President Muhammadu Buhari may be among the very few Nigerians with the blood of nationalism running in their veins, but his Democracy Day pledge to lift 100 million citizens out of poverty over the next 10 years appears empirically doubtful going by the realities of the nation’s economic fundamentals.
This was the summary of the opinions of a cross section of Nigerians who recently analysed the weight of his June 12, 2019 broadcast.
Those who spoke to Daily Sun based on that broadcast believe however that like most of the world’s transformational leaders Buhari was free to dream big for Nigeria and its citizens, but like King Ahab’s servant doubted prophet Elisha’s prophecy of abundance overnight after years of crushing drought in 2Kings 7: 1-2, economic experts have stuck out their necks to affirm that Buhari’s poverty eradication masterstroke can only be achieved in the world of forms envisioned by Greek philosopher, Aristotle.
Buhari in his June12, 2019 Democracy Day broadcast promised he would lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years despite a repressive unemployment rate of over 25 per cent, poverty index of 63 per cent, 4000mw of electricity and deficit infrastructure that have left the economy prostrate for several years.
The promise is coming at a time that latest statistics released by the Director General of Debt Management Office (DMO) revealed that Nigeria’s total debt climbed to N24.4 trillion from N21.725 trillion in 2017.
At the same time, the country’s inflation rate had peaked at 11.40 per cent in May, 2019 from an uninspiring level of 11.31 per cent in April.
The administration appears to have a joker on how this onerous target could be achieved when majority of farmers in the north east and north central Nigeria are currently hibernating at various refugee camps thus threatening to reverse the near 23 per cent growth in the agricultural sector with implications for food security.
Critics of the Buhari administration believe also that its poor run on power supply signals an ugly signpost of its numerous flaws even as the nation’s four refineries continued to run at fit and starts into his second term.
Ahead of the March general election that gave the All Progressives Congress (APC) it’s second term ticket, and it was celebrating the achievements of its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), the President got a huge shocker when the Brookings Institute in June 2018, declared that Nigeria had overtaken India as the poverty capital of the world, with 86.9 million extremely poor people in its domain.
This was followed by the British Prime Minister, Theresa May’s testimonial that Nigeria had become home to the largest number of very poor people in the world, with her own figure at 87 million.
Hear what Prime Minister May said: “While much of Nigeria is thriving with many individuals enjoying the fruits of a resurgent economy, 87 million Nigerians live below $1 and 90 cents a day, making it home to more very poor people than any other nation in the world”
However Nigeria’s sordid and inclement economic status may not complete without the definition by the World Poverty Clock, created by Vienna-based World Data Lab, which as of February 13, 2019 said that 91.16 million Nigerians live below a dollar a day and at least, 3 million Nigerians slipped into extreme poverty between November 2018 and February 2019.
Back home, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said that in the third quarter of 2017, Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose to 18.8 per cent and in the third quarter of 2018 it moved to 23.1 per cent.
The statistics bureau in the report being quoted said that the economically active or working age population (15 – 64 years of age) increased from 111.1 million in Q3 2017 to 115.5 million in Q3 2018.
“The number of persons in the labour force (i.e. people who are able and willing to work increased from 75.94 million in Q3 2015 to 80.66 million in Q3 2016 to 85.1 million in Q3,2017 to 90.5million in Q3, 2018,” the report said.
“The total number of people in employment (i.e with jobs) increased from 68.4 million in Q3 2015, to 68.72 million in Q3 2016, to 69.09 million in Q3 2017 and 69.54 million in Q3 2018. The total number of people in full-time employment (at least 40 hours a week) increased from 51.1 million in Q3 2017 to 51.3 million in Q3, 2018.
“The total number of people in part-time employment (or underemployment) decreased from 13.20 million in Q3 2015 to 11.19 million in Q3 2016 but increased to 18.02 million in Q3 2017 and to 18.21 million in Q3 2018” it said.
The report said the total number of people classified as unemployed, which means they did nothing at all or worked too few hours (under 20 hours a week) to be classified as employed increased from 17.6 million in Q4 2017 to 20.9 million in Q3 2018.
