This article is about the history of poverty alleviation programmes in Nigeria. Poverty is the state of being extremely poor and over the years, it has plagued many people living in the country. Poverty, for many years, has hampered the social and economic development of Nigeria and this menace has been on the rise for as long as possible despite the abundance of human and mineral resources that the country is obviously blessed with.
Various successive governments have come and gone in Nigeria and they have contributed their quota to alleviate or checkmate poverty in the country but all their efforts at eradicating this menace seems to have yielded little or no success. To be fair to these successive governments of Nigeria, they have adopted different brilliant poverty alleviation programmes such as the Operation Feed the Nation, Green Revolution, Better Life for Rural Women, Family Economic Advancement Programme, to mention but a few, all targeted at permanently eradicating poverty in Nigeria but the results have not always been the desired outcome that the Government had in mind.
A detailed look into why poverty has not been eradicated in the country reveals that while the intentions of successive governments are genuine and very clear, things like lack of proper funding, lack of proper coordination and commitments, poor design and evaluation of programmes etc, are the chief culprits as to why every effort by the Governments of the day to eradicate poverty in Nigeria have proved abortive.
The first ever poverty alleviation or eradication programme in Nigeria was the Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) which was introduced by General Olusegun Obasanjo, the then Military Head of State in the year 1976. Operation Feed the Nation was introduced by the Federal Military Government under the leadership of General Obasanjo specifically focusing on increasing food production on the grounds that availability of cheap food would ensure a higher nutrition level and invariably lead to national growth and development. The Operation Feed The Nation (OFN) poverty alleviation programme lasted until the democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in the year 1979.
Shagari’s government established its own poverty alleviation programne in the year 1979, and this poverty eradication programme in Nigeria was known as Green Revolution. The essence of the Green Revolution, like its predecessor poverty alleviation programme, was increased food production. This would have been a huge success but because of it lacked continuity after Shagari was ousted from power by the military, the programme came to a halt and was never revived after Major-General Muhammadu Buhari took Power in the year 1983.
General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida took power from Major-General Buhari in 1985, and by 1989, he launched his own poverty alleviation programme which was called Peoples Bank of Nigeria (PBN), and its purpose was to cater for poor professional people and traders who, because of the stringent requirements of orthodox commercial banks, might not have access to loans. General Babangida also founded the Directorate of Foods Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) in 1991, so as to ensure that rural areas in the country were opened up and develop via feeder road constructions and to also make available basic amenities towards improving on the country’s economy.
Babangida also established the Nigerian Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) during his regime. NALDA was created by General Babangida in the year 1992 through decree No.92 in order promote commercial agriculture and encourage farmers across the country to produce their crops in commercial quantity. This poverty alleviation programme addressed the chronic problem of low levels of utilization of abundant farmland and rural labour resources as well as the high cost of land development in the country but it was discontinued in the year 2002 by President Olusegun Obasanjo.
NALDA was revived in the year 2020 under President Buhari’s democratic administration. His government amended the Act establishing the agency via the National Assembly in order to optimally deliver on its mandate of developing the rural communities through agriculture.
Also under the Babangida regime came the National Directorate of Employment (NDE). The National Directorate of Employment (NDE) was established in November 1986. It began operations fully in January 1987. The birth of the Directorate was predicated on the effects of the economic recession of the ’80s which led to a drastic reduction in capacity utilization and consequent outright closure of industries in Nigeria.
Equally, other macro-economic policies of the government of the day such as the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), devaluation of the Naira, privatization and commercialization of the economy, etc, resulted to massive job losses in both the public and private sectors of the economy. According to the Annual Report of the NDE 2013, unemployment rate had risen from 4.3% in 1985 to 7.0% at the beginning of 1987 because of the situation earlier stated.
As a direct response to the rising trend of unemployment, the then military government headed by General Ibrahim B. Babangida, set up a committee and charged it with the task of proffering a sustainable intervention solution to mitigate the rising levels of unemployment in Nigeria, placing skills acquisition/training on the front burner in respect of employment creation. Thus, the NDE was birthed under decree No. 29 of 1989 which was replaced with ACT,CAP 250 of the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
In 1997, under the military regime of General Sani Abacha, the Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP), yet another poverty alleviation programme was established to support animal husbandry, soap making, Garri making and poultry production. Abacha earlier came up with the Family Support Programme (FSP) in 1994, a precursor to the FEAP.
Other poverty eradication programmes in Nigeria over the years include: Free and Compulsory Primary Education (FCPE), Low Cost Housing, River Basin Development Authorities (RBDA), Agricultural Development Programme (ADP), Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme, Strategic Grains Reserve Programme (SGRP), Rural Electrification Scheme (RES), Rural Banking Programme, Better Life Programme (BLP), Community Banks Programme, Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP), National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES), Rural Infrastructures Development Scheme (RIDS), Social Welfare Services Scheme (SOWESS), the National Resources Development and Conservation Scheme (NRDCS), National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (SEEDS), Local Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (LEEDS), Seven Point Agenda, Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), N-POWER, etc.