People crowd to receive free grocery items being distributed outside a relief camp in Obite community, after they fled their homes following a massive flood in Rivers state
People crowd to receive free grocery items distributed outside a relief camp in Obite community, after they fled their homes following a massive flood in Rivers state, Nigeria October 21, 2022. Reuters / TEMILADE ADELAJA

The federal government and governors in Nigeria are trading a war of words to pass the buck on poverty alleviation and curbing social unrest in the West African nation.

However, the heated exchange of words will not produce any tangible result for the poor and the victims of social anarchy as the federal system in the country leaves enough loopholes to bring to book those who caused the misery and the mayhem.

On Nov. 30, Clem Agba, minister of state for budget and national planning, accused provincial governors of failure to improve living conditions in rural areas of the country, which house 72 percent of Nigeria's poor citizens.

He also alleged that governors were too obsessed with flyovers and airports while skipping the alarming poverty rate in the nation.

Earlier, President Muhammadu Buhari said while speaking at a meeting at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies that governors encourage corruption and retard development.

Citing an example, Buhari said if N100 million is allocated to a local government, the governor will pocket 50 million, who will spend it the way he likes.

The Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) was not happy with the federal government for accusing them of fleecing the state exchequer.

Governors from 36 provincial states charged the federal government with giving up its duty to address the security challenges and poverty in the country.

The forum noted that poverty in rural areas is caused by insecurity in commercial, agricultural and economic activities.

The inaction of the federal government has allowed bandits and kidnappers to turn Nigeria into a killing field, they alleged.

The NGF, in a statement, said, "....Governors have undertaken projects where they, in conjunction with their people, deem them fit for purpose."

In a veiled attack on the President, who is quitting office in February, they accused him of mismanaging the 13 percent statutory allocation given to oil-producing states.

In November, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) came out with the latest data which stated that 133 million Nigerians are multidimensionally poor.

In the report, NBS placed some states as abysmally poor. In its ranking, Sokoto State in the northwest has the highest rate of poverty, followed by Bayelsa in the south.

Reacting to the report, Agba blamed state governors for the rising poverty.

Before the NBS's scary report, the Global Poverty Clock in 2021, put 87 million Nigerians below the poverty line. It said that Nigeria had overtaken India as the poverty capital of the world.

It is beyond reason why so many people are dirt poor in a country of such staggering resources. The country has problematic federalism with three tiers of local, state and federal governments working to undermine each other when it comes to funds.

The governors have often proved good at ensuring that state governments do not function properly. Of course, they take a leaf from the federal government, which has more power.

Corruption and lack of priority among the governors are fueling poverty in rural areas. It is the need of the hour that the federal government, governors, and local governments work together to squarely tackle poverty and social unrest in the country.

Leadership has failed the country as Africa's largest economy has yet to recover from the doldrums of poverty and underdevelopment. The wounds of the military coups in 1966 and the Civil War in 1967 are still lingering on to make it a deeply fractured nation with powerful groups vying with each other.

Historically, Nigeria is not a product of federating units, it was foreign military powers who merged protectorates.

Legal experts say that more than 250 ethnic nationalities are brought together in a centralized system, suitable for a mono-ethnic polity. Under the 1999 Constitution, the 36 states are dependent on the federal government, which enjoys a near monopoly over resources.