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Anambra has high number of people living in extreme poverty – Group Tells Soludo



By Luchee Igwe

The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) has raised the alarm that Anambra has a high number of people living in extreme poverty and appealed to Governor Prof Chukwuma Soludo to initiate a policy to address it.

Mr Leo Atakpu,  Deputy Executive Director, ANEEJ, made the call at a two-day capacity building workshop for civil society organisations (CSOs) and media on Enhancing Social Protection Programmes in Nigeria,  on Thursday, in Awka.

According to him, there was need for state governments, especially Anambra to put in place clear policies to drive social protection programmes to address poverty in the state.

“We are calling for state-centric social protection programmes for Anambra, because from reports we have received on poverty spread in the country, Anambra is one of the state that has high number of people living in extreme poverty.

“There is a lot of work to be done because we found out also that there are no clear policies to drive social protection in Anambra. There are no institutionalised framework for social protection in the state, we only have bits of work around social investment or protection programmes.

Hon. Smart Okafor, Lawmaker at the Anambra state House of Assembly addressing participants at workshop for civil society organisations (CSOs) and media on Enhancing Social Protection Programmes in Nigeria,  on Thursday,in Awka.

The ANEEJ boos stressed that the workshop was a deliberate effort by the group and its partner CSOs in five states to support effort of government in tackling the hydra-headed poverty problem in Nigeria.

He said that the federal government, and a few states have initiated a couple of social Investment programmes as a direct response to the poverty situation. 

According to him, the Buhari led-administration in 2020 committed to a decade-long plan to lift 100,000 million Nigerians out of poverty via  Conditional Cash Transfer, School Feeding, the N-Power Programme amongst others.

Atakpu said that poverty and hunger had remained high In rural areas, remote communities and among female -headed households across the six geo-political zones.

“The struggle to lift more citizens out of extreme poverty Is an indictment on successive governments which have mismanaged the country’s vast oil resources through all sorts of bad governance practices.

“This development already threatens the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals which targets ending extreme poverty by 2030. 

“As Nigeria faces a major population boom, It is projected to become the world’s third largest  country by 2050 and its problem will likely worsen. So, government at all levels need to be involved in addressing this problem, ” he said.

Also in his Presentation, Dr Oscar Ubhenin, a Lecturer at the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, said that social protection programmes provided security welfare for vulnerable groups to protect them from hardship and livelihood risk as well as enhance their social status.

Also speaking, Mr Smart Okafor, a lawmaker representing Nnewi North at the Anambra state House of Assembly, said that the vulnerable groups bore the brunt of the challenges experienced in the country, and should be protected.

Okafor promised to gather support for the legislation of a Bill seeking to institutionalise a framework for social protection in the state, to protect the poor and vulnerable.

In his remarks, Mr Chris Azor, Chairman, Anambra state Civil Society Network , said the workshop would equip CSOs and media to monitor the implementation of the social protection programmes in the state to ensure equity, transparency and accountability.

Mrs Eriken Uzoamaka, Programme Manager, Homegrown School Feeding Scheme , Anambra State, said the death of 10 cooks was a huge challenge to running of the programme in the state.

Uzoama made the disclosure while speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a two-day capacity building workshop on Enhancing Social Protection Programme in Nigeria, organised by the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), on Thursday in Awka.

She said that some primary school pupils no longer benefit from the programme because some of the cooks who had died since the inception of the  programme were yet to be replaced.

According to her, the school feeding programme is one of the Social Investment Programmes of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, to cater for pupils of primary 1 to 3.

Uzoamaka said that the cooks were recruited from communities around the primary schools, verified and trained in food safety and hygiene by the national body, to provide the catering service in the 21 LGAs in the state.

“All the government primary schools in the state should be benefitting from this programme but due to challenges in the programme some schools are not benefiting.

“Since the  inception of the programme in 2016, about 10 cooks have died and it is affecting the programme in some schools.

“It is only the national that can recruit and replace them, we have no right to replace them but we have written to inform the national body but they are yet to be replaced.

“Each cook cater to about 150 pupils and they are being paid by the national level. So if you do the maths, about 150 pupils multiplied by 10 cooks, are not benefiting, “she said.

Uzoamaka said that the high cost of food items in the country was also affecting the quality of the food prepared by the cooks.

“Another challenge is the high cost of food items in the country, it is affecting the programme and the quality of food given to the children.

“The cooks are really complaining and the high cost of food items is making it difficult for them to give us adequate meal per child.

“This development has made the Federal Government agree to increase the meal price from N70 to N100, but it is yet to be implemented, ” she said.

The Programme Manager said that the school feeding programme increased the population of pupils as many children ran away from private schools to enrolled in government schools.

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