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Lifting 100m out of poverty: FG must move beyond mere conceptualisation to actualisation 

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Unfavourable economy in Nigeria has left the Country with seething unemployment records alongside deep seated poverty rate. In March 2021, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had placed unemployment rate in Nigeria at 3.33 percent. The figure translate to mean no less than some 23.2 million people, the highest in at least 13 years and the second-highest rate in the world, as at then. Unemployment rate in the Country has more than quadrupled since 2016 when the economy slided into recession. A second recession was recorded in 2020, worsening poverty records.

According to the World Bank, sluggish growth, low human capital, labour market weaknesses, and exposure to shocks are holding Nigeria’s poverty reduction back. A new World Bank report “A Better Future for All Nigerians: Nigeria Poverty Assessment 2022”  representing the culmination of the World Bank’s engagement on poverty and inequality-relevant data and analytics in Nigeria in the past two years, drew primarily on the 2018/19 Nigerian Living Standards Survey (NLSS), which provided Nigeria’s first official poverty numbers in almost a decade, as well as the Nigeria COVID-19 National Longitudinal Phone Survey (NLPS).

The surveys which were implemented by the NBS in collaboration with the World Bank examined latest evidence on the profile and drivers of poverty in Nigeria, showing that as many as 4 in 10 Nigerians live below the national poverty line. Many Nigerians – especially in the Country’s North – also lack education and access to basic infrastructure, such as electricity, safe drinking water, and improved sanitation. The report further notes that jobs do not translate Nigerians’ hard work into an exit from poverty, as most workers are engaged in small-scale household farm and non-farm enterprises; just 17 per cent of Nigerian workers hold the wage jobs best able to lift people out of poverty.

According to World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, “It is clear that much needs to be done to help lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty, including boosting health and education, bolstering productive jobs, and expanding social protection.”

“Yet implementing pro-poor initiatives requires unlocking fiscal space; reforming expensive subsidies – including fuel subsidies – will be essential, alongside countervailing measures to protect the poor as reforms are effected,” he had submitted.

In its promise, the President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government has noised its intention to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty. In August, 2022, the Government had officially launched a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme in Lagos, tagged project T-MAX, aimed at lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030. There are seven pilot States listed for the pilot scheme, which are: Lagos, Ogun, Edo, Enugu, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Gombe, with the aim of empowering at least, 15,000 Nigerians across the pilot States. Out of the number, 3,000 beneficiaries are being targeted in Lagos, while 2,000 each will benefit from the other six States. TVET programme has been approved by the National Steering Committee on National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy (NPRGS) Chaired by the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, as one of the core interventions to achieve the Federal Government’s goal of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030. The Senior Special Assistant (SSA), to the President on Education Intervention, Fela Bank-Olemoh, had made the disclosure in August in company of the Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs Folashade Adefisayo, at a media briefing and official launch of the programme, held at the State Ministry of Education, Ikeja, the Capital city of Lagos.According to Bank-Olemoh, the project is also aimed at poverty alleviation and employment opportunities among the masses. “Project Technical-Maximum tagged: T-MAX, aims to equip about 10 million Nigerians by 2030 with Technical and Vocational skills they need to be economically independent.

For this Pilot phase of the project, which spans from August – December 2022, a total number of 15,000 individuals will be trained across seven states: Lagos, Ogun, Edo, Enugu, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Gombe. Some of the skills that will be deployed include information, communication, technology, ICT, tiling and stone work, solar installation, welding and fabrication, plumbing and fittings, domestic electrical wiring and installation, furniture works, beauty care and cosmetology, refrigeration and air conditioning repairs and automobile.

At the end of this programme, starter packs will be given to the top participants in each state based on participants’ assessment rankings. These starter packs will set selected beneficiaries off in their respective acquired skills. Some of the top participants will also be place on internships to aid them in improving their skills while gaining hands-on experience. At the end of this project, over 15,000 Nigerians would be empowered with the skills in this pilot phase and this will also serve as a model for the expansion of Technical and Vocational skills acquisition across the country. This will be scaled up to about 1 million beneficiaries by mid-2023,” he had said.

