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On poverty and palliatives in Nigeria

By Afolabi Aribigbola

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In recent years, one unimpressive and uncharitable record associated with Nigeria is the growing unacceptable level of poverty prevalence in the country. Indeed, besides acknowledging the multidimensional poverty levels in the country by National Bureau of Statistics, the country has also been referred to as the world poverty capital to describe the very high poverty level in the country.

This denigrating appellation was coined to describe the extent and dimension of poverty in Africa’s most populous country. In response to the debilitating escalating incidence of poverty in the country, both governments and so-called spirited individuals and organisations have been responding by dolling out palliatives to assuage the poverty and associated sufferings among the people of the country. The staggering level of poverty has necessitated the introduction and implementation of poverty alleviation programmes by government at all levels and other spirited individuals to ameliorate and reduce the effects of the humongous poverty among the poorest of the poor in the country.

Unfortunately, besides the fact that these so mouthed palliatives are not reaching those that really need them they have been seen to be grossly inadequate to cushion the effects of the magnitude of poverty inflicted on the masses as the government struggle to implement the World Bank and IMF suggested policies unfettered free market operation that is not possible in any part of the globe. Of course, this has become a source of worry to many Nigerians including this columnist, hence the motivation to draw global attention to the kid glove approach of handling poverty in Nigeria through palliative programmes. In today’s discuss, we shall attempt look at the meaning and purpose of palliatives generally, why palliatives, origin and how it has been implemented so far in different parts of the country.

It is also our intention to examine the desirability and or otherwise of the regime of palliatives that have gathered much momentum and patronage by generality of Nigerians. The idea of palliatives that is better used in medical parlance refer to medicine or form of medical care that relieves symptoms without dealing with the cause of the condition, it is an action that is intended to alleviate a problem without addressing the underlying cause. The word has been used to describe the arrangement where assistance are offered to reduce the consequences of some government actions or inaction that translate into hardship for the people. In social projects for instance palliatives are given to prevent urban crisis. In short palliatives are something that makes a problem seem less serious but does not solve the problem or make it to disappear completely.

The idea of introducing palliatives generally is to quickly intervene and bring immediate solution to a pressing problem to ameliorate it and make the problem less serious but does not solve the problem or make to completely disappear. In other words. When applied to the staggering and rising poverty level in Nigeria, they are meant to provide immediate relieve to the poor people with the hope that more lasting realistic solutions would be created and implemented. The use of the term palliatives in Nigeria has added to the language lexicon in the country since its introduction during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, from then onward, palliatives have been deployed in several parts of Nigeria to ameliorate economic hardships inflicted by successive governments in the country without actually addressing the causes and roots of the cankerworm of poverty. The consequences of this have been increasing poverty and huge sufferings among the poor segment of the county’s population because over the years outcome of palliatives have been most of the time temporary and unsustainable as beneficiaries have continue to wallow in abject poverty.

From the above presentations, it could be discerned that palliative is not the solution to the economic crisis  facing the country. It is essentially not what Nigerians deserve to get them out of the trap or crisis of poverty imposed by the rulers of the country. In essence, what Nigerians deserve are proactive pragmatic policies and action programmes that will always be available to support and assist the poor and vulnerable members of the Nigerian society that are in overwhelming majority. Therefore, beyond occasional instability and crisis produced by policy somersault and failure as being experienced with the removal of fuel subsidy and the floating of the national currency in the open market that resulted in unimaginable and unprecedented inflation, the poor will always coexist with others as the situation in all society. In fact, the Holy book, the Bible acknowledged emphatically that the poor people will always be part and parcel of human society. It is against this backdrop that in better climes that value human lives, that social policies to support the poor and vulnerable are created and implemented.

Surprisingly, this is not the case in Nigeria where it is the rich and upper echelon of the society that enjoy support. The burning issue is why palliatives that are often designed for immediate temporary relieve to the people when the governments can have robust social support system as the practice in the developed society to which the leaders of the country run at the slightest opportunity. Of course, palliatives have been used over the years because of government failure to do the needful in creating good support system for the poor people and in not providing the necessary facilities and services that support good living.

Therefore, in order to keep the hungry and angry Nigerians from protesting on the streets, they are usually quick in introducing peanuts as palliatives to silence them from demonstrating against difficult economic circumstance created by their leaders. Unfortunately, most of the times the palliatives have not been achieving the desired succor to the poor because they are most of the times hijacked by politicians and their cohorts including thugs depriving the real poor access. Also, often the so-called palliatives are usually not sufficient and adequate to meet the immediate needs of the people.

In sum, it is because the governments at in the country usually fail in making adequate provision for the people that often forced them to introduce palliatives. The truth is that the poor will continue to exist in Nigeria and much now that more Nigerians have been classified as poor and the country as the poverty capital of the world suggests the need to begin to prepare holistically on how to support the poor as a matter of policy by creating genuine programmes to achieve this very essential role. Suffice it to state that palliatives have not really been effective in bringing succor to the people because most of the times, palliatives were announced in the media without reaching the actual poor population. The unacceptable outcome is that many Nigerians are suffering untold hardship motivating many to be on the street begging even in the traditional areas where begging for survival was a taboo.

Thus, while palliatives may be necessary especially during natural disaster to assist those affected, government should continue to rely on it to support the widespread poverty in the country. To secure the welfare and prosperity and enhance the good living conditions of the citizens of Nigeria, the government must move beyond crafting and implementing periodic palliatives to designing and implementing home grown policies and programmes to assist as well support the poor and vulnerable in the country. Governments should devote their efforts into providing infrastructure and facilities that will create employment and income for the people as against the cash transfer and ineffective lopsided social intervention programmes that dominated their palliative programmes recently.

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