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HOW DOES POVERTY AFFECT SOCIAL PRACTICE IN NIGERIA?

POVERTY IN NIGERIA

Nigeria has one of
the world’s highest economic growth rates, averaging 7.4% according to the
Nigeria economic report released in July 2014 by the world bank. poverty may
have been overestimated because the country’s economy is now being understood
more and more. Poverty still remains significant at 33.1% in Africa’s biggest
economy. For a country with massive wealth and a huge population to support
commerce, the level of poverty remains unacceptable. over the last decade), a
well-developed economy, and plenty of natural resources such as oil.
Poverty in Nigeria can be also caused by the
political instability of the country. However, these programs have largely
failed to overcome the three reasons for this persistent poverty: income inequality, ethnic
conflict,
and political instability
The Copenhagen Declaration describes absolute poverty as ‘a condition
characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe
drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and
information’. The World Bank identifies ‘extreme poverty’ as being people who
live on less than a day, and ‘poverty’ as less than a day. According to World
Bank report of 2001, 21% of the World’s population was in extreme poverty, and
more than half of the world’s population was in poverty.

Extreme poverty is the result of permanent or long lasting forms of
precariousness that undermine the capacity of individuals, families,
communities and population groups to assume fundamental rights enshrined in the
International Bill of Human Rights. Extreme poverty cannot be overcome by
material aid and capacity building alone, nor can poverty reduction initiatives
be successful unless they are based on the recognition of the inherent dignity
and on the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as
expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights preamble.
Three levels of poverty have been identified; extreme poverty, moderate poverty
and relative poverty. Extreme poverty occurs when families cannot get their
basic needs for survival. They may be frequently hungry, lack safe drinking
water, cannot afford education for their children, may lack shelter and have
inadequate clothing. This level of poverty is most likely in developing
countries. Moderate poverty occurs when families just meet their basic needs,
while relative poverty refers to circumstances in developed countries when
household income is below a given proportion of national income. Three
dimensions of extreme poverty namely; income poverty, human development poverty
and social exclusion have been central concepts in the development of social
work over the past century. Income poverty if chronic and severe, can lead to
homelessness, hunger, lack of health care and suspension of parental rights.
Development poverty epitomizes the non-fulfilment of rights and needs in the vital
area of health, education and training, access to information and employment,
while social exclusion is not only a violation of human dignity but a
phenomenon that leads to isolation, alienation and a hidden existence. In
developed countries, extreme poverty affects only a small proportion of the
entire populations, but it is worth noting that education and training are
among the main tools that lead the way out of poverty in both developed and
developing countries.

2 Ramifications of poverty

The effects of poverty are often reflected in a multitude of the vulnerable
groups such as; youths, children, women, elderly, disabled, refugees, migrants,
homeless and all those at risk. Children suffer amongst other deprivations,
from hunger and malnutrition. Half the deaths of pre-school children are
attributed to the intersection between malnutrition and infectious diseases.
Even in wealthiest countries, 40 to 50 million children are growing up in
relative poverty. Women comprise the majority of those affected by poverty.
They are afforded fewer educational opportunities, have maternal
responsibilities and are subjected to forced labour, trafficking and other
forms of violence. The elderly comprise the fastest growing segment of the
world’s population, and this group will quadruple by year 2050 from 600 million
to 2 billion. The elderly are subject to poverty because of lack of work
opportunities and in many societies there are no political or social
arrangements for their security and survival.
The disabled in some circumstances are removed from society entirely to live in
an institutionalized, marginalized and abused existence. Refugees, migrants,
immigrants, homeless and ethnic minorities are groups experiencing similar
exclusion from the opportunities of the major society and consequently suffer
from poverty and other attendants indignities. Indigenous people are
particularly at risk for poverty, are often stateless and lack a voice within
the countries where they reside. Often invisible in large urban areas or
segregated in distant reservations, indigenous people often suffer from high
unemployment which contributes to their extreme poverty in developing countries
or relative poverty in more developed countries. Urban and rural dwellers
experience different, but equally oppressive, forces leading to poverty, urban
dwellers from lack of competitive skills and rural people from lack of
available work. Those who live in areas most vulnerable to natural disasters
are usually poor. And as survivors they are left with no access to resources.
The poor who survive armed conflict are generally displaced. Armed conflicts
have been increasing within states, and most victims are civilians, poor and
consequently made poorer. Widespread evidence confirms that pandemics and
poverty are mutually interwoven and have disastrous consequences.

