Poverty is the scarcity or the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. It is a multifaceted concept which may include social, economic and political elements.
The word ‘poverty’ comes from old French, poverte (modern French: Paurete); from Latin Paupetas i.e pauper (poor). Its origin can be dated back to the 16th century, when the emergence of the new world increased trade and arrival of modern economics.
Poverty emerges simultaneously with wealth. Gaps in income develop within and among nations, through combinations of geographical location, politics and access to resources and trading.
Poverty existed in the 1770s, as evident in the book, “The Wealth of Nation” written by Adam Smith in 1776. Smith noted income inequalities among citizens in the United States and found out that poverty was so rife among the citizens.
Statistics show that roughly one billion people in the world are living in poverty by the standard of what “poverty” typically means in the poorest countries. Before now, there were also about one billion people in the world living in such poverty 200 years ago. For much of history, the huge majority lived in extreme poverty.
Bringing the situation home, Nigeria has one of the world’s highest economic growth rate, averaging 7.4% according to the Nigeria economic report released in July 2014 by the World Bank. Yet, poverty remains significant at 33.1% in Africa biggest economy.
Nigeria has historically experienced so much ethnic conflicts. With the return of civilian rule in 1999, violence has become more noticeable. Most of these unrests have their roots in poverty.
Lack of stringent regulatory and monitoring system has encouraged corruption. This has further hindered poverty alleviation efforts to a large extent, since resources which could pay for public good and create employment and other opportunities for citizens are being misappropriated.
The allowance of a senator in Nigeria is enough to turn 20 families in Nigeria into overnight millionaires. You can imagine a senator having 10 cars, each worth N10 million, when many people cannot boast of three square meals.
Many states are owing wages and salaries even when the wages are nothing to write home about. That Nigeria today is witnessing economic hardship is as a result of corruption.
Reducing corruption to a great extent, therefore, will mean that funds will be used judiciously and for the right purposes.
Meanwhile, family planning is one major way of controlling poverty in Nigeria. Children are gift from God, no doubt, but high rate of birth can only be a bonus for a country whose national wealth is increasing. For a nation whose national wealth is stagnant or declining like Nigeria, those children and their parents face a gloomy future.
Nigeria’s approach has been to pursue industrial development in cities with the hope that the effects will trickle down to the rural areas. But this has not been the case.
Indonesia, unlike Nigeria, pursued a different approach by developing the rural areas with provision of basic social amenities such as electricity, water and good road network, in addition to establishment of agro-based industries in rural areas. Most Nigerians who are poor are in rural areas and neglecting them is what is responsible for the extreme poverty in Nigeria.
Transparency in government, especially in the area of fiscal accountability can also help reduce corruption. When the government is accountable to its citizens for their actions or inactions, the citizens will be able to accurately assess how well their leaders are leading them.
In a nutshell, poverty is not anybody’s friend and therefore should be exiled.
Huoma is of the Port Harcourt Polytechnic, Rumuola.
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