ABUJA—PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, Monday night, lamented the high level of poverty in the country at present and the inability of the elite to address the education needs of the less privileged in the society, saying the situation makes him uncomfortable.
The president’s statement drew the immediate reaction of socio-cultural and political groups, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere and Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, which challenged his government to lift Nigerians out of poverty.
The president expressed his displeasure on the nation’s poverty rate when he played host to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, ministers, service chiefs, heads of security agencies and chief executives of Federal Government agencies and institutions to a breaking of fast at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He noted that too many people were running around unable to find something to eat, and challenged the elite to do something very urgent to ameliorate the pathetic situation.
The president said already, the Federal Government had introduced people friendly programmes, such as the School Feeding and ‘Trader Money’, to alleviate the hardship being faced by the less-privileged in the country.
He, therefore, commended the vice-president for successfully managing the school feeding and ‘trader money’ programmes
Buhari said: “When I drive around the country, what upsets me very much is the status of our poor people in this country. You see young people, the so-called Almajiris with torn dresses, with plastic bowl looking basically for what to eat.
“The question of education (to them) is a luxury. I think we, the Nigerian elite, are all failing because I think we should have a programme that will at least guarantee some basic education for our people no matter how poor they are.
“So, I welcome the vice-president’s initiative of the school feeding programme. If you check in your localities, the enrolment into schools improved because a lot of children can get at least one good meal a day. This is the position of this country.
“But, culturally some of us are quiet merciless, we don’t care about what happens to others, we just keep on moving.
Speaking at the event, Vice-President Osinbajo thanked the President for inviting them, both Muslims and Christians, to the breaking of fast with him.
He said regardless of ethnic and religious affiliations, Nigerians must continue to be their brothers’ keepers and work towards building a united nation.
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; Director-General of Nigerian Television Authority, Alhaji Yakubu Ibn Muhammed, and Chairman, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, Abdullahi Mukhtar, were among the dignitaries at the event.
President should match words with action—Ohanaeze
Reacting to the president’s statement, Ohanaeze Ndigbo said the government had not shown seriousness that it was concerned about the high poverty rate in the country.
The apex Igbo body in a statement signed by Media and Publicity Adviser to the President-General, Chief Emeka Attama, said talk is cheap and urged President Buhari to match his words with action.
The group stated: “He (President Buhari) is not serious about addressing the issue of poverty and the state of insecurity in the country.
“There is no way people cannot be poor when their sources of wealth have been destroyed by insecurity; when there is high level of unemployment and per capital income is very low. All these are integrated and no one can stand in isolation of the other.”
It’s nauseating Buhari is just knowing about poverty he plunged Nigerians— PANDEF
In its reaction,PAN-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, said it was terrible that it took President Buhari so long to recognise and admit the new poverty level his government has plunged Nigeria.
The group, which spoke through its National Secretary, Dr. Alfred Mulade, said: “We have always said that the kind of poverty and frustration in the land is enormous. We remember when World Poverty Clock classified Nigeria as the capital of poverty in the world, many people, particularly those in the Buhari government, refused to admit the naked fact.
“It is only what you believe, you find solutions to, the primary purpose of every government is to provide security, and then welfare.Today, there is massive poverty in the land, fuelled by anti-people policies of government.”
Address social system that produces Almajiris —Afenifere
Also reacting, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said the social system that produces Almajiris must be addressed.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: “It must be the rule of banditry in the North now that is bringing the lesson home. The Almajiri issue has been a product of a social system, which has not been addressed over the years, in spite of the fact that the North has ruled for more years than the rest of the country.
“In fact, the Almajiris have been used as a demography that can be herded like cows during elections to go in a particular direction.
“Until we talk about the social system that produces Almajiris, any lamentation about their plight doesn’t mean much.’’
Buhari has worsened the poverty in the north—Arewa youths
In its reaction, National President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, said Buhari should take responsibility for the worsening insecurity and poverty in the north.
The group, which spoke through its National President, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, said Buhari cannot be exonerated from blame.
He said: “He should accept responsibility for the situation in the north. He can no longer claim to be a private citizen. In the last four years, what has he done to alleviate the poverty and insecurity in the north?”