THE NIGERIA Governors’ Forum (NGF) has described the claim by the Federal Government that governors are responsible for the rising poverty and economic hardship in the country as “baseless”.
The Forum, which consists of the 36 state governors, attributed the high level of poverty to the Federal Government’s failure to provide adequate security for lives and property.
The NGF reacted to the Federal Government’s claim that governors are responsible for rising poverty and economic hardship in the country through a statement by the Director of Media and Public Affairs, AbdulRazaque Bello-Barkindo, on Saturday, December 3.
The ICIR reported how Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, blamed state governors for the rising rate of poverty and hardship in the country, particularly the rural areas.
“Our governors are now competing to build flyovers all over the place and we applaud them, but they should concentrate on building rural roads so that the farmers can at least get their products to the market,” the minister said.
The minister noted that majority of the country’s population live in the rural areas and as result, efforts to eradicate poverty should be focused on them.
“The governors are basically functioning in their state capital. And democracy that we preach is about delivering the greatest goods to the greatest number of people,” the minister added while addressing journalists after a meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on November 30.
Reacting to the Federal Government’s claims, the governors said they were not to blame for the high rate of poverty in the country.
Parts of the statement released by the NGF said: “The tirade early this week by the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning Clement Agba, on the 36 Governors, where he blamed them for the rising poverty index in the country came to the Nigeria Governors’ Forum as a surprise.
“The minister got his message totally wrong. His attacks are not only unnecessary, but they represent a brazen descent into selective amnesia. It is also diversionary as far as the Governors are concerned.
“While rightly pointing out that 72% of the poverty in Nigeria is found in the rural areas, the minister said that the rural populace had been abandoned by governors.
“This assertion is not only preposterous and without any empirical basis, but also very far from the truth. It is Clement Agba’s veiled and deliberate effort as a minister, to protect his paymasters and politicize very critical issues of national importance.”
The NGF said the Federal Government’s inability to secure lives and property was the main reason for the high rate of poverty across the country.
The statement added, “First and foremost, the primary duty of any government is to ensure the security of lives and property, without which no sensible human activity takes place.
“But the Federal Government which is responsible for the security of lives and property has been unable to fulfil this covenant with the people thus allowing bandits, insurgents, and kidnappers to turn the country into a killing field, maiming and abducting people, in schools market squares and even on their farmlands.
“This dereliction of duty from the centre is the main reason why people have been unable to engage in regular agrarian activity and in commerce.
“Today, rural areas are insecure, markets are unsafe, travel surety of travels are improbable, and life for the common people generally is harsh and brutish.
“The question is, how can a defenceless rural population maintain a sustainable lifestyle of peace and harmony when their lives are cut prematurely, and they wallow permanently in danger?
“How does a minister whose government has been unable to ensure security, law and order have the temerity to blame governors?”
“Two states, Edo State and Akwa Ibom, had promptly responded to the vituperations of the minister.
“According to Akwa Ibom State, what determines poverty and unemployment in a country is its economic policy, which is set normally by the central government nationally. Akwa Ibom insists that the Federal Government cannot abdicate its responsibility by blaming states and goes further to ask, albeit rhetorically, how economic policies in a state drive the dollar which determines almost every aspect of our national existence.
“In its response to Clement Agba, Edo State, on the other hand, reeled out the projects the state embarked upon which were targeted at alleviating poverty among its people. Agba is perceptibly oblivious to them. Many other states have been implementing pro-poor programs in their domain, and they are there for all to see.
“For example, it is the Federal Government that, in its campaign message in 2019, promised to take 100 million Nigerians out of poverty. Today, records show that more than 130 million Nigerians are living below the globally accepted poverty line of a dollar a day,” the statement said.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently announced that over 133 million Nigerians – about 63 per cent of thr country’s population – are living in poverty.