Alleviating Poverty Through Community Action Since 1999: A Case Study Of Orsu L.G.A Imo State

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Alleviating Poverty


This study takes a critical examination and evaluation of the poverty alleviation programme through community-action in Orsu Local Government Area of Imo State. Utilizing system theory as a our explanatory guide, the study contends that poverty alleviation programmes in Orsu communities have failed to impact positively on the lives of Orsu dwellers owing significantly to such inherent systemic problems in Nigeria like poor funding of projects, corruption and mismanagement of the available resources among numerous others. As such Orsu dwellers have continued to wallow in abject poverty with its attendant problems such as high rate of child and maternal mortality, prostitution, malnutrition and high rate of rural-urban migration among numerous others. Arising from the above therefore the study recommends for democratization of the choice for community leaders who are vast in experience and knowledgeable enough to determine appropriate poverty alleviation programmes to be conceived and where to locate them. It is equally the recommendation of this study that different levels of government especially Orsu Local Government Council and Imo State Government should not only endeavour to finance communal conceived poverty alleviation projects but also allow for greater indigenous participation in their sponsored poverty alleviation projects. Finally, this study recommends for the poverty alleviation project monitoring committee to be set-up by Imo State government in synergy with Orsu Local Government Council that would ensure efficient management of the available resources in the execution of government and communal poverty alleviation project



1.1                    Background of the Study

The  topic  of  study  “Poverty  Alleviation  Through  Community  Action”  is

encompassing. It is a general phenomenon in the world. Furthermore, the vital feature of the most Third World countries today is the yawning gap existing between the urban and rural areas, in terms of provision of basic amenities and infrastructures. This backdrop situation has remarkably remained unabated especially in Africa despite the strategic importance of the rural areas to national development and emancipation. For instance, rural areas in Nigeria are know to have accounted for about 80 percent of foreign exchange earnings and 70 percent of government revenues (UNNDP, 2008). But, it is sad to note that rural areas in Nigeria have been bedevilled with an untold hardship, endemic poverty and protracted squalor, and its consequent side effects on national planning and development

Successive Nigerian governments (colonial, indigenous civilian and military) had indeed, initiated a number of rural based development programmes designed to enhance or improve the living standard of the grassroots and to stem the tide of rural poverty (Mchombu, 1992). Surprisingly, however, the current poverty level and poor state of rural development in Nigeria reflects cumulative default in policy formulation, planning and implementation right from the colonial period (Chigbo, 1999). The colonial ten year plan of Development and Welfare for Nigeria (1946-1959) had indeed represented the first attempt at National development planning and poverty alleviation. Thus, a significant proportion or the country‟s wealth during the plan period was devoted to the development and in improvement of social infrastructures in both the urban and rural areas. The plan among other issues recognized the need for physical development of the country. Country and town planning according to the plan documents were not intended to cover merely the expansion

but will extend to all parts of the rural areas of Nigeria (Little, 1987). But suffice the foregoing, national and rural development effort to assert that the British Colonial government had no systematic programme for rural development and poverty alleviation. Thus, its overall development and poverty alleviation policy was the extraction of surplus from the rural areas to meet imperial priorities Infrastructural development in rural areas was therefore, dictated by the need to penetrate export crop producing areas and evacuates produce from the hinterland to the coastal parts. Rural development in this period was only incidental and therefore, not integrated (Uyanga, 1993).

With the transition to independence, that is self-government, more conscious steps, measures are efforts were taken to promote rural development and poverty reduction. Thus, regional governments then became the primary agents of rural development attempting not only to strengthen and diversifying the base of economy but also to improve on social welfare and service delivery. However, national development was financed mostly through the proceeds from the farmers. By the end of the first republic, the urban based mode of development had indeed, effectively marginalized and impoverished the rural areas (Ebot, 1988).

The immediate post civil war development programmes of the Gowon‟s military regime or administration were essentially focused on integrating various peoples of Nigeria and fostering the spirit of oneness among them through the reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction (RRR) programmes. Thus, little effort was made at refurbishing the decayed socio-economic and political infrastructures, especially in the rural areas and to initiate good polices that could set the country at the path of development. Perhaps, the Operation Feed the


Nation (OFN) of Obasanjo‟s military regime that was principally focused on providing food on every table of Nigerians, was indeed a noticeable effort at poverty reduction in Nigerian.


The same was the case with “Green Revolution” (GR) of Shagari‟s admin

programmes sought to achieve general mobilization of the broad farming population through specific strategies and public slogans. However, they failed to achieve permanent take-off of agricultural development. However, they eventually had little impart on rural development and poverty alleviation (Uyanga, 1993).