3 Approaches to poverty eradication

Consultations and involvement of individuals, families and population groups in
poverty situations are key elements in poverty eradication. Planning and
execution of measures and projects aimed at lifting them out of poverty and
extreme poverty, and assist them to gains self confidence are popular
approaches that social workers have used in the past.
The role of governments and that of international cooperation are vital in the
fight against poverty. Collaborating with other actors such as civil society,
including community organizations and self-help groups, and the private sector
among others, governments can lead the way by developing policies and
initiation of sustainable actions to put an end or at least reduce
significantly the incidence of poverty in the world. Although poverty means
scarcity of resources to meet basic needs, many sustainable strategies for
reducing poverty are aimed at the fundamental causes of the situation, rather
than only the provision of direct material support. Participation,
self-reliance, sustainability, and empowerment are the key principles often
applied by social workers in the design for poverty reduction strategies and in
fostering social integration. Means – tested and universal income – transfer
programs, such as social security benefits, have an anti-poverty effect in that
they move some families whose pre-transfer income was below the poverty level to
a point at or above the poverty threshold. The taxation system is also used, to
some degree, to reduce poverty.

4 Human rights and ethics

The need to close the existing gaps in living conditions faced by victims of
racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, especially
regarding the illiteracy rate, universal primary education, infant mortality,
health, access to safe drinking water and the promotion of gender equality has
been expressed at may international forums. UN Secretary General in a letter
dated May 26, 2005 reinforced the connection between human rights and poverty.
The office of United Nations Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR) has also
increased efforts to impart the link between Human Rights and poverty. As part
of civil societies ground force, social workers have inside access to the
people most affected by poverty and human rights injustices. Human rights and
ethics in social work practice are inseparable and are fundamental part of the
professional practice. Ethics guide and shape the social work profession and
provide a value based foundation for social work practice. When examining the
social problem of poverty and ways in which social workers can help to
alleviate address and help individuals affected by poverty, they can turn to
the Statement of Ethical Principles for guidance. One of the core ethical
principles of social work requires that all people have the right to be treated
with respect and dignity, and by doing this, we must ensure that every
individual’s human rights are upheld. Social workers also have a responsibility
to ensure that social conditions that contribute to economic inequalities and
unjust policies and practices are challenged and abolished. This includes, but
is not limited to, making sure that those most in need receive resources first,
and that the resources offered are distributed fairly.

5 Role of social workers

 In practice all over the world, social workers concern about poverty has
increased because of their long history in working with the marginalized, or
excluded, those lacking resources, scenarios which push them to poverty
situations. At the micro level of daily practice, social workers are used to
dealing with poverty and also with the risk assessment, working creatively and
innovatively to help people (individuals and communities) to understand their
situation and to change their behaviour and their environment, where possible.
One role that derives increased attention is community development, which
requires skills in community analysis, social planning, community organizing
and social action. Community development requires the ability to foster
economic opportunities for area residents through work on industrial retention,
local business development, job training, and placement. Another role is
community practice which calls for social workers to help people to discover
their own resources and their own ability to create influence and positive
change. The importance of this has been underscored by realizing that poverty
involves a complex set of interactions between personal characteristics and a
community’s resources and opportunities. At times the role of social workers
involves making tough judgements about risk to individuals and at times they
have to use their ability and influence to protect the victims of poverty from
themselves or from others. Examples include situations of domestic violence,
child abuse or mental health. Social workers’ long history of working with
people in poverty situations and witnessing their changing behaviour
illustrates the importance of integrating theory about professional values that
respect people, their choices and decisions. In this approach, community
practice combines work with individuals and families with community work,
focusing on enhancing resources and opportunities along with personal
capacities and as individuals develop out of their poverty situations, so do
communities, and the two become mutually reinforcing, creating a comprehensive
and integrated model that addresses social and economic exclusion and social
disintegration which is necessary for effective poverty eradication.

6 Policy statements

IFSW recognizes that human rights are fundamental to all persons, as
individuals and collectives and these rights cannot be guaranteed when almost a
billion people around the world live in extreme poverty.
IFSW believes that national and international social and economic policies must
be directed towards reducing extreme poverty and pledges to advocate for policy
changes that would unconditionally support this goal.
IFSW proposes to work collaborating with governments, with other NGOs and Civil
Society groups, with UN bodies and private sector to support and advance
appropriate policies and strategies directed towards reducing poverty.
IFSW reaffirms the rights of poor people to organize and promote economic and
social development for themselves and their children.
IFSW subscribes to MDG that proposes to reduce by half the number of people
living in conditions of extreme poverty defined as living with less than one
dollar a day by the year 2015.
IFSW affirms that all people are entitle to have their basic needs for food,
clothing and shelter met and that political and civil rights have little
meaning when these basic needs are unmet.
IFSW seeks to collaborate with others and use advocacy and community
organisation skills to initiate and support social work efforts to eradicate
extreme poverty.
IFSW recognises that women and children are often most at risk of poverty, and
children often bear the brunt of extreme poverty.

