By Ejeh Josh
In its recent report released on 13 of December, 2023, the World Bank presented a graphic image of a country receding deeper into the pit of poverty as a result of years of accumulated mismanagement, bad governance and poor system of leadership. The report shows an economy plummeting despite reforms by the present federal government to salvage the situation. This has sent, at least, 104 million Nigerians to the dungeon of extreme poverty, rapidly moving away from 79 million people living in poverty in 2018, according to the World Bank release. An attempt to understand the meaning of “extreme poverty” would have a recourse to the World Bank’s September 2022 adjustment to global poverty lines which benchmarks any person living below the sum of $2.15 per day as living below poverty line or held in extreme poverty.
The above figure is not new to Nigeria as the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in its 2022 National Multidimensional Poverty Index Report, squared 133 million Nigerians as multi-dimensionally poor. The reports noted that the reasons for the increase in poverty were not unconnected with the sluggish growth and hyper-inflation the country is going through. This has implications to the overall well-being of the country. First, more Nigerians will face a scourge of hunger as their purchasing power falls. Second, there is pressure and stress on those outside the poverty line for maintenance, and this may probably drag them down the line of poverty. Third, crime rate will increase among the youth. Fourth, high incident of school dropouts are expected. Fifth, human capital flight, known otherwise, as the “Jappa syndrome” which is a brain drain to Nigeria and its economy, will be on the rise. The list goes on almost without end.
Appreciating the above terrific throes Nigeria is presently mired, the Enugu State governor, Dr. Peter Mbah, threw down the gauntlet, first in his statement of purpose or manifesto which boldly has its vision statement as “making Enugu one of the 3 top states in Nigeria in terms of Gross Domestic Product, and to achieve a zero percent rate in the poverty headcount index.” This vision, although, sounds lofty, could only be achieved with focus, dedication, resilience, discipline, and “intentional” drive of disrupting the norm and its prevailing status quo. Like Mr. Mbah keeps reminding himself and his team, “we are in a hurry to achieve our humongous promises to the people of Enugu State”. A study of some of the policy and economic reforms being undertaken by the state government would reveal a government truly in a hurry to deliver on its mandate.
First has been the intention of the Mbah administration to peg a timeline to every project undertaken and enjoin the citizens to participate in the process of execution by holding the government to account. Matching up these timelines are the core internal policies in which one is called, key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are measurable and quantifiable metrics used to evaluate and assess the performance of an organisation as to the extent its objectives or goals have been achieved. This adopted term is basically used in the private sector and development space to rate performance and award credit or sanction. With this, each appointee is under pressure to deliver within time allotted. Mbah has shown that governance is no longer a space for merrymaking. Every dime is accounted for and must be judiciously put to use for the benefits of the people. Underperformance, inefficiency is shown the way out, and this has become a KPI dashboard for self-assemment before general assessment.
This little deviation is necessary to underscore the discreet action behind every success story that the people of the state are telling about this government. In most states, the past six months had been dedicated for euphoria excitement of clinching to office. However, this government has remarkably moved from policy formulation to policy and projects execution. This permeates both the tangible projects such as road execution, provision of potable water, payments of salaries and other emolument to workers, training of youths on digital skills for global competitiveness, upgrading and building of new hospitals, construction of primary and secondary school blocks including the state-of-the-art smart schools with centres for robotics, artificial intelligence, creative studios, modern science laboratories, and a shift in the curricula of tertiary institutions to meet today’s needs with a view to thinking about future technologies. This gives credence to the gale of accreditations and upgrade some of the state institutions have received. From schools of nursing to colleges of nursing and degree-awarding institutions.
On the intangible aspect of the feats, the administration is championing a leadership role in digitisation and automation of all the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) as a way of strengthening the state’s institutions, creating a viable social order that would allow citizens transact businesses in the state without necessarily having a physical interface with any of the MDAs. This is creating the much promised conducive environment for business and investment. A cursory look at the mission statement encapsulated by the administration will aid the better understanding of where the government is headed. In his mission statement, Mbah tersely captured it this way: “To deliver quality, people-focused governance by making Enugu the preferred destination for investment, business, tourism and living “. There is no magic that could make the state an investment hub without the deliberate reforms the administration is now undertaking. This could basically be seen as the process of derisking investment and guaranteeing that investors have flexible and friendly access to information needed for a start-up and other investment prospects.
This being at the verge of completion, the governor had thrice hosted economic and investment summits, outlining pipeline projects that would activate the interest of investors given their promising return on investment worth over $2.1 billion. The recent trips to Lagos State, United States, Indonesia, Egypt, Abuja, for investment summits, economic talks among others, the administration had optimally maximised the opportunities afforded to woo investors to Enugu with their clear outlays of what the state has got to offer. Enugu is an unmined territory of gold the administration has laid out for exploration. There is no more any excuse for willing investors to have their presence in the state and have their return.
Huge reforms had been carried out in the agro-allied space, with many now returning to agriculture in a modern way. With thousands of hectares of land earmarked for agriculture, and some already farmed, Enugu is poised to announce to the global market, its presence and products. Visits to different local government areas and their farmlands cultivated for rice, cassava, yam, special species of pepper, vegetables, and other staple food, the end of poverty is near in the state. Being passionate and committed about agriculture, the state seizing every opportunity to liaise with international agencies and donors by paying its counterpart funding boost the chain of food production. The target population includes women and youths. This accounts for the training and retraining of the population on the use of modern farming tools.
One of those issues usually raised as concern by investors is security. No business thrives in a swamp of insecurity. Mbah understood this immutable principle of a safe state for a thriving economy when he came in as governor. His series of security reforms alluded to it. First, he declared war against insecurity and the now forgotten illegal sit-at-home orders which had become a sub-culture of notoriety in the southern part of Nigeria, particularly the southeastern zone. Like the National Security Adviser to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, admitted last week, Governor Mbah was at the forefront of the battlefield against insecurity beyond Enugu State to the entire southeast region. With his resolute spirit, he dealt with the incidence of sit-at-home, eradicated the then looming unknown gunmen, flushed out kidnapping, and ensures that security and normalcy was returned to the state and the region by extension. The above was also corroborated by the Federal Minister of Works and Infrastructure, Engr. David Umahi, when he gave testimony of how peace returned to the zone. The message is clear; Enugu State is ready for business!
Following all these efforts, investors have started scrambling for space, drilling down on the mission and vision of the administration. While the battle against a depressing economy continues at the national level, Enugu State has made some significant gains. First, some of the institutional mechanisms that would lead to a zero percent poverty headcount rate in the state are beginning to gain attention not withstanding that the state is also cushioning the effect of the “sluggish growth and high rise in inflation”. The 2023 to the second quarters of 2024 wage award the administration had outlined for workers in the state would increase the purchasing power of majority of the people in the state. Workers have received the first payment of such, boosting their capacity to invest from what they are earning. This welfarist policy has the tendency of impacting on the socio-economic status of workers leaping further upward the rung of the ladder of the economy.
These deliberate policies are geared towards upscaling the people’s economic welfare, insulating them from the national economic crunch. With the policies transforming into deliverables, and the economy rebounding from the shock of national economic crisis, eradicating poverty in the state could only happen sooner than projected.
Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year ahead.