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Furthering the poverty conversation, by minister of state for budget & planning

By Prince Clem Ikanade Agba

Consequent to the launch of the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report produced by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Thursday, November 17, 2022, some observers criticised the federal government based on one of the fndings in the report, which was that 133 million Nigerians were found to be multidimensionally poor.

The impression being created by critics, on those who are yet to see or digest the nitty-gritty of the report, was that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, which had promised to lift 100m Nigerians out of poverty in ten years, had thrown 133 million Nigerians, out of an estimated population of 211 million, into poverty. I would like to believe this impression is borne out of ignorance rather than mischief, and it is incumbent on us not to allow ignorance to pass without clarifcation, especially in this period of cynicism and partisan frenzy.

Based on the World Data Lab Poverty Model, with a poverty threshold of $1.90, the World Poverty Clock calculates that in Nigeria, people living in extreme poverty in monetary terms are 69.9 million, that is 32 per cent of the estimated population of 211 million used for its projections. That is to say that there are roughly about 63.1 million people that are not poor in terms of money but, in terms of other amenities, can be considered poor/deprived. An example of this can be a child whose primary carer earns N137,430 annually (based on the 2019 poverty line) but lives in a community that deprives him/her of proper primary education, primary healthcare, sanitisation, adequate nutrition and a conducive housing environment.

As Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, I have taken up the gauntlet thrown down by critics to offer clarifcations in a bid to sustain a robust conversation around the Multidimensional Poverty Index tool, which had been deployed in over 100 countries to measure poverty and had defned poverty as the overlapping combination of deprivations that people could face in several areas of their lives, believing that we would all better understand the issues involved and put our hands on the deck to confront them head-on.

I pointed out that the MPI, a new tool with which to measure poverty in the country, was markedly different from the select focus on monetary poverty measurement. Contrary to sentiments that the report by an agency of this administration indicted the administration, the MPI only clarifed the various dimensions of poverty and its attendant deprivations. It is furthermore in line with the Federal Government’s commitment to be transparent and data-driven and primarily provide data free of interference or manipulation.

While I do not wish to repeat myself as what I said on that occasion are recorded facts, I wish to restate and reiterate the fact that the Multidimensional Poverty Index Survey results, as published by the National Bureau of Statistics, make it clear that poverty in Nigeria is mainly a rural phenomenon, with approximately 106 million (72% ) of the 133 million multidimensionally poor, residing in the rural areas.

With the signifcant contributory factors to multidimensional poverty being health and education issues, I simply pointed out that the neglect of the rural areas by those responsible for it is a signifcant factor as to why multidimensional poverty still persists today at its current levels, despite the support the Federal Government provides through social investment programmes and development policies.

The sub-nationals cannot evade this responsibility as the mandate for rural affairs fall within their ambit. It is expected that they take these empirical results, which have been provided at the senatorial district level for the frst time, and apply them in addressing the issues on ground in their respective states. I encourage the sub-national governments to take time to look at the indicators measured in the MPI to see where and how the responsibilities of addressing those indicators fall within their political and constitutional responsibilities.

Poverty is a state or condition in which a person or community lacks the fnancial resources and essentials for a minimum standard of living. Poverty means that the income level from employment is so low that basic human needs can’t be met.

Poverty-stricken people and families might go without proper housing, clean water, healthy food, and medical attention.

Each nation has its criteria for determining the poverty line and counting how many people live in poverty. Calculating a poverty index lets the government know how well it meets the nation’s needs.

As a nation, we have focused primarily on monetary poverty in the past, which looks solely at an income threshold by which it is believed people will be able to meet their needs.

However, various regional socio-economic conditions mean that people have varying access to the essentials needed to achieve a minimum standard of living. For this reason, the country, for the frst time, is instituting the Multidimensional Poverty Index to better understand the various forms of poverty and depravations.

Where the Monetary poverty index looks at individuals living on less than $1.9 dollars a day, the MPI takes monetary poverty and other factors (access to primary health, basic education, nutrition, sanitation, water, etc.) into account to determine the ability of individuals to achieve a minimum acceptable standard of living. Therefore, comparing monetary and multidimensional poverty indexes is akin to comparing apples and oranges; they are both fruit but of a completely different makeup.

