RURAL POVERTY AND THE CHALLENGES OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA; A STUDY OF ABOH MBAISE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF IMO STATE
- BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY:
The pride of any government is the attainment of higher value level of development in such a way that its citizens would derive natural attachment to governance. However, for a nation to be in a phase of development there must be some pre-requisites, which include socio-political and economic stability. The gap between the developed and the developing countries is not static or narrow but is continually widening. A large majority of the world’s population in developing world lives in a state of poverty. The problem of urban population, rural stagnation, unemployment and growing inequalities continue to face less developed countries, which Nigeria belongs. Hope of accelerated developmentsis difficult to realize. This gloomy situation is of great concern to stake holders and the concerned citizenry. Nigeria has not been able to engender meaningful development inspite of her huge resources endowment. This has greatly affected her quest to improved quality of life of her citizens.
On the main issues in development,debates are on how to tackle rural poverty. The constraints to developing the rural area as well as the problems of this critical sector have come to loam very large for over four decades in Nigeria. All attempts to put the rural areas on course of development have failed.Conditions have continued to worsen and poverty has become a major issue in the rural areas especiallyAbohMbaise local government area in spite of their potentials. Therefore, a major concern to government’s multilateral institutions and policy makers in different countries is to identify appropriate strategy for poverty alleviation especially in the rural areas.
Prior to 1996, about 46.3% of Nigeria’s population was, according to the data of the Federal Office of Statistics (FOS), living below the national poverty level (Olatunji, 2006). The poverty index increased to over 65.6% by 1996 and according to the estimate of UNDP, over 70% of Nigerians were by 2002 living below the poverty level (UNDP, 2008).
The picture of growing poverty in Nigeria can easily be demonstrated by reference to the facts. For example, Nigeria per-capital income was $1151.71 in 1976. It fell to $835.67 in 1994 and fell below $200 in 1996, the population of absolute poor rose from 35 million in 1992 to 44 million in 1995, the percentage of people living below poverty line rose from 34% in 1992 to 82% in 1998 (Abubakar, 1999). By 1995 Nigeria was placed among the 17 poorest countries in the world (Ashton, 1995), and by 1996 the country was 1472nd on the HDI and 13thpoorest nation in the world (Ike, 1996). All other indicators of poverty point towards deterioration of the poverty situation in Nigeria. For example, life expectancy at birth which was 54 years in 1990, and 52 years in 1992 had became 47.6 years in 1996, infant mortality which was 85 per 1000 in 1990 researched 195 per 1000 in 1995 (Anikogbo, 1997).
These facts may have led the World Bank to declare that in “1995 welfare was probably lower and poverty higher than in the pre-oil boom year of early 1970s”(World Bank, 1997:67), and the growing inequality which was brought about by the activities mentioned earlier, many have also led the World Bank to caption its 1996 report on Nigeria as “Nigeria: poverty in the midst of plenty” (World Bank 1996). One can conveniently describe Nigeria today as a very rich country of very few extremely rich people and very many extremely poor people.
These frightening poverty assessment data which are also practically manifested on the rural area among the vast majority of the populace must have informed the persistent calls of concerned opinion leaders and pressure group including business, political, professional, academic, labour , traditional and religious leaders on the government to eradicate poverty within the socio-economic system, the weight and frequency as well as the canvassed justification for these calls notwithstanding, government at every level appears not to be adequately responsive or out of meaningful ideas for sustainable developmental strategy.
Based on the above analysis, this study focuses on the causes of increasing Nigeria’s poverty scourge, paying a particular attention to the rural communities of AbohMbaise local government area with a view to possibly proffering effective, realistic and applicable solution.
1.2. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Any nation that neglects the development and empowerment of the rural communities should not expect meaningful development. Alegbeleye and Aina (1985:13) state that “the third world countries have recently come to realize that unless the rural areas are well developed, hardly would any meaningful development occur in these countries”. Okey (2003:1) also says that “Rural development is a basis for economic development and information is an important ingredient in the development process”.
In rural areas, where 85 percent of Nigeria’s poor people reside, the major cause of poverty has been identified as the use of outmoded and inefficient systems in agriculture and craft. Other contributory factors to low income in the rural areas of Nigeria, according to Abubakar (1975), include inadequate infrastructure, lack of credit and marketing facilities, unfavourable rural institutions especially in respect of land tenure’ ignorance, culture and institutional rigidities. Williams (1984), has also identified lack of viable nonfarm employment opportunities in the rural sector as a major source of rural poverty, he argues that such situation leads to over-crowding on the land and under employment of labour. It should also be added that even though alternative occupations, like traditional craft and petty trading to exist in most villages, yet investigations have shown that incomes realized from these occupations are as low as those realized from subsistent farming (Williams 1984).