The ever increasing poverty level in Nigeria, especially in the rural areas led the Buhari/Idiagbon military regime to introduce the popular “Go back to Land” programmes with many variations, such as the former River‟s state governor, Fidelis Oyahilome‟s “School of Land” programme and his Lagos State counterpart, Gbolaham Mudashiri‟s “Graduate


Farming Schools”. Initially the Oyahilome‟s scheme worked wonders in Rivers State, made news headline in some national newspapers but, like everything in Nigeria, it fizzled out and died (Maduagwum, 2009). There is a believe that the major versions for the failure of all these agricultural/poverty reduction programmes was that they were based on faulty philosophy.Alleviating Poverty

Thus, in 1986, General Ibrahim Babangida made a conscious policy effort towards poverty alleviation with the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). The period proceeded with severe economic crisis that worsened the quality of life in Nigeria. The military government through the assistance of the World Bank/IMF introduced SAP to checkmate the crisis. However, the implementation of the programmes further worsened the living standard of many Nigerians, especially the poor people (Ugo, 2009). In quick reaction to tackle the crisis, the government designed and implemented many poverty alleviation programmes between 1986 and 1993 under the guided deregulation of the economy. The impact of those programmes on poverty alleviation recorded degree of success. For instance, the establishment of the Directorate for Food, Road and Rural infrastructures (DFRRI) was not only a departure from the previous programmes, but complementary associated with basic needs of life, such as food, shelter, portable water, road construction, transportation, etc. Alleviating Poverty

programme indeed, gulped about 1.96 billion naira (about 80 billon naira today‟s value, but could not achieve many of its objectives. In fact, it was over ambitions in scope, steeped in corruption, lack of standards for project harmonization and ineffective mechanisms for coordination among the three tiers of government (CBN Enugu Zone, 1998).Alleviating Poverty

The National Directorate of Employment (NDE) that was later established on October 19, 1986, by the same regime, (that is Babangida‟s regime), was meant to combat mass unemployment, articulated policy aimed at promoting skill acquisition, self employment and labour intensive potentials. Its programmes was meant not only on unemployment, but also engaged with designing employment programmes in the country. No doubt, NDE had trained more than two millions unemployed and provided business training centres for not less than four hundred thousand Nigerians (Oyemoni, 2003). Sadly, the directorate had suffered a lot of set backs, such as poor funding, nepotism and official corruption. Alleviating Poverty As such could not cope with the needs of job applications in Nigeria. This backdrop situation had led to the establishment of Peoples‟ Back of Nigeria (PBN) in 1990 to encourage savings and provide facilities for the rural poor who could not ordinarily have access to loans from the orthodox and conventional banking system in Nigeria. In the same vein, Community Bank (CB) was set up to provide banking facilities for the people of the rural areas and to support micro enterprise in urban areas. The two banking schemes had indeed, recorded a measurable success in poverty alleviation. For instance, PBN disbursed up to 1.7 billion naira as an in house loan from funds derived from the federal government and 9 billion naira as loans from funds provided by the Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP). However, both the banking schemes had a high degree of problems. Their external audit report showed that some funds were trapped in distressed and liquidated banks (Oyomoni, 2003).Alleviating Poverty

Furthermore, the Family Support Programme (FSP) that was established aimed primary at poverty alleviation through the provision of health-care delivery, child welfare, youth development and improved nutritional status to families in rural areas. In a similar objective, the Family Economic Advancement programme (FEAP) was set up to provide credit facilities for agricultural production and processing and small scale industries through, cooperative societies in rural and urban areas. These programmes were further designed to create employment opportunities at ward levels, encourage the design and manufacture plants, machineries and equipments as well as provide opportunities for the training of village based business operators. Although, both FSP and FEAP were designed to improve the quality of life of the rural dwellers, they were again, bedevilled by several malpractices including the non-supervision and monitoring of loans and projects by the participating banks. Also fabricators in connivance with the beneficiaries inflate cost of equipments and provision of substandard equipments as well as poor loan recovery (Ugo and Okpere, 2009).