The importance of the MPI is that it gives us a more nuanced view of the country’s socio-economic challenges and dives into a deeper geographical look. This enables us, for instance, to understand disparities in states on a senatorial district level and will help the federal, state and local governments tailor their policies, programmes and project implementation objectives more accurately to the unique needs of its people.

The parameters looked at in calculating the MPI are:

  • Primary Health

 

  • Nutrition

 

  • Food insecurity

 

  • Time to healthcare

 

  • Basic Education

 

  • School Attendance

 

  • Years of Schooling

 

 

  • School Lag

 

 

  • Living Standards

 

  • Access to Potable Water

 

  • Water Reliability

 

  • Sanitation

 

  • Housing Materials

 

  • Cooking Fuel

 

  • Assets (Land, etc.)

 

 

  • Work & Shocks

 

  • Unemployment

 

  • Underemployment

 

  • Security Shock

Diagram 1: Venn Diagram of Government Responsibilities in relation to (MPI) Indicators

IndicatorGovernment Responsible
  
NutritionFederal, State and Local Government
  
Food SecurityFederal, State and Local Government
  
Time to HealthcareState and Local Government
  
School AttendanceState and Local Government
  
School LagState and Local Government
  
WaterState Government
  
Water ReliabilityState Government
  
SanitationLocal Government
  
Housing MaterialsFederal, State and Local Government
  
Cooking FuelFederal, State and Local Government
  
Assets (Land, etc.)State Governments
  
UnemploymentFederal, State and Local Government
  
UnderemploymentFederal, State and Local Government
  
Security ShockFederal, State and Local Government
  

Table 1: Government Responsibilities concerning (MPI) Indicators

From looking at the main contributory factors infuencing multidimensional policy, we can see that the non “glossy” things such as adequately run primary and secondary schools (proper facilities, teachers and funding), well-equipped, staffed and maintained primary health centres, drinkable pipe borne water, good waste management (pickup and disposal) and friendly local business policies (removing excessive permits and levies) have the most impact on reducing poverty in all forms.

These also consequently have the highest impact on growth. Primary and Secondary healthcare and basic education, for example, are exclusively under the remit of Local and State Governments. Water Boards and their service delivery are exclusively under the State governments, the same goes for land ownership as well as business levies and permits charged in the various localities.

Building a good network of rural roads across agro corridors will improve access to markets while reducing post-harvest losses (currently estimated at 60%). This will signifcantly impact the rural agrarian economy and industries and reduce food infation in urban areas.

Strengthening service delivery across the various contributing parameters is the easiest way to roll back the numbers. This will entail Local Government reforms in the various states

Having untangled some of the fndings of the MPI report, I wish to clarify that while I had held the sub-national governments accountable for their role in the poverty levels in the country, my opinion was not a blanket one. For the record, I cannot paint all governors with a brush of negligence in implementing poverty-reduction programmes in the rural areas of their respective states.

I have cited and commended what the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Kebbi State Governor, Mr Atiku Bagudu were doing with the LAKE rice and the Ebonyi Governor, Mr David Umahi’s contribution to help address the question of food security in the country. At the same time, I joined issues with the Akwa-Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, on his position on the increasing price of rice and what he was doing or had done as governor to make the price of rice go down.

Moreover, some governors, like Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai and Barrister Nyesom Wike, have built roads, bridges and other iconic social infrastructural facilities, such as hospitals and schools, both in the rural and urban areas of their State. That they were not singled out at the State House media engagement does not include them in my classifcation of governors who had not embarked on projects that positively impacted the people, especially in the rural areas. Ondo state, in particular, must be given recognition as they have the lowest incidence of multidimensional poverty (27.2%) in the entire country.

