The level of poverty in the northern part of the country is alarming and remains a major reason why peace is elusive, Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II said yesterday.
Speaking at the Union Bank Plc Centenary Anniversary tagged: ‘The Next 100: A Call to Action’ in Lagos, he said Zamfara State has 91 per cent poverty rate; Yobe State 90 per cent; Kano State 77 per cent while he put the poverty rate in Lagos at 8.1 per cent.
But the emir, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and one-time Managing Director of the First Bank, did not give the basis for his statistics.
He said the conflict in the north-east where insurgency has lingered for many years, could not be separated from the level of poverty prevalent in that region adding that “there cannot be prosperity where there is no peace.”
He said if Bornu and Yobe states were to be countries of their own, they will be poorer than Cameroun and Niger, hence it is not surprising that those two states are unstable.
Sanusi said that the high level of poverty is fueling crisis in the region. He said that after leaving the CBN, he transited from dealing with numbers to dealing with human beings. “In the CBN, I used to look at the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth and measured prosperity in those terms. We have failed to bring economics down to earth,” he said.
He said his experience as an Emir made him to come face to face with the level of poverty in Nigeria. “People cannot even afford N3,000 drugs. There is to access to medical health care. About 75 per cent of adolescent girls in the north are married. More Nigerians are living on less than $1 a day. Now, how can there be peace in such a country,” he said.
The Emir insisted that Nigeria can never have peace unless its leaders give issues that concern the people a priority. He said politicians should begin to tackle major issues that affect majority of the population, including child abuse, poverty, early marriage, divorce, among others. “We are responsible for protecting the minority and we have failed them. There is no prosperity without peace. And I say to you: There is no peace without prosperity,” he said.
According to him, the cost of governance is very high, adding that there is no justification for having 774 Local Government Areas and 10 councilors in each of them.
There are also 109 Senate seats with three members from each state and one from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and the House of Representatives with 360 seats.
Sanusi said the government structure made it difficult to pay salaries of workers, hence the need for the country to open a discussion on restructuring. “We have this type of government structure and you are surprised that states cannot pay salaries? Let’s have a discussion on restructuring. Must we have 46 ministers or more? It will be an intelligent dialogue. Let’s sit down on the table and discuss what works for Nigeria. It is all about bringing development to the grassroots. We must stop being in denial,” he said.
He raised some posers. How many of the 170 million people in Nigeria are living on less than $1 a day? How many young people have education? The population of Germany is just around 85 million, the third largest economy in the world. What type of future are we building for our children?
How many politicians have done something for those children that are not in school, forced into marriage or divorced?
“When China goes to the table to negotiate international treaties, it will always ask itself what benefits those treaties will bring to its people. Nigerian leaders should also begin to ask such questions to help alleviate the level of poverty in the country,” he said.
He said there is need to empower women, adding that 2012 was declared year of the woman in the banking sector, where it was directed that 50 per cent of new entrants into the industry should be women, 40 per cent top management board members should be women, and there was also documentation on number of women-businesses banks that banks lend to.
He said the CBN under his leadership, also took steps to promote women directors and appointed women as directors in strategic units of the bank, adding that the women did well in those jobs, or even better than their male counterparts.