The Federal Government on Wednesday said state governors were partly responsible for the rising rate of poverty in the country.
It blamed the state chief executives for favouring the construction of infrastructure, such as bridges and airports, in cities, rather than improving the lives of the poor.
The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, stated these while briefing State House correspondents shortly after this week’s Federal Executive Council meeting, chaired by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
Agba noted that 72 per cent of the nation’s poor resided in rural communities.
He said, “The governors are basically functioning in their state capitals. And the democracy that we preach is about delivering the greatest goods to the greatest number of people. And our demographics show that the greatest number of our people live in rural areas, but the governors are not working in rural areas.
“Right now, 70% of our people live in rural areas. They produce 90% of what we eat. But unfortunately, 60% of what they produce is lost due to post-harvest losses and does not get to the market.
“I think from the Federal Government’s side, we are doing our best. But instead, governors are competing to take out loans to build airports that are unnecessary when other airports are close, or governors competing to build flyovers all over the place.
“We appeal that they concentrate on building rural roads so that farmers can at least get their products to the market.”
Citing the findings of a recent survey he conducted across the 109 senatorial districts nationwide, the minister said Sokoto ranked the highest on the poverty scale, followed by the oil-rich state of Bayelsa.
Reacting, the Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, said the projects the state embarked upon were targeted at alleviating poverty among residents.
The commissioner stated that the state government, in its desire to make life easier for the people, organised skill acquisition training to uplift residents out of poverty.
He noted that the minister was not referring to the state, as an index released by a Federal Government agency showed that Edo was seventh among states working to eradicate poverty and better the lives of its people.
The Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Akwa Ibom, Mr Ini Ememobong, said it was wrong for the Federal Government to blame state governors for rising poverty in the country.
He said, “What determines poverty and unemployment in a country is economic policies. Economic policies are set nationally. So, the Federal Government cannot abdicate its responsibility. It is only a sign of a sinking Federal Government to begin to blame state governors that have yet to see true federalism as being responsible for poverty. How can economic policies in a state drive dollars which determine almost every of our national existence?
“The very acrimonious relationship between the naira and the dollar is the sole determinant factor for more than 80% of our existence. How will a state governor determine policies that will affect crude oil?”