Poverty alleviation is a word that has been bandied around by Nigerian leaders of government since the return of democracy in 1999. They frequently mention these words as a mark to show their commitment towards providing a better life for the people. But it appears to me that many Nigerian leaders do not understand what it takes to alleviate the suffering of the poor masses of the country. Their programmes for poverty alleviation can hardly build people’s lives and provide them with better living conditions. Little wonder many Nigerians are still trapped in poverty despite government’s poverty alleviation programmes across the country. There has been no improvement in the fight against poverty and this is widespread that it requires no proof.
Nigerian leaders need to take a cue from the western world on measures taken to reduce their people’s suffering. These countries have been able to achieve the desired results through the provision of welfare programmes and leverage; provision of jobs; affordable healthcare and counseling; investment in public schools; building affordable houses; debates on teenage pregnancy; police protection (state policing); parenting and literacy programmes, e.t.c. Nigerian government can only alleviate poverty by adopting this approach to eradicate the poor conditions of many Nigerians. Any government that is sincere about alleviating the suffering of the people be it at the Federal, State or Local Government levels should begin to work in line with the above mentioned programmes in order to achieve results.
First, government at all levels should provide welfare programmes and leverage for those who have a tough time getting by on their own. Second, there are millions of jobless youths out there. Public works, textile industries and the development of agriculture among others have the capacity to provide jobs for these teeming youths. Third, affordable healthcare/counseling will go a long way to alleviate the people’s suffering thereby reducing risk associated with the patronage of uncertified chemists and taking medications that are not prescribed. Fourth, the education system is in a state of collapse due to poor funding hence, government should invest in public schools. The proliferation of private schools in Nigeria is a consequence of improper funding of public schools which trained most Nigerian leaders. Proper funding of public schools will help raise the standard of education besides education is central to the development of any nation. The high level of illiteracy in the country is enough for government to intensify efforts to ensure that every citizen get the best education. It is bad that parents who cannot afford to put their children through private schools send their wards to the decaying public schools thereby reducing their chances of getting better education. The children of the poor must not be left to the mercy of poorly funded public schools. Therefore, government at all levels should invest in public schools. Fifth, governments should build affordable houses for low income earners. Sixth, there should be constant debate on teenage pregnancy (which has a social stigma attached to it) in order to reduce poverty because there is every likelihood that a teenage mother will end up being poor besides most of their children are a threat to the society. Seventh, the police should be decentralized so as to have adequate police for all citizens. The ratio of about 400 citizens to 1 policeman cannot ensure adequate protection of the people. Furthermore, a state governor’s passion about protecting the people can hardly bring the social security every Nigerians needs unless there is state policing. Finally, government should create parenting and literacy programmes for parents and illiterates respectively.
The foregoing are tested and trusted programmes that can be used to alleviate poverty in Nigeria. With all these programmes in place, the poor would be better off. Government at all levels cannot afford to ignore this proposal if they really are determined to alleviate the suffering of the people. It is high time Nigerian government stopped the promotion of okada riding and the procurement of three-wheeler motorcycles as a way of alleviating poverty because they hardly make people rise above poverty, rather, they lead to the loss of many lives. It is only the totality of these programmes that can guarantee the reduction of poverty in Nigeria. They are to be integrated into government’s programmes and not as a separate entity like those created by the Federal and State governments.