I reiterate my position that States are not adequately playing their complementary role in promoting sectors directly under their purview, like primary health, basic education, water, rural roads and infrastructure. They should prudently manage their resources and spread them to the rural area that impacts directly and positively on the majority of the people as well as improves their living standard so that the desire by the Federal Government to lift 100 million Nigerians from poverty in 10 years can be collaboratively and collectively realized for the beneft of the nation.

It is pertinent to know that statistical information is the bedrock of successful policy at all levels of government. The MPI is neither a half-witted document with a political undertone nor that which seeks to shift blame. As an intellectual document, if there is a need for a rejoinder, the critics should go to the feld and conduct research. However, in doing this, it is essential to note that the 36 States Bureau of Statistics participated in the production of the subject MP Index.

I believe that the Federal Government’s policies, plans and programs will work better and be more impactful if the sub-nationals understand that development is bottom-up. Then they can begin to redirect their spending to people-oriented and community-impacting projects.

The Federal Government will continue supporting states that are committed to tackling these binding issues.

The Government of President Muhammadu Buhari will remain committed to its primary responsibilities of good policy initiatives and robust developmental programs. The Federal Government’s support for small and medium-scale businesses, in line with the National Development Plan, has facilitated economic growth for eight consecutive quarters since the Covid-19-induced recession, growing by 2.25% in the third quarter of 2022.

Below is the summary MPI Data by State and Senatorial District:

PROPORTION OF POPULATION THAT ARE MULTIDIMENSIONALLY POOR BY SENATORIAL DISTRICT

 StateMPISenatorial(%)Senatorial(%)Senatorial(%)Highest Contributory(%) by Sector 
 (%)District 1District 2District 3Indicator (%) 
       
            
 Sokoto90.5Sokoto South91.8Sokoto East90.3Sokoto89.4School attendance (13.9)Urban 77.2 
 NorthRural 93.1 
          
            

 

 Bayelsa88.5Bayelsa West96.3Bayelsa85.2Bayelsa83.3Food insecurity (16.8)Urban 81.6
 CentralEastRural 90.1
        
           
 Gombe86.2Gombe Central88.8Gombe88.5Gombe80.9School attendance (11.7)Urban 70.2
 NorthSouthRural 87.2
        
           
 Jigawa84.3Jigawa North87.6Jigawa South83.3Jigawa83.7Nutrition (14.3)Urban 64.0
 EastWestNorth WestRural 88.0
       
           
 Plateau84.0Plateau South86.5Plateau83.6Plateau79.1Time to healthcareUrban 66.2
 CentralNorth(12.0)Rural 85.9
       
           
 Yobe83.5Yobe South88.1Yobe North87.6Yobe East80.8School attendance (14.9)Urban 69.7
 Rural 90.0
          
           
 Kebbi82.2Kebbi South83.8Kebbi83.1Kebbi80.3School attendance (14.8)Urban 56.6
 CentralNorthRural 87.3
        
           
 Taraba79.4Taraba North83.6Taraba South78.6Taraba75.5Food insecurity (16.4)Urban 65.6
 CentralRural 82.6
         
           
 Zamfara78.0Zamfara West82.6Zamfara75.4Zamfara73.1School attendance (15.9)Urban 64.3
 NorthCentralRural 83.5
        
           
 Ebonyi78.0Ebonyi Central83.3Ebonyi North79.0Ebonyi66.2Food insecurity (17.4)Urban 45.2
 SouthRural 83.2
         
           
 Cross75.4Cross River83.5Cross River73.6Cross River65.5Food insecurity (19.7)Urban 66.2
 RiverNorthCentralSouthRural 77.6
      
           
 Benue75.0Benue South83.7Benue North75.2Benue62.9Time to healthcareUrban 50.8
 WestNorth East(17.3)Rural 78.6
       
           
 Kaduna73.9Kaduna North79.4Kaduna72.1Kaduna65.6Time to healthcareUrban 60.1
 SouthCentral(13.3)Rural 77.4
       
           
 Bauchi73.9Bauchi North79.8Bauchi78.5Bauchi61.1School attendance (16.9)Urban 38.9
 CentralSouthRural 77.5
        
