldsmiths, woodcrafters, welders and technicians, etc., who have the skills but lack the resources to setup productive and sustainable businesses. Offering assistance to such group of people will have huge impact on the country’s economy. For example, Turkey, Morocco and Iran are enjoying huge foreign exchange from handmade carpets made by small firms owned by individuals living in urban, semi urban and rural areas of these countries.

Equally, there are thousands of graduates in Nigeria who never dream of a pay-job either from the government or private sector, but their zeal is to be entrepreneurs. Government can assist such group of young people. The accessibility of funds should be flexible and part of it should be used in developing many sector including the movie, music, I.T. sport, advertising, farming and technology-invention industries. For instance, there are hundreds of illegal solid minerals mine fields in Nigeria; government can organize the people who engage in such activities into smaller organized firms. This will create legitimate wealth and employment, in addition to more revenue for the government. We shouldn’t forget the fact that, it is a little bit difficult to determine the poverty threshold of Nigeria because of many factors including lack of reliable data and statistics; however, there is general agreement among Nigerians that the hallmark of absolute poverty in the country is the high level of unemployment that cut across the nation. If the level of unemployment can be reduced by half of its current standing, Nigeria’s vision 20:2020 will be achieved. In fact, the country will be the fifth member of the BRICs. This thought should be close to the hearts of Nigerian leaders. They should start dreaming with the people on the streets, because it is time to reduce poverty in Nigeria.

When a government wanted to create more unemployment, more poverty and more hunger by imposing higher duty on imported used vehicles (Tokunbo), (when local supply can’t meet the demand, is very expensive, and out of the common man's reach); and also, by increasing the duty on imported rice (when local production is not enough for the market). Then realizing its mistake, the government reversed its decision, thereby making a caricature of itself. More on this topic next!

To be continued!






Continued from Part 17