THE Federal Government of Nigeria has been implored to take cognizance of the level of poverty and inequality troubling the nation and embark on necessary measures to reduce the cost of governance.
At a news conference Tuesday, in Abuja, the Acting Country Director of Oxfam Constant Tchona, made the recommendation, while reminding the government to deploy resources appropriately to improve the living standards of millions Nigerians in healthcare, provision of water and adequate sanitation.
Tchona, at the inauguration of the maiden West Africa Regional Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRII) report, stated that there was an urgent need for the Federal Government to examine the culture and cost of governance and eliminate such the policies and practices that sustained the concentration of wealth and income at the top level.
He said that such measures would forestall the self-perpetuating cycle of inequality that many were subjected to and the sustained poverty in the country.
The Acting Country Director of Oxfam, an international confederation of 20 NGOs working with partners in over 90 countries to end the injustices that cause poverty, insisted that, “it is unacceptable that a large percentage of the budget goes to paying fat remuneration to a small number of public office holders.
“Such resources could have been used to improve the living standard of Nigerians by funding healthcare, education, the provision of water and sanitation to millions of Nigerians.”
He bemoaned the fact that Nigeria presently runs one of the most expensive governments in the world. An over bloated civil service, government advisers and aides whose salaries were often very high while majority of the populace living in abject poverty, obviously distorts cost of governance.
He said: “To further compound this issue, the Nigerian legislature is reported to be one of the highest paid in the world, paid to preside over the lives of large majority of the populace living in abject poverty.
“Additionally, the scale of inequality in Nigeria is such that while 75 per cent of registered businesses including those run by the elite do not pay tax, the lower classes cannot escape arbitrary taxation, sometimes with blatant disregard for their human rights.
“With the misappropriation of resources and priorities, economic growth in Nigeria has not created meaningful opportunities nor employment as youths, including those with university degrees are currently unemployed.”
The country director recommended that economic policies and development strategies should be formulated in a participatory manner focusing on reducing inequality as a key principle.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Tchona observed that this can be in the form of participatory budget where the citizens make input into the budget planning process thereby attracting essential services to the poor in rural communities.
While noting that ignoring inequality in pursuit of development was perilous, he said, “focusing exclusively on economic growth and income generation as a development strategy is ineffective as it leads to the accumulation of wealth by a few and deepens the poverty of many.
“Such an approach does not acknowledge the limited opportunities available to majority, resulting in the intergenerational transition of poverty.
“However, inequality is not an impossible challenge to be addressed. It merely calls for broad based partnerships within and across sectors, such as public sector, which include legislature and judiciary and the private sector and civil society.”