Poverty index: Blame governors who build bridges but ignore suffering masses – Finance Minister

Minister of State for Finance, Clement Agba has criticised state governors over negative poverty index in Nigeria.

In taking a swipe on some of the governors, he said many of them were busy competing among themselves to build bridges and other infrastructures at the city centres, leaving the rural dwellers to their fate.

He said most of the infrastructures they build at the state capitals had no direct bearing on alleviating the suffering of majority of the masses both at the rural and urban communities.

His reactions came on Wednesday, while briefing State House reporters on some of the deliberations that took place inside the Council Chambers, after the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.

After noting that there was a slight improvement in the gross domestic product indices for the 3rd Quarter of 2022, he was asked why majority of Nigerians still experience excruciating pains and suffering as a result of the inflationary trend and if measures are in place to check it.

He responded saying: “Question was, what is the Minister of Finance and I doing with regards to hardship in Nigeria, right? So suggestion is that both of us are the ones creating the hardship for us to resolve it.

“The governors basically are only functioning in their state capitals. And democracy that we preach about is delivering the greatest goods to the greatest number of people. And from our demographic, it shows that the greatest number of our people who live in rural areas, but the governors are not working in the rural areas.

“Right now 70% of our people live in rural areas they produce 90% of what we eat. And unfortunately 60% of what they produce is lost due to post harvest loss and it does not get to the market.

When we’re talking about food prices, like I mentioned right now as driving inflation, prices of food at the farm gates are low. But when you now take it to the urban areas, you find out that the prices are high due to supply chain disruptions, lack of infrastructure to take them there.

“I think from the federal government side we are doing our best. But we need to push that rather than governors continuing to compete to take loans to build airports that are not necessarily where they have other airports so close to them, or governors now competing to build flyovers all over the place and we applaud,+ they should concentrate on building rural roads so that the farmer can at least get their products to the market.

“And you find that if they do that and with the new policy in the national development plan that talks about taking power to the rural areas, especially of out-grid power that can easily be put, you begin to attract industries to those areas for value addition.

“UNIDO report shows us in terms of employment, the MSMEs employs 70% of our people. So you can imagine how much progress we will make when you find that there are roads, there is power in these rural areas.

“In terms of agriculture, you find out that the federal government doesn’t have a land that they would plant, government has pushed for the Anchor Borrowers programme and that is going on very well but the state control lands states. They are the ones to provide land for agriculture. They are not investing in that.

“They would rather build skyscrapers in a city where people will see and clap but the skyscrapers does not put food on the table.

“Like I always say, if you look at the Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He says you have to take care of the basic needs of individuals first before you begin to talk about self actualization. So we need to take care of the issues of food, nutrition, housing and clothing for our people. Before we begin to think of how to go to the moon and begin to build flyovers and airports in the state capital, that is the missing link which we need to push so that we’ll be able to catalyze growth.

“But continuing to say federal government or my sister, Zainab and I what are we doing? We are doing our parts. And I’m sure Wike told you guys about monies that have been released over N500 billion to the oil-producing states and I’ve seen some disclaimers from the states saying, it is small small money they are getting on a monthly basis. And some are giving some half-truths of what they have received. We need to hold them accountable. So that together we all can grow our economy”.