Of the 20.9 million persons classified as unemployed as at Q3 2018, about 11.1 million did some form of work but for too few hours a week (under 20 hours) to be officially classified as employed while 9.7 million did absolutely nothing, NBS said.
“Of the 9.7 million unemployed that did absolutely nothing as at Q3 2018, 90.1 per cent of them or 8.77 million were reported to be unemployed and doing nothing because they were first-time job seekers and have never worked before.
“On the other hand, 9.9 million or 0.9 per cent of the 9.7 million that were unemployed and doing nothing at all reported they were unemployed and did nothing at all because they lost their jobs at some point in the past which is why they were unemployed.
“Of the 9.7 million that were unemployed and did nothing at all, 35.0 per cent or 3.4 million have been unemployed and did nothing at all for less than a year, 17.2 per cent or 1.6 million for a year, 15.7 per cent or 1.5 million had been unemployed and did nothing for two years, and the remaining 32.1 per cent or 3.1 million unemployed persons had been unemployed doing nothing for three and above years” the bureau, noted.
Its against the backdrop of this disastrous economic predicament that most Nigerians described President Muhammadu Buhari’s to lift 100million Nigerians out of poverty in just ten years as nothing but a mere wishful thinking that may remain unachievable.
According to the Lead Director at Centre for Social Justice, a barrister at law, Mr Eze Onyekpere, Buhari’s goal on poverty eradication is not achievable for now unless he has other plans not known to Nigerians. But based on the information available to most citizens, it would be difficult to achieve his ambitious targets in a country with little or no infrastructure battling huge unemployment, inflation and unprecedented corruption in various spheres of life.
He argues that for the President to have his way, there needs to be a convergence of so many factors which are presently outside his administration’s firm control.
“It is possible but that depends on a combination of policies which I don’t see in the present administration. You need to combine the health policy, educational policy, industrial policy, labour policy and even the fiscal authority to have a convergence before you talk about lifting the people out of poverty. There is nothing on ground now to suggest that that would be possible. I don’t think it is impossible because agricultural policy will have to be there as well. So, although it is possible, the truth is that it is not within the confines of information available to us. May be, there are new things he is unveiling to help him fast track that vision . But as far as the policy he has unveiled has shown, it is not going to be possible” Onyekpere, said.
For her part, Elizabeth Kanayochukwu Ogwu, a professor of Human Nutrition, an activist and a National President of Association of Nigerian Dietitians, said that it is possible but first the cabals in the presidency should be weeded out to make way for technocrats who understand the economy.
“When the president said that he would lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, we listened to him and we were wondering how he would do it.
If he means well and he wants to do it he can do it by picking the first eleven in Nigeria.
I remember one city where we lived, the roads were so bad. Nobody ever thought that something good will come out from that coal camp. But Sullivan Chime came and turned that place to a paradise. All the feeder roads were built. Before people thought that there was no hope for the people in the area. But he selected the people with great commitment; people that care; people that have conscience. All hands were put on deck and they transformed that place. So, the president can do it if he means it.
Doing it is not by word of mouth. It is by recruiting people who are not greedy; Buhari must drop the cabal around him. After this earthly gains, what else? I cannot doubt him but let him tell us how he wants to do it. We have best brains in Nigeria. The western world used Nigerians to make their countries what they are today. Nigerians built their economy and those economies are booming today.
Reacting to President Buhari’s transformational agenda, a development economist and analyst, Mr Odilim Enwegbara, described the dream as utopian in concept and therefore unachievable in view of lack of enabling environment, poor power supply and a conglomeration of other factors.
“Before you lift Nigerians from the shackles of poverty; you have to double our current power generation, transmission and distribution. You have to create enabling environment for local and Foreign Direct Investment to flourish and you have to create good transportation system that will move goods and people from one point to another.
“You have to stretch the economy to its limit before you can create about 50 million jobs. This is the truth because it is not going to be easy. How will he create 100 million jobs and lift people out of poverty? How will he do it? The power sector by now should have peaked at about 100,000 megawatts. He cannot even produce 20,000 megawatts in the next 10 years.”