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Can Nigeria eradicate poverty? – By Emma Onwubiko

American economist Professor Joseph Stilglitz spoke on the evils of poverty

Should I say it was a fortuitous coincidence that I happened to be a member of the board of directors of the Nigerian branch of the Heartland Alliance International – the United States of America founded non-governmental body. 

Image: American economist Professor Joseph Stilglitz

Coming also from the media and human rights backgrounds, it does not require a soothsayer to emphatically stress that I am cut out to wage battles alongside likeminded activists against all manifestations and strands of poverty afflicting a clear majority of Nigerians.

At the just ended year 2016 annual board of Director’s meeting in Abuja, the International hierarchy of Heartland Alliance International led by a Puerto-Rican born but American citizen called Ms. Evelyn J. Diaz came in full force to attend the parley.

The common denominator of the overall mandates of Heartland Alliance is summed up in the beautiful Phrase of “Ending Poverty”.

This piece is not about disclosing the strategic plan of this international organization but is meant to drive the point that indeed certain groups of people believe that poverty can indeed be eradicated. 

At a point, the Nigerian government set up an entire office dedicated to the “eradication of poverty” even though bureaucratic bottlenecks successfully stifled the achievement of this noble goal. 

President Muhammadu Buhari seems to have dusted up the file from where the moribund National poverty eradication programme left it and has created what he calls SOCIAL PROTECTION PLAN.

Still talking about the fundamentals of ending poverty, it would be vividly recalled that In the case of the Heartland Alliance, this young lady who headed a team of the International leadership of the global charitable platform that turned up for the Abuja meeting aforementioned, stated in black and white what steps are being adopted towards realizing the ambitious objective of ending poverty.

Her words: “Heartland Alliance champions human rights and human dignity. 

“We respond to extreme disparities facing our most vulnerable communities in the areas of safety, health, housing, education, economic opportunity and justice”.

“Our mission is to advance the human rights and responds to the human needs of endangered populations- particularly the poor, the isolated and the displaced-by providing comprehensive and respectful services and promoting permanent solutions leading to a more just global society”.

She continued thus: “Since 1888, we have been a leader, an advocate, a partner, and a service provider. 

“Today, we are a global team working together to ensure that even the most disenfranchised have a fair chance at success”.

“Now, in collaboration with the communities we serve and the partners we stand with, we are bringing the full power to our Alliance to tackle violence and inequity, two barriers impeding our progress in advancing human rights and ending poverty.”

This United States founded group has been in Nigeria for nearly ten years and has actively worked amongst the disadvantaged persons to attempt to empower them economically. 

But their effort would amount to nothing if the governments at every level fail to evolve workable programmes targeted at eradicating or ending poverty.

The World Bank and the International Fund are said to be at the forefront of waging war against poverty but critics blame the structural adjustment programmes these global bodies forces down the throats of countries in the developing world for the widening scope of poverty.  

Anup Shah wrote in an article titled “Structural Adjustment—a Major Cause of Poverty” published in www.globalissues.org stated thus: 

“Many developing nations are in debt and poverty partly due to the policies of international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.”

“Their programs have been heavily criticized for many years for resulting in poverty. 

“In addition, for developing or third world countries, there has been an increased dependency on the richer nations. 

“This is despite the IMF and World Bank’s claim that they will reduce poverty.”

“Following an ideology known as neoliberalism, and spearheaded by these and other institutions known as the “Washington Consensus” (for being based in Washington D.C.), Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) have been imposed to ensure debt repayment and economic restructuring”. 

This writer argued that the way it has happened has required poor countries to reduce spending on things like health, education and development, while debt repayment and other economic policies have been made the priority. 

In effect, the IMF and World Bank have demanded that poor nations lower the standard of living of their people.” 

A human rights advisor in the office of the Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Manfield Nowak also claimed that rapid globalization affects the enjoyment of human rights considerably. 

He observed that in many Countries, deregulation, liberalization, privatization and similar trends towards a reduction of the role of the State and a transfer of traditional governmental functions to market forces have negatively affected the enjoyment of the right to education, healthcare and water and of labor rights- especially in the case of vulnerable groups. 

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