Solutions to poverty in Nigeria

Nigerian leaders and policymakers have often
looked outside for solutions to the nation’s ever rising poverty. They have not
engaged themselves in out- of-the-box thinking. How to position themselves and
members of their families is what concerns them the most. They engage Western
trained economists to examine the Nigerian situation with theories based on
Western culture and find it difficult to explain the situation in the country.
The IMF/World Bank have concluded that with
the said level of annual growth in the Nigerian economy, poverty should have
reduced significantly. Many have said that with the amount of human and natural
resources available to the country, Nigerians have no reason to be poor.
President
Jonathan; Senate President, David Mark and Speaker, House of Reps, Hon Aminu
Tambuwal
Western theories are essentially based on
Western culture of one man, one wife. The nuclear family is the centre of their
societies. In Nigeria and many other African countries, the nuclear family is
not the basis of social relationship; it is the extended family system. A man
has to care for his siblings from both sides of the family. So, when the theory
of formal savings (in a bank) and investment was propounded by Western
economists, it was assumed that the individual will earn enough to feed his
immediate family and have something left to save in a formal sense.
If Nigeria is to go by this concept, it will
never be developed. Bulk of the nation’s population is poor; earning less than
a living wage, so they cannot set money aside in a bank for them to lend to
entrepreneurs. This explains the low savings culture in the country. But the
African society has in it inherent developmental strategy that Nigerian
academics, policymakers and Western economists have not been able to tap into
and utilise to develop the nation.
Nigerians, no matter their state, are people
who have developed a sense of development strategy and traditional savings
culture. They can save for whatever cause they believe in. In every rural
setting, there are individuals, who champion the cause of society. They may be
successful farmers who through hard work, have inspired others who look up to them.
They become employers of labour and through established communal efforts,
assist one another to grow.
In traditional African setting, communal
development strategies were employed where community members engaged themselves
to work in family farms in rotation. The practice worked very well in assisting
members to grow their incomes. There was no cheating as the system instilled
hard work and discipline in youths. This form of communal labour is what in the
West is termed as cooperative society.
In the Nigerian traditional setting, the
cooperative movement practised by Nigerians was very successful. Many even
today still make daily and weekly contributions, which are given to one person
at a time for assistance in taking care of his or her financial needs. Many
workers in offices do this in order to save enough money to pay their
children’s school fees, house rents, buy property or start a business. They may
even go hungry to meet this obligation on regular basis.
This is a form of banking where interest rates
are not charged but the individuals who engage in it benefit from the financial
arrangement. In several markets in Nigeria, this local banking practice is in
place and traders take advantage of it. In the villages, men and women who have
pressing financial needs group themselves together to make weekly or monthly
contributions to assist one another in rotation. The system has brought about
several successful businessmen and women.
It was from this obscurity that men like M K
O Abiola of blessed memory, Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa, Wale
Tinubu, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, amongst others, emerged. Every society, nation
has a system that works for them. Nigeria has abandoned its traditional value
to pursue that of others to its hurt. We have applied Western monetary and
fiscal policies wholesale long enough, but they have failed because they were
not adapted to suit the Nigerian environment. We have only succeeded in
breeding corrupt officials through the system over the years.
The question is why is this government that
is talking about transformation agenda not looking inward to find lasting
solution to the economics of poverty in the country? Why is it not thinking
out-of-the-box solution? Why employ the same old antics that failed to deliver
the needed solution to the nation’s problem?
What will it take this government to come off
its high horse and reach out to the populace, and say “let us roll up our
sleeves and work together to make Nigeria great again?” When President Barack
Obama came into the American political scene that was characterised by failing
companies and dying banks, he simply told the Americans; “Yes we can make
America great again.”
Obama did not reinvent the America political
wheel; he simply tapped into the inward feelings of the average American.
Nigerian leaders, instead of thinking out-of-the-box for solution to Nigeria’s
problem, are busy fighting one another over who becomes the next chairman of
the Governors’ Forum, governor, or president. Sad enough, 36 men of integrity who
are entrusted with the destiny and welfare of the rest of us went into a room
to vote.
They all agreed to cast their votes based on
agreed procedure. After the voting, because the result did not favour the “oga
at the top” who was busy monitoring and tele-guiding some of the puppet
governors, they denied the result.
References
  • World
    Bank Group 2005
  • Sachs,
    J. (2005). The end of Poverty. New York: the Penguin Press
  • Cox,
    D. & Pawar M. (2006) International social Work: Issues, strategies,
    and programs. London: Sage Publication
  • International
    Council on Social Welfare Statement to United Nations Commission for
    Social Development, 8-17 February 2006, p12
  • International
    Association of Gerontology, United Nations Document, E/en5/2006/NGOs
  • International
    Federation of Social Workers, (2004). International Policy on Indigenous
    Peoples
  • www.ifsw.org
  • Cox,
    2006
  • United
    Nations. (2004) The Inequality Predicament, Report on the World Social
    Situation, New York: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
  • Cox,
    2006, P210
  • Karabanow,
    J. (2003). Creating a culture of hope: Lessons from street children
    agencies in Canada and Guatemala. International Social Work 46(3), 369-386
  • Burke,
    J & Ngonyani, B. (2003). A social work vision for Tanzania.
    International Social Work, 47(1), 39-52.

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