The training programme was expected to kick off officially in September and end by November, 2022. The Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Adefisayo, in her remarks, had said the initiative of the Federal Government would create the opportunity for youths to learn a trade that would help them to be useful members of society rather than relying on academic certificates alone.

On Sunday 18, September 2022, the Federal Government had mentioned that the promise of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030 is attainable, if stakeholders play their expected roles effectively. The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ms Kachollum Daju, who while addressing journalists on Sunday mentioned that President Buhari had unveiled government’s plans to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030 said the role of key players in the private sector, including development partners, remained indispensable and that government would not rest on its oars until the goal was achieved. According to her, government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were working hard to actualise the mandate of lifting the 100 million people out of the circle of poverty. She disclosed  that the Ministry of Labour and.Employment has inaugurated a data bank, known as Labour Market Information System (LMIS) to guide those who have been employed and those wishing to secure employment.

She said: “I’m sure you are aware that there are many thematic areas. It is not just the Ministry of Labour and Employment or the Federal Government as it were; it is multi sectoral and different sectors will come together to ensure that this is achieved. The private sector is supposed to play a huge role because we cannot all be dependent on government. So, we will work together and for Ministry of Labour, we have different agencies and departments that have to do with employment skills. Alongside the LMIS, we are also going to improve on job matching, known as the National Electronic Labour Exchange (NELEX). It is where you match jobseekers with the job. It has been going on but apparently many Nigerians are not aware of it. The Ministry is upgrading that and we also trying to construct more job centers across the nation.”

According to her, the Ministry of Labour has created about 16 job centres across the Country, with the goal to establish a centre in all the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT. She mentioned that there were plans to enhance the number of job centers in the nation in order to serve all 774 Local Government Areas. She added that the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) was actually brought to ensure that the informal sector was well taken care of and that was a problem for the government. Daju further added that the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) has different schemes that cut across board to ensure that unemployment was reduced through empowerment, vocation skills, among others.

Although the Federal Government has disclosed its plans, it is essential to coordinate policy measures towards their actualisation. Prevailing culture of Nigerian government have been saturated with many plans not transcending conceptual stage. It is pertinent for the government to muster deliberate efforts towards blending seasoned policies with sustainability force to take the plans beyond the conceptual expression to actualisation.

More importantly, while the government has made its plans known, ensuring they do not just end up as paper work marked by white elephant projects is a task that must be driven with pragmatic push within defined framework. In this light, critical attention must be given to evaluation for impact assessment of the programmes launched so far in this regard, while systematically blending them with newer ones in workable patterns.

Moreso, mustering efforts on broader outlook on critical subjects of the economy and strategic investment is pertinent. According to the World Bank, household survey data, will provide far more detailed insights into the dynamics of and the key constraints on poverty reduction, as well as new pro-poor policies, submitting that “by investing in data, Nigeria can build trust, accountability, and transparency, taking substantial strides on its pathway to poverty reduction.”

The World Bank report “A Better Future for All Nigerians: Nigeria Poverty Assessment 2022” had recommended at least three types of deep, long-term reforms to foster and sustain pro-poor growth and raise Nigerians out of poverty. These  include: macroeconomic reforms (including fiscal, trade, and exchange rate policy); secondly, policies to boost the productivity of farm and non-farm household enterprises; and thirdly, improving access to electricity, water, and sanitation while bolstering information and communication technologies. These reforms together, the World Bank, recommended could help diversify the economy, invigorate structural transformation, create good, productive jobs, and support social protection programmes as well as other government policies. The report had also emphasized that these reforms are urgent as Nigeria’s population continues to grow; indicating now is the time to ensure that the Country seizes the promise of its young people for economic prosperity. It added that shaping the specifics of Nigeria’s poverty-reducing policies will depend strongly on redoubling efforts to gather and analyze data regularly.

The government plans to lift 100 million people out of poverty wouldn’t come the haphazard way. The government must drive the course with strategic patterns of systemic framework.

