President Muhammadu Buhari says the administration’s policy of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty is a deliberate one that will be pursued with remarkable grit and determination.
Speaking on Tuesday at a meeting with the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC), which was also attended by Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo at the State House in Abuja, he stated that the policy did not come by accident or “something we just bumped into.”
The President agreed with the Council that the country required a poverty reduction strategy that would usher in a “rapid, sustained, sustainable and inclusive” economic growth.
In a short speech after the presentation of the report on the national poverty reduction strategy developed by the PEAC, President Buhari requested the Council to present the document to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday as part of the consultation process.
He also aligned with the Council’s position that the programme of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty was a challenging one, but one that could be achieved.
President Buhari wondered what became of the nation in the past, “with all the resources available to it” that no such coordinated, holistic agenda on poverty reduction was contemplated.
“I was shocked, hearing from you that, of the vast agricultural land resources available to the nation, only two per cent of it is under irrigation”, he said with an assurance that his administration would make the best use of the land.
“Thank you for shaking us up. We are now awake, we will not doze off again. We didn’t just bump into this, we believe it is something we can deliver on,” he added.
The PEAC Chairman, Professor Doyin Salami, who led the presentation, said the plan had so far gained an overwhelming approval of stakeholders across the country.
It had earlier been presented to the Vice President; secretaries to governments of all the 36 states, the governors, as well as development partners, including the World Bank, IMF and AfDB, and civil society organisations, and the organised private sector actors.
Professor Salami welcomed the country’s exit from recession but cautioned that the strength of the economic growth must be driven in a way that it would overtake population growth.
As presented, the poverty reduction strategy requires the nation to aim to raise agricultural productivity, address the wide disparity among states and the regions in the distribution of poverty, ensure macro-economic stability, and take advantage of the different economic endowments of the country in the promotion of industrialisation.
In defining the principles of the new strategy, the Council said the approach would be multi-dimensional.
“Poverty is not only the lack of cash. It is defined by lack of access to shelter, health, education, and jobs which must all be addressed,” it stated.
While nothing that there had in the past been varied attempts to eradicate poverty in the country, the Council submitted that it was the first time Nigeria would consolidate on the achievements of the past and avoid past mistakes.
“It is the first time that everyone is coming on board – Federal Government, states, the private sector, development partners and the civil society. Poverty reduction must not be left to the Federal Government alone, it is everybody’s responsibility,” it said.
To this effect, the Council suggested the setting up of a “National Council on Poverty Reduction,” made up of all these stakeholders, and it was accepted by the President.
According to the President’s media aide, Garba Shehu, the poverty reduction strategy benefited from extensive consultations among all stakeholders in both the public and private sectors to achieve “ownership and sustainability”.