Successive regimes in Nigeria have tried different policies and programmers geared towards reducing the level of poverty in the society through a number of ways. First, through the activities of its ministries/agencies; second, by collaborating with international agencies; third, and more importantly, through the establishment of agencies equipped solely to fight rising poverty and unemployment in Nigeria.
The Joda Panel, established at the inception of the civilian administration of Obasanjo to review the various poverty eradication programmers of the previous regimes, identified over twenty such institutions. They are:
i. The National Directorate of Employment (NDE)
ii. Peoples Bank of Nigeria (PBN)
iii. Nigerian Agricultural and Cooperative Bank Ltd (NACB)
iv. Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC)
v. National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE)
vi. National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA)
vii. National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA)
viii. National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education
ix. Federal Agricultural Coordinating Unit (FACU)
x. Directorate for Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructures (DFFRI)
xi. Agricultural Projects Monitoring and Evaluation Unit (APMEU)
xii. Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP)
xiii. Industrial Development Centre (IDC)
xiv. Federal Department of Rural Development (FDRD)
xv. Federal Ministries of Agriculture, Water Resources and Power and Steel
xvi. River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs)
xvii. Family Support Trust Fund (FSTF)
xviii. National Centre for Women Development (CWD)
xix. Nigerian Bank for Commerce and Industry (NBCI)
xx. Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB)
xxi. Nigerian Export-Import Bank
xxii. National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND)
Perhaps a note on some of these institutions and programmes may be useful especially when some of them were designed to deal with the problems of poverty directly while others do it indirectly.
The River Basin Development Authorities established by Decree 37 of August 1976 is one of the earliest attempt at combating poverty via improved agricultural production. The main objective of the RBDAs is the economic exploitation and management of the land water resources of their respective areas of operation with particular but varying emphasis on the development of agriculture, fishing, human settlement, infrastructural facilities and industry as well as the improvement of their environment.
The Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) enunciated in 1979 by Gen. Obasanjo’s military regime is another indirect effort at poverty eradication. The program had the specific focus of increasing food production on the premise that availability of cheap food will raise the nutritional level of the ordinary Nigerian and invariably lead to high per capita income and improved standard of living. OFN lasted until Shagari’s civilian government (1979-83) took over.
The Shagari’s regime shared almost the same poverty reduction with the preceeding military regime. It came up with Green Revolution project, which also emphasised food production. To this one may also add the Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructures (DFRRI) introduced by the Babangida administration (1985-92). DFRRI sought to open up rural areas via construction of feeder roads and provision of basic amenities that would turn them into production centres for the national economy.
The establishment of National Directorate of Employment (NDE) is certainly one of the indirect measures taken by the government to attack poverty in the society via creation of employment opportunities.
The National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) was established in 2001, with the goal of eliminating “core” poverty over the next ten years. NAPEP evolved four core schemes:
i. Women and Youth Employment Scheme. This is essentially a training and skill acquisition scheme.
ii. Social Welfare Service Scheme: This scheme undertakes the provision of acceptable levels of education, health, micro-credit services, etc.
iii. Rural Infrastructural Development Scheme: This is to address provision of rural infrastructure services such as portable water, roads, transport, grazing reserves, etc.
iv. Natural Resources Development and Conservation: This entails government intervening by creating enabling and acceptable environment for harnessing the agricultural water, solid mineral resources, etc for convenient and effective use by the small-scale operators and local residents.
Whether these programmes and policies have succeeded in either reducing poverty or not is mute point.