Editorial

Addressing the socioeconomic factors contributing to suicide rates in Nigeria

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The tragic incident that unfolded in the Magboro area of Ogun State, where Victoria Idowu, a 49-year-old woman, took her own life by hanging herself on a ceiling fan, is a poignant reminder of the deep-rooted issues surrounding mental health in our society.

The discovery of her lifeless body by her son upon his return from a church service emphasises the devastating impact of such actions on loved ones and communities at large.

This unfortunate event, coupled with the recent case of Deputy Commissioner of Police Gbolaha Oyedemi, who also tragically ended his own life, sends shockwaves across the nation. Oyedemi’s untimely demise, particularly given his position within the Force Criminal and Investigation Department in Lagos State, raises questions about the unseen burdens individuals may carry, even in seemingly successful and accomplished lives.

These incidents compel us to confront the pressing need for enhanced mental health awareness, support systems, and destigmatisation efforts within our society.

While the reasons behind such tragic decisions may remain elusive, it is imperative that we foster an environment where individuals feel empowered to seek help without fear of judgment or ostracisation.

As a nation, we must prioritise mental health initiatives, invest in accessible counseling services, and promote open dialogue about mental well-being in homes, workplaces, and communities. Only through collective action and compassion can we hope to prevent further loss and support those struggling with mental health challenges.

The intertwined tales of Victoria Idowu and Deputy Commissioner Gbolaha Oyedemi paint a harrowing portrait of despair echoing across Nigeria’s landscape.

Idowu’s final act, discovered by her son amidst the echoes of church hymns, and Oyedemi’s perplexing departure, once the trusted aide to a former governor, unveil a somber truth: suicide’s haunting grip knows no bounds.

Their stories, etched with the weight of societal expectations and personal demons, illuminate a troubling trend veiling Nigeria in sorrow.

From the seasoned to the youthful, lives are lost to the silent whispers of despair, leaving behind unanswered questions and shattered hearts.

In the shadows of these tragedies, Nigeria grapples with a growing epidemic, where the specter of suicide looms larger with each passing day. The reasons, as diverse as the nation itself, intertwine threads of societal strain, economic woes, mental anguish, and a dearth of solace in the face of adversity.

Yet, amid this darkness, one truth shines unwaveringly: suicide, however tempting, is not an adequate solution. It is a plea for help lost in the silence, a cry for understanding drowned in the noise. In the face of despair, let us extend hands of compassion, build bridges of support, and shatter the silence with voices of hope. For in unity, in empathy, lies the beacon of light guiding us through the darkest of nights.

In 2019, the tragic loss of a university student in Lagos to suicide, amid the weight of academic pressures and depression, stirred conversations about mental health awareness within educational institutions.

The following year, the untimely demise of a renowned Nigerian musician, who was discovered dead by suicide in his Lagos home, cast a spotlight on the silent struggles faced by celebrities and public figures battling mental health issues.

Similarly, in 2020, the distressing case of a young woman in Abuja, who took her own life after sharing troubling messages on social media, underscored the crucial need for accessible support systems for individuals grappling with mental health crises.

Then, in 2021, the heartbreaking loss of a teenager in Kano, driven to suicide by the torment of bullying and harassment at school, sparked urgent calls for concerted action to address both bullying and mental health concerns among students.

These poignant examples serve as reminders of the pressing imperative for heightened awareness, robust support networks, and adequate resources to combat mental health challenges and stem the tide of suicide across Nigeria.

Nigeria faces a sobering reality according to the World Health Organization, grappling with one of Africa’s highest suicide rates, with a notable portion of victims being young people. Worse, the ratio of psychiatrists to population is 1:800,000.

However, there’s a beacon of hope: fostering mental health awareness and education emerges as one of the most potent tools in combating this crisis. Despite prevailing stigmas branding mental health issues as taboo or indicative of weakness, dispelling these misconceptions can pave the way for a more compassionate and supportive society. By shedding light on mental health challenges, we can dismantle barriers to seeking help and foster understanding for those battling depression and suicidal thoughts.