           
 Katsina72.7Katsina Central77.9Katsina76.1Katsina62.7School attendance (15.4)Urban 57.7
 NorthSouthRural 79.6
        
           
 Borno72.5Borno North88.9Borno71.6Borno69.4School attendance (15.1)Urban 69.1
 CentralSouthRural 74.1
        
           

 

 Akwa71.3Akwa Ibom73.2Akwa Ibom71.3Akwa Ibom69.3Food insecurity (17.1)Urban 55.9
 IbomSouthNorth WestNorth EastRural 76.0
      
           
 Niger69.1Niger North76.4Niger South72.3Niger East64.5School attendance (14.7)Urban 40.5
 Rural 75.6
          
           
 Adamawa68.7Adamawa71.8Adamawa70.9Adamawa63.0Time to healthcareUrban 53.2
 SouthNorthCentral(13.6)Rural 72.5
      
           
 Ogun68.1Ogun West83.9Ogun Central48.9Ogun East46.4Food insecurity & TimeUrban 41.0
 to healthcare (16.8)Rural 81.1
         
           
 Kano66.3Kano South77.0Kano North75.0Kano49.8Nutrition (14.7)Urban 41.2
 CentralRural 77.4
         
           
 Enugu63.1Enugu East75.3Enugu North63.9Enugu West54.7Time to healthcareUrban 54.8
 (19.3)Rural 63.9
         
           
 Rivers62.4Rivers South73.5Rivers West70.6Rivers East52.0Food insecurity (17.3)Urban 55.6
 EastRural 64.8
         
           
 Kogi61.3Kogi East77.0Kogi Central49.5Kogi West45.5Food insecurity (17.8)Urban 45.5
 Rural 65.1
          
           
 Nasarawa60.7Nassarawa68.5Nassarawa58.8Nassarawa51.8Security shock (11.3)Urban 41.7
 SouthNorthWestRural 67.6
       
           
 Oyo48.7Oyo North60.1Oyo Central44.8Oyo South42.4Food insecurity (16.3)Urban 33.9
 Rural 73.4
          
           
 Kwara48.3Kwara North56.7Kwara42.7Kwara41.7Years of schooling (16.5)Urban 28.8
 CentralSouthRural 57.1
        
           
 FCT Abuja48.3FCT Abuja48.3Plateau   Food insecurity (17.4)Urban 42.9
 Central   Rural 56.1
         
           
 Delta47.6Delta South52.5Delta Central47.9Delta North43.2Time to healthcareUrban 39.2
 (14.4)Rural 50.6
         
           
 Imo40.7Imo North48.8Imo East38.7Imo West31.2Food insecurity (22.2)Urban 47.6
 Rural 40.2
          
           
 Osun40.7Osun West45.5Osun East38.3Osun38.0Food insecurity (15.5)Urban 35.4
 CentralRural 52.4
         
           

 

 Ekiti36.0Ekiti South36.7Ekiti North35.9Ekiti34.7Food insecurity (15.6)Urban 30.9
 CentralRural 49.3
         
           
 Edo35.4Edo North46.3Edo Central35.8Edo South27.6Food insecurity (17.3)Urban 24.9
 Rural 40.7
          
           
 Anambra32.1Anambra South38.3Anambra30.7Anambra26.0Food insecurity (18.5)Urban 37.3
 NorthCentralRural 29.7
        
           
 Abia29.8Abia South36.0Abia North28.8Abia26.4Food insecurity (20.3)Urban 28.7
 CentralRural 30.1
         
           
 Lagos29.4Lagos East35.5Lagos West29.7Lagos22.6Food insecurity (19.9)Urban 26.9
 CentralRural 45.5
         
           
 Ondo27.2Ondo South36.2Ondo North23.5Ondo20.1Time to healthcareUrban 14.1
 Central(14.9)Rural 39.7
        
           
 National62.9      Food insecurity & TimeUrban 42.0
       Rural 72.0
         to healthcare (32.0)
          
           

 

Prince Clem Ikanade Agba is Minister of State Budget and National Planning, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Abuja

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