Indeed, the ravaging poverty situation in Nigeria especially among the rural dwellers and continuous search for alternative reliable and sustainable policy framework for alleviating it had informed the noticeable resolve of the Babangida‟s military regime to establish yet what was known as the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) in 1993. NALDA was established to provide strategic public support for land development, promote and support optimum utilization of rural land resources and encourage the evolution of economic size of rural settlement (Ukpere and Ugo, 2009). Other programmes connected to this are, the Agricultural Development Programmes (ADP), and the Strategic Gains Reserves Programme (SGRP) which had in one way or the other improved positive in the agricultural sector and by implication reduce poverty. These programmes were able to acquire suitable land in various parts of Nigeria for the purpose of development. They parcelled out land into economic size farm plots and distinguished/distributed them to farmers and advised them on all aspects of land conservation and land degradation control. As expected and equally with the case of other

preceding poverty alleviation programmes, they were faced with some problems which included taking more than their statutes allowed that eventually over-burdened them and rendered them ineffective. Indeed they were made to spend more than their incomes. Again, oil mineral producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) was established and set up by the Babangida‟s administration in response to series of agitations by the indigenes of the oil producing areas who complained degradation on their farmland through massive oil exploration and drilling. Thus, OMPADEC was created by the Decree No 23 of 1992 with the following objectives.


a) i. to receive and administer the monthly sums from the allocations with confirmed ratio of oil production of each states;

ii.                      the tacking of ecological problems that have arisen from the exploration and exploitation of oil minerals;

iii.                    the rehabilitation and development of the oil producing areas;

b)        to determine and identify through the commission and the respective oil producing states, the actual oil producing areas, and embark on the development of projects property


agreed on with the local communities of oil producing areas.


c)      to consult with the relevant federal and state government authorities on the central effective methods of tackling the problems of oil pollution control;

d)     to liaise with the various oil companies on matters on pollution control;

e)      to obtain from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the proper formula for actual oil production of each state, local. Government areas, and communities and to ensure the fair and equitable distribution of projects, services and employment of personnel in accordance with reorganized percentage production, (OMPADE Quarterly Report, 1993).

There were high hopes at its inception that OMPADEC would become the deriving force behind the regeneration of the Niger Delta. The huge financial resources that were ostensibly  available  to  the  commission  bolstered  the  good  will.  Based  on  3  percent commitment, it was expected that the commission would be receiving about one billion naira every month from the federation account. This, however, could not materialize due to inter- ministerial intrigues and diverse political calculations in government (Ibeanu, 2008). Thus, according to Horsefall A.K; who chaired the inaugural board of the commission from its inception and dissolution in January 1996: Governments, civil or military never stopped eyeing on funds with a view to either poaching or indirectly controlling or sharing in them. Horsefall argues further:

Between 1993 and 1996 alone, OMPADEC received a substantial amount of money that was enough to develop Niger Delta, but could not achieve much because of political calculations among the ruling class (Horsefall, quoted Ibeanu 2008:30). Consequently upon the backdrop performances of the OMPADE, Ibeanu (2008) argues:


“…OMPADEC became in the popular consciousness of the people of Niger Delta, another rise designed to enrich the families and friends of the military government while pretending to be investing in the Niger Delta”.

As a Corollary, Ibaba (2001) observes:

With the creation of OMPADEC, it was expected that the Niger Delta Communities would experience changes that tend towards liquidation of underdevelopment. To the contrary however, it failed to make any significant impact on measures of development”

Commenting further, he attributed the failure of OMPADEC to a number of factors like profligacy, corruption, misplaced projects and fault in the implementation strategy. Thus, while the failure of OMPADEC may largely be attributed to several factors, scholars  have  argued  that  the  structure  of  any  establishment  is  inextricable  tied  to  its functions. OMPADEC was indeed structured to safeguard the interest of the dominant ethnic groups who control the political power and productive force in Nigeria. It was therefore created to develop the area whose people do not control the state. Thus, the dominant ethnic groups who control the states stifle the commission in the manner of imposition of incompetent contractors and refusal to provide the commission with its funds (Ibeanu, 2008). As such the problems which OMPADEC was set out to solve remained unabated. This situation resulted in the renewed agitation for more committed development agenda for the Niger Delta region.


In pursuance of poverty alleviation, the military regime of Late Sani Abacha indeed, made a noticeable effort at rural transformation and poverty alleviation among Nigerians by constituting two agencies, namely Petroleum Trust Fund, (PTF) and Better Life for rural Women Programme (BLP). The BLP was rural based programme, with the overall objective of improving and sustaining high quality of life of the family, including the husband, wife, children, the aged and disabled. (Amaechi, 1995:3-4). In addition, it was also created to facilitate increase social and economic activities of individual families so that such interaction will lead to increased positive interpersonal reflections and family cohesion. It pursued its rural family development efforts through eight channels-educations, agriculture, women in development, income generation, rehabilitation of destitute and the disabled, child welfare and youth development and provision of shelter. (Abacha, 1994). According to the PTF Decree 25 of 1994 (as amended), the fund was to finance the execution of projects in several areas. These were railway transportation and waterways, education, health, good and water supply, security services and alternative sources of domestic energy. Perhaps, the comprehensive nature of the programme was purposely designed so as to accelerate the overall national interest including rural development and poverty alleviation.