Moreover, addressing the recurring tide of suicides demands an overhaul of mental health services accessibility nationwide. Presently, many Nigerians, particularly in rural areas, face insurmountable hurdles in accessing vital care and support. By bridging this gap and ensuring equitable access to mental health services, we can extend a lifeline to those in dire need, fostering a nation where every individual’s well-being is prioritized and safeguarded.

Governments, healthcare providers, and non-governmental organisations could work together to expand mental health services, train healthcare professionals, and integrate mental health into primary healthcare systems.

To effectively combat the pervasive issue of suicide in Nigeria, collaboration between governments, healthcare providers, and non-governmental organisations is paramount. Together, they can expand mental health services, equip healthcare professionals with necessary training, and integrate mental health into primary healthcare systems.

Establishing robust support networks is crucial for individuals grappling with mental health challenges and suicidal ideation. This entails offering accessible avenues for seeking help, such as helplines, support groups, and online forums. Education initiatives should empower friends, family, and communities to recognize signs of depression and suicidal behavior, fostering environments of support and understanding.

Furthermore, advocating self-care practices like exercise, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques equips individuals with tools to manage their mental well-being and mitigate the risk of suicidal tendencies.

Addressing the persistent scourge of suicide demands a holistic approach that delves into its root causes while providing effective interventions and support for those in crisis. Through concerted efforts to promote mental health awareness, improve access to services, foster support networks, and empower individuals, Nigeria can forge a path towards suicide prevention and cultivate a healthier society for all.

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Editorial

Nigeria’s National Identity Card initiative: A misguided venture

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The recent announcement by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) regarding the launch of a new national identity card with payment functionality epitomises folly.

While touted as a solution to streamline identification and financial services, the collaboration between NIMC, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System appears to be a misaligned endeavour.

In a nation burdened by limited resources and an array of urgent challenges, Nigeria’s pursuit of grandiose projects with questionable benefits is a luxury it cannot afford.

Despite its surface appeal, closer scrutiny reveals a troubling trend of duplication, bureaucratic inefficiency, and a glaring gap between governmental aspirations and citizens’ realities.

This venture echoes previous attempts to overhaul the national identification system, notably the ill-fated 2006 concession awarded to Chams.

That endeavour, marred by allegations of collusion and technical sabotage, squandered over $100 million, leaving a bitter legacy of failure. In light of this history, skepticism abounds regarding the prospects of the current initiative.

As Nigeria grapples with pressing socio-economic issues, including poverty, insecurity, and inadequate infrastructure, it is imperative that resources be directed towards initiatives with tangible benefits for the populace.

The proposed national identity card, with its payment functionality, appears to be a misplaced priority in this context.

Rather than embarking on ventures with dubious returns, Nigerian authorities must prioritise accountability, transparency, and citizen-centric policies. The nation cannot afford to repeat past mistakes at the expense of its long-suffering populace.

Furthermore, the purported justification for the new card – facilitating access to “multiple government intervention programs” for the financially marginalised – falls short when juxtaposed with the formidable hurdles Nigerians encounter in simply linking their National Identification Number (NIN) to vital services like mobile phone accounts or bank facilities.

The pandemonium and exasperation prevalent in these endeavours, resulting in citizens squandering valuable time and resources, should stand as a stark warning regarding the government’s competence in executing such extensive identity management schemes.

Moreover, if the concern is the proliferation of identification documents in Nigeria – from international passports and driver’s licenses to voter cards and the existing national ID card – this newspaper holds that this mosaic of identification systems not only spawns unnecessary confusion and bureaucratic headaches for citizens but also casts doubt on the government’s capacity to efficiently orchestrate and amalgamate these diverse platforms.

Instead of tackling these persistent issues head-on, the introduction of yet another identity card appears to be an ill-conceived effort to reinvent the wheel, with scant consideration for the practical challenges confronting Nigerians in their daily lives.

