Clement Agba, the minister of state for finance, criticized state governors for Nigeria’s high poverty rate.
In a dig at some of the governors, he claimed that many of them were preoccupied with vying with one another to construct bridges and other infrastructures in the city centers, leaving the residents of the countryside to their fate.
He claimed that the majority of the infrastructures constructed in state capitals had no direct impact on easing the suffering of the vast majority of people in both rural and urban areas.
His comments came on Wednesday, following the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, when he briefed State House reporters on some of the discussions that went place inside the Council Chambers.
He was asked why the majority of Nigerians still endure terrible pains and suffering as a result of the inflationary trend and if steps are in place to curb it after observing that the gross domestic product indices for the third quarter of 2022 showed a minor improvement.
The question, he said, was: “What are the Finance Minister and I doing about the hardship in Nigeria? The implication is that both of us are to blame for making it difficult for us to find a solution.
“The governors primarily work out of their respective state capitals. And the democracy we extol brings the greatest benefits to the greatest number of people. The majority of our population lives in rural areas, according to our demographic data, but the governors don’t work there.
Currently, 90% of what we eat is produced by the rural areas where 70% of our population resides. And regrettably, post-harvest losses cause 60% of what they produce to be lost and not reach the market.
Food costs at the farm gates are low when we’re talking about food prices, which I mentioned as a factor in inflation just now. However, when you now take it to the cities, you discover that the costs are exorbitant because of supply chain disruptions and a lack of transportation infrastructure.
“I believe that the federal government is trying its best. But we need to encourage governors to focus on building rural roads so that farmers can at least get their products to market, rather than continuing to compete to take loans to build airports that aren’t necessarily where they have other airports so close by, or governors now competing to build flyovers all over the place, which we applaud.
And you find that if they do that and implement the new policy in the national development plan that calls for bringing power to rural areas, particularly easily installable off-grid power, you start to draw industries to those areas for value addition.
According to a UNIDO report, 70% of our workforce is employed by MSMEs. You can therefore imagine how far we will come once you discover that these rural areas have power and roads.
In terms of agriculture, you discover that the federal government lacks land on which to plant crops. Instead, the government has promoted the Anchor Borrowers program, which is succeeding greatly in states where state control over the land. They are in charge of providing land for farming. They do not finance that.
“They would prefer to construct skyscrapers in a city where onlookers will applaud, but skyscrapers do not provide food for the table.
“As I always say, the Abraham Maslow hierarchy of needs can be helpful. He contends that before discussing self actualization, you must address people’s fundamental wants. Therefore, we must attend to our people’s needs for food, nutrition, housing, and clothing. That is the missing link that needs to be filled in before we start planning how to travel to the moon and start constructing flyovers and airports in the state capital. Only then will we be able to accelerate growth.
“However, you keep asking the federal government or myself, Zainab, and my sister, what are we doing? We’re each playing our part. And I’m sure Wike told you guys about the funds that were released to the oil-producing states totaling over N500 billion; yet, I’ve read certain states’ disclaimers stating that the monthly payments are only modest amounts of money. And some people are sharing some partial truths about what they have learned. We must hold them responsible. so that our economy can thrive as a group.