The inception of democratic rule in 1999 witnessed a giant land mark in poverty alleviation and overall national development. Thus, Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) was established in 2000 by Obasanjo‟s civilian administration to urgently create jobs for the unemployed in the face of increasing youth restiveness. These projects were to stimulate economic activities and improve the environment. The participants engaged in direct labour activities, such as patching of potholes, vegetation control along high ways, maintenance of public buildings and environmental sanitation (Oyemoni, 2003). The implementation of PAP generated public outcry and was accused of shoddiness and corruption. Subsequently, the government had set up a panel committee headed by Prof Ango Abdullahi to review the programme. The problems identified with the programme included over centralization, over politicization, irregular payment, uncoordinated management as well as high corruption (Oyemoni, 2003). The committee therefore came up with the blue print recommending National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP).


NAPED was established in 2001 and involved all stakeholders in poverty eradication in Nigeria, namely, the federal state, and local governments, civil society organizations, research institutions, organised private sectors, women groups and concerned individuals (Okoye and Onyukwu 2007). NAPED aimed at addressing the aspects of absolute poverty and to eradicate them. The stakeholders recognized that certain fundamental reasons were responsible for the inadequacy of anti-poverty measures over the years and they include the absence of a policy framework, inadequate involvement of stakeholders, poor management and implementation arrangements and lack of proper coordination. All these seem to have received attention in designing NAPED and to make it difference from all past efforts. The mandate is to monitor and coordinate all poverty eradication efforts in order to harmonize and ensure better delivery, maximum impact and effective utilization of available resources. In order to ensure effective poverty eradication, the government arranged NAPEP into four schemes. These are:

a)      Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES). This deals with capacity acquisition, mandatory attachment, productivity improvement, credit delivery, technology development and enterprise promotion.

b)      Rural Infrastructure Development Scheme (RIDS), this has to do with the provision of portable and irrigation water, transport (rural and urban), rural energy and power supply.

c)      Social Welfare Services Scheme (SOWESS) this deals with intervention in special education, primary health-care services, establishment and maintenance of recreational centres, public awareness facilities, youth and student hostels, development, environmental protection facilities, food security, provision of agricultural input, provision of micro and macro credits delivery, rural telecommunication facilities, provision of mass transit and maintenance culture.

d)     National Resources Development and Conservation Scheme, (NRDCS) deals with the harnessing of agriculture, water, solid minerals resources, conservation of land and space particularly for the convenient and effective utilization by small scale operators and the immediate community (Okafor and Onyukwu 2007).


Apart from the above, NAPEP also has an organisational structure. At the top of the scheme is the National Poverty Eradication Council (NAPEC). It coordinates all poverty reduction related activities and also ensures that the activities involved are centrally planned and coordinated in ways that make them complement one another. In terms of institutional structure, NAPEP data and information flow upwards from the local government level to the state coordinating committees and up to national coordination committee. In essence, information flow is from the bottom-up, with each subsequent level reviewing, refining and standardizing data as well as completing assessment reports. NAPED performs two major functions. Alleviating Poverty

It plays the role of monitoring and that of evaluation.Alleviating Poverty In terms of monitoring, it monitors all the relevant initiatives, periodically to confirm project location project implementation, project delivery, functionality of facilities provided, assess impacts on livelihood of communities, ensure equitable distribution and review the actual poverty status or situation of the communities in Nigeria.Alleviating Poverty Indices of monitoring are evaluated from broad performance blocks such as quality, project objective and target achievement, scheduled completion and financial prudence (Okoye and Onyeukwu, 2007).Alleviating Poverty

Despite the activities of NAPEP, there are yet in existence several poverty alleviation and national development programmes, both at the national, state and local government levels. Alleviating PovertyThe National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) that was later launched as a fellow-up to NAPEP which focused on poverty reducing through public sector reforms, privatization, liberalization, governance, transparency and anticorruption, service delivery, budget Expenditure reforms.Alleviating Poverty

