Perspective on Northern states’ high poverty index - BUSINESSDAY
Last Sunday, BusinessDay Newspapers published the story of Terry Ogolor, a beneficiary of job and wealth creation programme in Delta State. With entrepreneurial spirit already in him, hitherto unemployed Ogolor was successfully lured out of planned crime, by the empowerment programme.
Ogolor is not alone as other 3,277 youths have been trained and benefited under the scheme. Today, Ogolor is successful in his fish farming enterprise, contributing to his family and the state economy. “Today, I am happy fish farm owner at YAGEP Fish Farm Cluster, Ugbokodo Okpe. I can fend for myself, family and friends”, he said in the report.
The programme was strategically designed, stringently planned and specifically tailored to tackle the problem of youth unemployment and produce lasting and sustainable prosperity across board.
Contrastingly, in the following page of the same edition of BusinessDay on Sunday, there was a story and pictures of Boko Haram, the Islamic sect that is terrorising Nigeria, with base in the North East of the country.
The report described Boko Haram as one of the terror groups with weird objectives which has been dispensing anguish to human beings. So far, the group has killed several thousands of Nigerians and non-Nigerians. The group whose interest is not economic empowerment for its members or the region’s youth has simply frustrated business, farming and entrepreneurship in the Northern region.
Apart from the deadly attacks it has carried out so far, on April, 2014 it adopted about 276 female students from Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State. It recently adopted several girls from Dapchi School, a quiet community in Yobe. This havoc has severely and mentally obstructed the academic activities of the students, who, on their graduation supposed to contribute meaningfully to their states’ economic growth.
“In some parts of the North East, academic programmes have been disrupted and school system altered as many schools have been reduced to rubbles”. One then wonders how development can be achieved without education of the people.
Unfortunately, Boko Haram activities have displaced millions of children, youth and parents who supposed to engage in several economic activities for their families, states and the nation. Its sister terror group, Fulani herdsmen have continued and expanded the trepidation on Nigerians, especially farmers in the North Central part of the country.
Two scenarios for empowerment
The two published scenarios painted above show the desperation of youths in different Nigerian regions seeking empowerment.
While some youths are forging ahead with economic empowerment, contributing to their state’s economic healthiness, others are busy making complex demands and threatening lives, business and property which have partly assisted to deepen the poverty level in those states.
While militancy could be linked to unemployment, it is also a function of the kind of education provided the youth. For instance, “Boko Haram at the onset appears to have had its operational bases located in the poorest parts of Northern Nigeria. It is in such places where people have been denied the opportunity to go to school as well as have meaningful economic sources of livelihood that recruitment is the easiest. Boko Haram leaders are aware of it and of course are maximising the advantages of that obvious truth. It was not any different from the situation that prevailed during the pre-amnesty militancy periods in the Niger Delta. The long and short of it is that with entrenched poverty, illiteracy and unemployment, we cannot eliminate the menace of Boko Haram or similar security threats,” says Olufemi Awoyemi in Proshare Website. Militancy anywhere assists to impoverish the people and the economy.
The moneybags and sponsors of Boko Haram may also be using the platform to enrich themselves in the short term but the socio-economic damage in the long term is humongous.
Recent data on high Northern poverty level
It is therefore not surprising that recent data from Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), re-emphasised that the Northern states are worst in Nigeria’s sub-national poverty rates.
Despite having the opportunity of producing highest number of presidents in Nigeria’s history to govern the country, the report states that even with vast land mass, the region largely posted the worst performing in ‘multi-dimensional poverty index data bank’ in the period under review (year-to-date, 2017), with six northern states ranked as “worse states.”
These worst states are Zamfara, the worst state, with 92 percent poverty rate; Jigawa 88 percent, Bauchi 87 percent, Kebbi 86 percent, Katsina 82.2 percent, and Gombe 77 percent.
Data from five other core northern states: Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa and Boko Haram-ravaged Borno and Yobe, were not available in the Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative, Multidimensional Poverty Index Data Bank.
In the same vein, Taraba State (with 78percent), recently enmeshed in herdsmen attacks, along with Plateau (51.6percent) in the North Central Zone were also listed among Nigeria Country Briefing’s “worse states” in sub-national poverty rates rankings. However, data from herdsmen harried Benue State were not available.
The only exception among the northern region is the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, with poverty rate of 24 percent, and strike-traumatised Kogi State with 26 percent, according to the OPHI data.
Meanwhile, Ebonyi, a salt-producing and a largely agrarian state, majoring in rice production, in the South-East region, is the only ‘worst performed and poor state’ in the entire southern states of Nigeria.
The state, currently under the leadership of David Umahi, elected governor in 2015, was ranked with 56 percent in the Nigerian sub-national poverty rates.
The OPHI data posted states in the southern region as largely performing fairly well in poverty eradication policies.
Lagos State, with a gross domestic product (GDP) economy of $136 billion, and by far, Nigeria’s economic capital, which recently emerged as Africa’s seventh largest economy, bigger than Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya, two of the continent’s most promising economies, is surveyed by OPHI as the least poor state in Nigeria, with only 8.5 percent ranking in sub-national poverty rate.
Other states in the South West zone are Ogun 27 percent, Oyo 29 percent, Osun 11 percent, and Ondo 28 percent. Data from Ekiti State were not available.
In the South-South zone, Edo State came off with a promising 19 percent sub-national poverty rate, while Rivers ranked with 21 percent and Bayelsa 29 percent.
For the South East zone, Imo, a state currently governed by Rochas Okorocha, is 20 percent, from initial 15 percent in 2014-2015. Data from Abia, Anambra and Enugu states were not available.
Prominent stakeholders including cerebral Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, who rose to the pinnacle by Western education, has often said that the abhorrence of Western education in the name of practising Islam has doomed northern part of Nigeria into becoming the poorest region in the country.
Speaking at 2017 Kaduna State’s Investment and Economic Summit, themed ‘Promoting Investment Amidst Economic Challenges’ Sanusi said Muslims must imbibe and adopt western education and stop using religion and culture to set the region backward.
Today, Boko Haram which is threatening business and deepening the poverty in the Northern region is riding on illiteracy, poverty and to some extent sponsors who are making money through them. Efforts should be made to reverse this in a mid-term through conscientious efforts by stakeholders in the region but more importantly through engaging them in productive activities through such investment in agriculture and solid mineral mining in the region.
According to Awoyemi, the states should embark on enhanced social investment and enforcement of mass education. These will have more enduring positive impacts in curtailing the menace of Boko Haram or its variants, which now include kidnapping and outright criminality.
The vast majority of Nigerian youth should be educated and engaged in productive activities especially in agriculture, mining to grow the respective regions and Nigeria’s economy. Lack of education and militancy can only take the states’ economy backward.