In a nation grappling with limited resources and a plethora of pressing needs, the decision to allocate billions of naira to this new card project is both confounding and deeply concerning. Many would argue that the government’s time and financial resources could be more effectively directed towards enhancing existing infrastructure, fortifying public services, and confronting the numerous socioeconomic challenges plaguing the country.

From the dire state of the healthcare system to the ongoing insecurity that has resulted in significant loss of life, there exist far more urgent issues warranting the government’s attention and, critically, its constrained financial resources.

Moreover, the assertion that the new card will facilitate access to “government intervention programs” for the financially marginalised raises concerns about introducing yet another bureaucratic barrier for vulnerable Nigerians.

Instead of introducing a new identification system, the government’s focus should be on refining and strengthening existing social welfare programs, ensuring they are accessible, efficient, and tailored to meet the needs of the populace.

The government’s ambition to distribute the new card to approximately 104 million citizens is cause for concern. Undertaking such a monumental task without a clear and comprehensive plan is likely to result in further delays, logistical complexities, and a considerable squandering of public funds – resources that could have been channeled towards making tangible improvements in the lives of Nigerians.

In essence, the rollout of the new national identity card with payment functionality reflects a recurring pattern in Nigerian governance: the inclination towards grand, top-down initiatives that often fall short of addressing the underlying issues fueling the country’s challenges.

Instead of pursuing this dubious venture, the government’s focus should shift towards strengthening existing identification systems, fostering better coordination among government agencies, and prioritising investments in areas directly impacting the lives of Nigerians.

As a nation, we must resist the temptation of embracing flashy new projects that promise quick fixes to complex problems.

Achieving genuine progress demands a nuanced, collaborative, and evidence-based approach that acknowledges the distinct needs and challenges of diverse communities.

It’s high time for the government to abandon this latest identity card scheme and redirect its efforts towards more impactful and sustainable initiatives that truly serve the citizens it is sworn to uplift.

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Editorial

Articulated vehicles and the scourge of avoidable deaths

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Nigerians across the country continue to die utterly preventable deaths thanks to a lack of political will on the part of its leaders. It is an ugly fate thrust upon its citizens to live in a country whose economy is built upon the blood of the ordinary people, not out of sacrifice, but nonchalance. Articulated vehicles wipe out families, dreams, and human capital in one fell swoop. Press statements from the leaders are not enough. We need the May 2024 immediacy of the Tinubu administration in this sector too.

Last week, a falling container killed a woman in the Ogudu area of Lagos. The woman was inside a car when the fully loaded 40ft Mack articulated truck fell on it, leading to her instant death, according to the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).

In October 2023, a businessman identified as Akuma Kalu, was crushed to death by a 40-feet container that fell on his car along the failed portion of Etche-Ngokpala road in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers state.

In September 2023, five women died in a fatal accident that occurred in the early hours of Friday at Odumodu Junction, Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area along Awka Road, Anambra State. As usual, the container of the truck fell upon the bus carrying these people, killing them. We could go on and on. The story remains the same: tragedy upon tragedy.

Every year, the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, does sensitisation with little result to show for it because the arm of the law is too short to punish offenders at the root of the problem. The constant assault on the senses has led to a desensitisation on the part of the populace. Month after month, another story of a truck that erases a family, or multiple families because its brakes fail, or its container is overturned. The combination of the death of empathy on the part of leaders and the emotional exhaustion of the citizens will lead Nigeria down the path of a dystopia.

The governors of each state have a responsibility to institute laws to protect the indigenes. This, the Federal Government must also do nationwide. The FRSC has rules and regulations for trucks. The Government needs to only enforce these rules. Enough of blaming the trucks themselves because they are not the evil entities. The lack of accountability and a weak system perpetuates the dilemma.

The political class should not wait until Nigeria happens to one of their own before acting as is usually the case. Most cases bear the mark of immediate fatality. By the time a family member experiences it, it would have already been too late. We have hope that this administration will do what it takes to restore hope to the common man. Time to act is now.

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