Besides, it was equally aimed at provision of health facilities, education, environmental transformation, housing development, safety nets, gender and geo-political balance and pension reforms. Alleviating Poverty The United Nations (UN) has equally its rural assisted development programmes scattered all over the country.Alleviating Poverty In addition, most states of the federation have Directorate For Rural Development and other rural based project such as River State School-To-Land programme, Integrated Rural Development of Bauchi State the Imo Initiative of Imo State and Taraba State Human Development Policy (Okitikpi, 1996).Alleviating Poverty


The shift of focus to poverty alleviation through community- action especially the Orsu Local Government case has indeed become an acceptable reality and norm in the contemporary Nigeria State. This is because of the inability of the past Nigerian governments‟ to provide policies on poverty alleviation to impact positively on the lives of Nigerians especially for the rural populace. Most communities and towns in various states of the federation have now realised the need for self help efforts geared towards poverty

alleviation community development though the paths have not been very easy and smooth as a result of some militating factors.

This study is therefore, principally focuses on assessing the impact of poverty alleviation through community action using Orsu Local Government Area of Imo State of Nigeria as a case study.

1.2              Statement of the Problem

Poverty is the state of being deprived of those opportunities and choices that are essential to human development for a long health, creative life for a reasonable standard of living, for freedom, dignity, self-respect and respect from others (UNDP, 1999:3). Likewise, Word Bank Report (2000:1) sees poverty as “a shortfall of a certain income threshold and a certain amount of expenditure for consumption”. Thus, poverty is generally perceived as the inability of an individual of a society to acquire basic needs for existence such as food, shelter and clothing.


It is not surprising however, that most African countries account for about 80 percent of World poverty (UNDP, 1999) resulting from repressive regimes, official corruption and mismanagement of the naturally endowed resources such as petroleum, gas, gold, diamond, tin, copper, zinc, timber iron, cocoa, coal etc. For instance, the prolonged and intractable armed conflict in Sudan had resulted from the long perceived impoverishment, injustice and deprivation of the country southern hemisphere by the Northern controlled government. Besides, the oil and gas resources that could have seen Sudanese out of poverty, squalor, and socio-economic and institutional decay rather had led to ruthless ethnic cleansing (especially in Darfur region) that has left about 1.5 billion people homeless, 50,000 dead and 200,00 in refugees camps in neighbouring Chad Republic (Nwagu, 2008). Alleviating Poverty

To this end, Seddon and Zeilig (2005) had argued that, „‟to say that the Sudanese National government has not broken the implicit social contract to safeguard not only the material wellbeing of the people but alsot their political right is indeed, to say the least‟‟. Alleviating Poverty More still, successive regimes in Khartoum have found themselves seriously challenged by other ethnic groups, particularly when the groups perceived that discriminatory economic system and policies have been introduced and such introduction creates economic and social disparities along cultural, ethnic and religious lives to the extent that such obnoxious policies have adversely affected their individual and collective lives as a people (Nwagu, 2008). The case was the same with the Republic of South Africa before the advent of black majority leadership, when the majority black populace were subjected to untold poverty and hardship as a result of Apartheid Policy.Alleviating Poverty

Nigeria, as a state, that gained political independence from the colonial tutelage of Britain had indeed, been hunted by protracted endemic poverty situation that has seemed to have resisted all forms of policy solutions. This poverty scenario in Nigeria is more noticeable especially in rural areas where the rural dwellers are grossly marginalized and starved of the basic necessities of life such as employment opportunities, good road network, pipe born water, communication facilities, except few communities, or towns that have been privilege enough to have produced leadership at the different governmental levels. Thus, Nigeria, it is noted, has become a contradiction, contradiction in the sense that it is a land rich in natural and human resources but endemic poverty is taking its toll on the generality of the populace, and this has affected their sense of justice and moral discrimination. (Ikejiani-Clark and Eze, 2008). According to annual report of the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, (NEEDS) in 2005, the poverty level in Nigeria increased from 27 percent in 1980 to 66 percent in 1996. Alleviating Poverty Furthermore, by 1999, it was estimated that more than 70% percent of Nigerians were living in poverty (NEEDS, 2000).Alleviating Poverty Life expectancy was mere 54 years and mortality rate 77 per 1000 people and maternal mortality, 704 per 100,000 live births. NEEDS report equally outline other indicators of poverty rate in Nigeria to include;Alleviating Poverty

i.      only about 10 percent of the population had access to essential drugs,Alleviating Poverty

ii.            there were fewer than 30 physicians per 100, 000 people,Alleviating Poverty

iii.             more than 5 million adults were estimated to be living with HIV/Aids,Alleviating Poverty

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