From Okwe Obi, Abuja
The claims made by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, that over 4.2 million Nigerians had been lifted out of poverty in the last two years, did not sit well with pundits.
Abubakar, at a ministerial press briefing recently in Abuja, explained that the feat was achieved largely through the Economic and Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) of 2017-2020.
“The ERGP envisaged that investments in agriculture can guarantee food security, have the potential to be a major contributor to job creation, and will save foreign exchange required for food imports.
“Our various empowerment initiatives along production, processing and marketing of agricultural commodities have lifted a total of 4,205,576 Nigerians out of poverty in the last two years. This is going to continue as part of Mr. Presidents promise to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within the next 10 years,” he said.
Aside wondering where he got his figures from when he assumed duty eight days after he was redeployed from the Ministry of Environment following the sack of Sabo Nanono, and has spent barely a month, agriculturists demanded to know the locations of the beneficiaries.
Firing the first shot, the National Coordinator, Human Rights Writer’s Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Emmanuel Onwubiko, described the claim as fallacious and illogical.
Onwubiko added that there was nothing special about it if at all the feat was achieved since it was the same government that allegedly plunged millions of Nigerians into poverty.
He said, “the claims by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development is not strange. It is part of those phantoms that this government is used to making. By the way, the president himself has had a lot of occasions where he promised that he is going to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty. But unfortunately, this government is responsible for pushing millions of Nigerians into poverty.
“So, I wonder how a government whose economic policies and frameworks are not adequately planned and implemented with the interest of the people at heart will now claim to have lifted the people out of poverty. It is illogical and big fallacy. It is this administration that came on board and hiked the pump price of petrol by over 100 per cent since the government came in 2015.
“It is since this government came on board that the price of gas has gone up astronomically. It is this administration that came on board and caused the loss of employment opportunities. A lot of Nigerians have lost their jobs because of collapsing infrastructure facilities.
“There are no roads anywhere in the country, electricity supply is not getting to over 60 million Nigerians. It is the same federal cabinet of this administration that one of the ministers made claims recently that over 60 million Nigerians are not connected to electricity national grid which means that 60 million Nigerians are suffering from energy poverty. And in 2018, Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world. We over took India.”
Onwubiko further said, “we now have over 90 million Nigerians that are in poverty. If the minister of agriculture is claiming to have lifted 4.2 million Nigerians out of poverty, that the government pushed them into poverty, is that an achievement for any government to flaunt?
“By the way, where are those four million people he claimed to have lifted out of poverty? Because virtually 75 per cent of the farms that you have in this country have been taken over by insecurity. People do not go to farm because of insecurity. So where are those people that agriculture ministry has been able to offer subventions and other assistance?
“The minister should give Nigerians the figures state by state, local government by local government; indicating where those 4 million Nigerians they lifted out of poverty reside. By and large, that claim is substantially false.”
Also, National Chairman of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Yabaji Sani, described the claim as a campaign strategy ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Sani, just like Onwubiko, challenged the minister to publish names of beneficiaries and how they were lifted out of poverty. The former presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections called on Abubakar to be truthful with Nigerians if the government is serious about eradicating poverty.
He said, “maybe they have started their campaign already because they normally campaign with lies. When the World Bank is saying that almost double that number has entered into poverty in Nigeria, so are they saying what the World Bank said is not correct when in terms of statistics, it has it?
“They think it is the way they were deceiving Nigerians and Nigerians will just be accepting all sorts of lies. This time it will not work. It will not work because the reality is on the ground for people to see. I do not know where those Nigerians he is talking about reside.
“How did they get four million Nigerians out of poverty with this horrendous situation Nigerians are facing in terms of abject poverty and killings?They have to be sincere. If they are not facing reality they cannot solve this problem. If they want to keep on lying to people, they will not be able to solve the problems.
“So, I can’t see that to be the situation. Has the high unemployment rate dropped going by what the NBS (National Bureau of Statistics) is bringing out? No. Maybe 2023 campaign has started and they are looking for ways to deceive Nigerians once again,” Sani said.
A farmer, Mathias Ejeh, said: “I have no doubt that we are growing, but the level of this growth is questionable. The fertiliser availability and its price reduction is good. Lifting of four million plus out of poverty lacks justification. A clear data plan of those lifted from poverty should be made available via this channel alongside their contact numbers for more acceptance. The era of audio talk and bandying of figures here and there is gone because some of us cannot accept it just like that.”
Abubarkar Sadeeq, a poultry farmer, added: “The problem of this country is our leaders. They sit in their offices, read newspapers and reports from their allies then plan audio programmes and squander the money. Now, how true is all these stories stated by the minister?”