by Yusuf Ishaku Goje
Like peace-building, the solution to poverty does not reside in quick-fix approach but in a sustainable humanitarian effort. Also, just like nation-building, combating extreme poverty requires the collective and synergistic effort of all irrespective of class strata. Therefore, there is no gainsaying the fact that combating extreme poverty requires a long term and sustainable pro-poor approach through the collective effort of all stakeholders in every society. This is more so, because poverty has been an age-long unwanted but integral companion of the history of the world, which has generationally conquered many and left them in a vicious cycle of abject penury and despondency. Poverty has done more damage than any other phenomenon in the history of man. Great wars have been fought, destructive disasters have occurred, ravaging diseases have struck; but poverty still stands unrivalled in its ravaging negative effects on man.
Jeffrey Sachs (Special Advisor to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan) captures the reality succinctly when he stated that; “currently, more than eight million people around the world die each year because they are too poor to stay alive”. The thought of many; dying because they are too poor to stay alive, staying for days without food, going to sleep without shelter over them, being sick without adequate healthcare, families breaking up, children in a state of hopelessness, youth engaging in immoral acts to eke out a living; should naturally evoke the empathy and action of all ( individuals, non-governmental organizations (both national and international), private sector and governments) towards taking more drastic steps before poverty consumes the world, God forbid!
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, about 112million Nigerians live below the poverty line, this figure represents about 67 per cent of the entire population.
It is in response to the ravaging effects and impact of poverty on the globe that the United Nations in 1993 declared and set aside October 17th annually as world poverty eradication day; to draw attention and promote awareness to the plight of poorest of the poor and the need to eradicate extreme poverty. Poverty is one of the biggest challenges that the world has been grappling with; even though successes have been achieved in this fight (from 1990 till date extreme poverty rates have been cut by half), the battle is still far from being won.
According to available reports, approximately 1.3 billion people in developing countries live below $1.25 a day or less. No wonder, The Millennium Declaration calls for special attention to Africa, because more than 41 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $1 per day, and 32 percent are undernourished. Again, Jeffrey Sachs brought our attention to the enormous reality of poverty by positing that; “all told, the extreme poor (at around 1 billion) and the poor (another 1.5 billion) make up around 40 percent of humanity”.
Narrowing it down to Nigeria, one does not only need statistics to come to terms with the injurious effects of poverty because of its palpability; which has brought so much despondency, dehumanization, deaths, disease, hunger, immorality and insecurity to a nation that is so great in potential. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, about 112 million Nigerians live below the poverty line, this figure represents about 67 per cent of the entire population. The World Bank in its ‘May 2013 Nigeria Economic Report’ said the number of Nigerians living in poverty was increasing too rapidly, particularly in rural areas. Also, a report from the World Bank in April 2014, listed Nigeria among the five poorest countries in the world, with the largest number of people said to live on less than $1.25 a day. The others are India, China, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Many causes have been attributed to be the source of poverty such as a negative mental attitude, lack of education and skills, unemployment, ineffective government, disaster, war, amongst many. But to my mind the one that has brought poverty to the doorsteps of many Nigerians is unemployment; which has left many without the purchasing power to acquire the basic needs of life such as food, clothing, shelter, education, healthcare, amongst many. Unemployment in a country like Nigeria has left millions of our teeming youth idle, roaming the streets in search of non-existent jobs and in an unconducive environment to be self-reliant and employed.
It was estimated by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) that 54 per cent of Nigerian youths were unemployed in 2012. While According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS, 2013), the national unemployment rate is 23.9 percent with the youth accounting for more than 70 percent. This statistics are meant to reemphasize the depth of unemployment in Nigeria which has worsened and increased poverty to an alarming level.
It is in the face of this reality that Nigeria, as a committed member of the United Nations, has over the years marked the world poverty eradication day with series of programmes such as seminars, conferences, advocacy campaigns, rallies and various sensitization programmes. This year would not be any different.
As we commemorate this year’s World Poverty Eradication Day with the theme; Leave No One Behind: Think, Decide and Act together against Extreme Poverty; let us pull our ranks closer in tackling the unemployment crisis on our hands, as a viable measure in thinking, deciding and acting together against extreme poverty. In doing that lets heed the advice of Dr. Willie Siyanbola ( The Director General of the Centre for Technology Management), who rightly said, “Unless both the government and private sector generate 2.5million jobs yearly, about 60% of Nigerian graduates would remain unemployed”.
The non-governmental and civil society organizations have been consistent at the centre of poverty reduction through advocating for increased employment generation and the commemoration of the World Poverty Eradication Day in Nigeria over the years; one of such organization is Ambassadors Initiative for Development and Empowerment (AIDE).
AIDE is the convener of the Global Partnership for Poverty Reduction in Nigeria (GPPRN), and has been championing the campaign, alongside its partners in Nigeria, its theme for 2014 is: “Using Skills to Fight Poverty: What is in Your Hands”. The Initiative has organized series of programs and has brought together key stakeholders in the fight against poverty at various platforms to initiate and collectively execute a roadmap that is innovatively geared towards combating extreme poverty in line with this year’s United Nations World Poverty Eradication Day theme. This is in recognition of the fact that the fight against poverty should not be left in the hands of the government and private sector alone. All hands must be on deck, to ensure that more jobs are created through encouraging skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development especially targeting the poor in eradicating extreme poverty.
It is in culminating this year’s Global Partnership for Poverty Reduction in Nigeria (GPPRN) campaign and marking this year’s World Poverty Eradication Day; that AIDE and her partners is organizing an outdoor sensitization programme titled: “USING SKILLS FIGHT TO POVERTY: WHAT IS IN YOUR HANDS” and a charity visit to an orphanage.
Yusuf Ishaku Goje is the Head of Programme, AIDE, Abuja