Burkey (1993), has listed quite impressive number of factors that positively correlate with poverty, they include; lack of modernization tendencies, physical limitations, laziness, illiteracy, bureaucratic stiffing, dependency of third world countries and exploitation by the local elites. A close examination of the factors reveals that some are exogenously caused while others like illiteracy and laziness are endogenously caused. One factor that has speedily fueled poverty is the distribution of income. The distortional distribution of income is not only a problem among the rural people, but among the population of the whole nation (Buton, 1987). Distribution of income could be viewed from two perspectives, the fiscal distribution of income and provision of both social and economic infrastructure (Adawo, 2010). In Nigeria, the practice of relative wage income hypothesis , where jobs are evaluated on the basis of job content and wages are paid accordingly is not applicable, rather government income at all levels are shared among politicians, political cohorts and dubious contractors (Abubakar, 1999), the fact that socio-economic infrastructures are not provided endemically spread poverty in Nigeria.
Conventional explanation of the causes of poverty in Nigeria in the existing literature ranged from lack of capital, low-level technology, illiteracy, population to economic mismanagement. All these causative factors are applicable to all third world countries (Robertson 1980).
However, the above analysis merely focus on the general causes of poverty in rural areas, hence did not provide a satisfactory bases for the generalization of the causes of poverty in Local government which is our focus here, again they made no mention of the effect of unavailability of good health care services and lack of family planning by the rural dwellers. Therefore, it is this noticeable gap in the literature that this study seeks to fill using the following research questions as a guide.
- Does lack of family planning by rural dwellers has any relationship with the increasing poverty problem in AbohMbaise?
- Does Inaccessibility of good health care services in the rural areas have a noticeable relationship with the prevailing scourge in AbohMbaise?
- Does deprivation of local government autonomy lead to rural poverty in AbohMbaise?
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
Following the traditional way of explaining poverty, Nigerian scholars have come out with different explanations. For example, Agbu(1997), attributes poverty in Nigeria to poor technology and argued forcefully that until technology is properly addressed through well coordinated strategies, any effort at poverty to harsh natural environment, an illiterate population growth, and bad government, evil of colonialism and greed of the elites, will continue to be an illusion. Okojie (1997) blames the poor education for the poor and their children as the cause of poverty in Nigeria and argues that, unless education is given top priority, poverty will remain.
Therefore, the broad objective of this study is to examine the root causes of rural poverty in Nigeria, while the specific objectives are:
- To assess whether lack of family planning by the rural dwellers have any relationship with the poverty problem in AbohMbaise local government area.
- To examine if there is a significant relationship between inaccessibility to good health care service and prevailing rural poverty in AbohMbaise local government area.
- To ascertain if the national underdevelopment is as a result of rural poverty.
1.4. SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY:
One serious draw-back in government’s implementation of poverty reduction programme is the unwillingness of government to clearly identify personally who are going to benefit from such programmes and policies, and whether they (the poor) appreciate such programmes and policies. There is benefit Capture syndrome, where intended benefits are captured by politicians, and rent-seeking bureaucrats(Ekong 1997, Adawo 1999). Axiomatically, the rich is the burden of the poor and at all times the rich will either consciously or unconsciously circumvent any programmes that may lead to change in status quo, since money is accorded undue adoration in Nigeria(Adawo, 2003), and economic theory postulate that, the marginal utility of money is always positive, therefore assessors to public fund engaged in mindless accumulation at the unimaginable expense of the poor.
These are always possible because most of the programmes were implemented top-down. The opinions of the targeted beneficiaries were not sought. Nobody bordered to know what their problems were, how they wish such problems to be solved. It is naïve to think that the rural dwellers lack wisdom.
Therefore, the theoretical significance of this study is that it will contribute to the already existing knowledge about the cause of rural poverty in Nigeria by identifying some of those factors that fuels poverty, inorder to deal with them directly and avoid the benefit capture syndrome and rent seekers who are always associated with top-bottom policy implementation.
Practically, It’s hoped that this study will guide the policy makers, state and federal governments to make informed choices on the poverty reduction programmes and implementation strategies that is result oriented, policies that would ensure that this endemic poverty scourge is reduced to barest minimum in an age that is becoming difficult to understand and therefore more in need of serious thought.
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