The report by the National Bureau of Statistics that about 133 million Nigerians live in poverty would be a recipe for a new dimension of hunger never witnessed in Nigeria, a civil society organisation under the aegis of the International Human Rights Commission warned on Friday.
While describing the report as a warning of a looming economic crisis in the country, the not-for-profit body, stressed the need for government to empower people in the rural communities to reduce the rising poverty in Nigeria.
The Ambassador at Large and Head of Diplomatic Missions of IHRC in Nigeria, Dr Duru Hezekiah, stated this during the presentation of food items and cash to over 150 low-income earners and Persons With Disabilities.
The gifts which came ahead of the Christmas celebration were to cushion the effects of the growing inflation.
The NBS had reported that 133 million Nigerians were multi-dimensionally poor, saying that the figure represents 63 per cent of the country’s population.
The report blamed the country’s rising poverty on poor access to education, living standards, health, employment and security.
Another report by NBS on Thursday revealed that Nigeria’s inflation rate has risen to its highest level since September 2005 when the rate stood at 24.32 per cent.
The current inflation stands at 21.47 per cent.
But reacting to the statistics by the NBS, Hezekiah warned that the poverty rate, if not urgently addressed, would be a recipe for disaster.
He said, “We are really in an economic crisis. And if it’s not checked, I tell you, the time is coming when will go into a fiasco, a time is coming when in fact, Nigeria will be declared a ‘hunger country’ and that is why we are still appealing to the government.
“In International Human Rights Commission, we don’t believe in protests. We don’t believe in riots.
“We believe in dialogue and negotiation. And so we keep appealing to the government, advising them on way forward to find a lasting solution. I know we might not be able to eradicate poverty 100 per cent but I tell you the growth of a nation begins with the growth of the people. If the people are happy, if the people are well taken care of, there will be growth. Look at the developed countries today.
“The rate of poverty is low compared to us here. So if governments want to be true to themselves, they should help us by empowering these people so that they can be able to cope with the level of inflation.”
Speaking on the choice of beneficiaries for the gifts, the IHRC boss said many Nigerians were languishing under the scourge of poverty and social vulnerability, adding that for most of them, the Yuletide season comes no with no substance with which to carry out any celebration.
He said, “It is in awareness of this that we must commend the brain and drive behind this annual end-of-year giveaway programme for the vulnerable.
“Further still, in recognition of its targeting specifically of women from selected rural areas of the Federal Capital Territory to comprise the beneficiaries of this year’s edition, I wish to reiterate that the choice could be no more appropriate, for women, being natural home-makers, have the majority of those rural households depending on them for the possibility of love, joy and laughter this season.
“For us as humanitarians to feast freely and draw the year to close with joy in our hearts, we must ensure that there is some justice in our world and
society as manifested through equitable, or at least charitable.”
Speaking on behalf of beneficiaries, the Secretary-General of the Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities, FCT, Chris Agbo, said most of the 133 million Nigerians in poverty are PWDs who have restricted opportunities.
While commending the IHRC for the gesture, he said, “Most of us suffer a lot of discrimination. The offices where we will even move to earn living are not accessible to them. And a whole lot of other opportunities that we don’t really have and thus, it is a very serious thing that we will begin to see how to include persons with disabilities in whatever we do, and attempt to try to curb poverty without including persons with disabilities is only a joke.”