Presidential candidates of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi have unanimously denounced the current poverty rate in the country, saying it’s unacceptable considering the nation’s resources.
The candidates have also identified insecurity as the major cause of poverty in the country, adding that state governors should not be blamed for the menace since the federal government is in charge of security.
LEADERSHIP reports that the National Bureau of Statistics, a federal government agency, recently announced that 133 million Nigerians are now poor, a staggering figure in a country of about 200 million people.
But one of the presidential candidates, Rabiu Kwankwaso of the NNPP said the number could be more.
Speaking at the Presidential Town Hall meeting organised by Arise TV, the presidential candidate of the labour party, Mr Peter Obi said the poverty level in the country was unacceptable.
“The poverty level is unacceptable,” Obi said, adding that the difference between poor and wealthy nations is in education and health which he said Nigeria were lagging behind.
“I will invest in these areas,” Obi said, adding that the state government should not be blamed when it comes to poverty, adding that the federal government has a bigger role to play.
“Governments at sub-national levels are not causing poverty. No, it is the responsibility of the federal government to address it. Security lies in the hands of the federal government. The major cause of poverty is insecurity which lies in the hands of the federal government.
“If you have an enabling environment for people and investors to come, poverty will be reduced,” Obi said, adding that for meaningful development, he will resuscitate the Bank of Industry in Kaduna.
On education, Obi said as Anambra governor, the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) did not go on strike because he provided what was needed.
“As governor of Anambra State ASUU did not go on strike because we were funding the university.
“The funding of the tertiary institution in Nigeria needs to be restructured. The government should clear the backlog and design a sustainable mechanism. I will build more primary healthcare centres, especially in the North, and increase funding for them.
“For primary and secondary health care, what we will do is provide insurance. I use the health facilities here and I believe they are good. We will train more doctors and nurses because the number is too low. Health and education are important to human capital development.
“If we invest in these areas, it will reduce poverty. We are going to pull people out of poverty, we are going to state the numbers and ensure people are out of poverty. China, India and Vietnam faced these challenges in the past and got out of it. We will remove criminal subsidies and cut cost. That’s when we will have implementable budget,” Obi said.
He appealed to Nigerians to vote him as president, so he tackle the wobbly foundation of the country.
“I want to secure and unite the country. I will ensure that the government in 2023 will be a government of national unity.
It is about saving the country. Whether people support you or not, it is about saving the country. Health, education and pulling people out of poverty is my priority,” Obi said.
On his part, the Presidential candidate of the NNPP, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso said that the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank consider housing, health, job opportunities as important tools for pulling people out of poverty.
“In Kano, we pull people out of poverty through education. It was on our agenda.
Insecurity is also causing poverty. People cannot go to farms. Insecurity aggravated the issues of poverty. The number of poor people is much more than 133 million. We will ensure that there is security by recruiting more security officers and provide them with equipment and technology.
“We constructed four cities in Kano in four years just to ensure we remove people from poverty. Corruption, drugs must be fought for a saner society which will allow Nigerians to have job opportunities. There is also the need to look at the constitution as it is today.
“We will ensure local government councils work and use their resources effectively. We will create community participation. State governors are stifling the local government funds. We are serving the same people. We will encourage the states and local governments to ensure that agriculture, electricity are given priority for job creation.
“Also the issue of ASUU requires honesty. We will carry everyone along. As governor of Kano, we were not going on strike because we were providing them with what they needed. We will ensure that these universities are upgraded and improved before anything else. Leaders must lead from the front,” Kwankwaso said.
On health care, Kwankwaso said it’s unacceptable for Nigerian leaders to travel abroad for treatment, no matter the ailment.
“As long as leaders go for medical treatment abroad, everyone will do the same. Once you are aspiring to lead the people, they will know whether you are the best or not,” Kwankwaso said, insisting his administration will reform and strengthen the health insurance scheme.
On brain drain, Kwankwaso said he would ensure that a lot of Nigerians acquire the necessary training and skills that make them contribute to national development.
“I reached the peak in education and in the civil service. We have done it in the past and by the grace of God, we will take this country to a greater high and allow everyone to live in peace.
“We will do what it takes to have an inclusive government rather than doing what will not help the country. We will renegotiate with the creditors to have breathing air to run the government. We will not allow people to take our money at the source or at the treasury,” Kwankwaso said while saying that everything is working in his favour.
On his part, the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar said he had all the statistics on the poverty level in the country, adding that he would address it head-on if elected president.
“We have got all the statistics. It’s just an emphasis. Fundamentally, we have to work on our education sector. The private sector is the driver of every society. Nigeria’s main focus is agriculture. We must revolutionise agriculture to bring people out of poverty. Incentives must be given to the private sector to ensure that more youths are engaged in agriculture.
“The small and medium enterprises must be funded, making our young men and women out of poverty,” Atiku said, adding that as the vice president in charge of local government in 1999, he ordered that local government funds be transferred straight to their accounts but the governors were not happy.
“I ordered that local government funds be sent to them and the governors protested and they formed a joint account. That’s why we have a problem today,” Atiku said.
On education, Atiku said the government must be ready to invest more, adding that there is still a bottle neck in funding the universities.
Atiku, who said he would deal with the issue of health at the primary level, which he said would also reduce poverty, said the private hospitals would be given a tax holiday.
Atiku, who said he would seek foreign medical attention if the facilities to treat himself in Nigeria were not available, however said he would strengthen the health insurance scheme.
“We will look at the national health insurance scheme and see where it will be of benefit to Nigerians and why it is not covering the majority population of this country,” Atiku said.
On the huge debt the country is currently facing, Atiku said he would do away with excessive spending and continue with the policies they started in 1999.
“We will remove subsidies. Take a case of moribund refineries that are not working. Why can’t we privatize them to reduce the deficit? Also, the CBN will eliminate the multiple exchange rate regime. It’s an area we can raise funding,” Atiku said while explaining why Nigerians should vote for him as president.
“I am the best person to be voted for. I have served in the civil service, fought for democracy, went into exile and came back. You cannot find me wanting in every sector of the economy. We achieved tremendous economic success and we achieved unity.
“I want to unite this country because this country has not seen this type of division before now. Security, education, economy will be my priority and I will restructure the country because there has been consistent clamour for restructuring,” Atiku added.