1.1 Background to the Study
The conscious emphasis on development is geared towards actualizing the goal of a viable economy, and the ends of development equitable redistribution on incomes and effective utilization of resources of life for the citizens. The need for improvement in living standards and the quality of life is thus considered against the phenomenal increase in poverty levels in the less advanced countries, where resources and basic amenities are lacking or have not been properly utilized. These inadequacies are imminent by the problems of lack of food, shelter, adequate health facilities, access to education, low employment opportunities and other social services which are symptomatic of the prevalence of poverty in the society.
The social disarticulations arising therefrom are evidenced by the phenomenon of rural-urban drift with its attendant problems and affects on the economic. Apart from the problems of unemployment, crimes, social ills, poverty is exhibited by deprivation on basic food items, poor eating habits, low social value and its sanitary living conditions. The effect of poverty is that it takes away the tools to build the blocks of the future life chances. Kanbur (1987) posited that poverty steals away a decent education, a secure home and a long retirement. The focus on poverty alleviation programmes applied in this context relates to the effort made to rescue poverty and to stimulate economic growth. Nigeria has over the years initiated several poverty alleviation programmes at various levels of government, but the contention is that neither the programme nor the strategies adopted so far to pursue them have been fruitful, instead, poverty remains pervasive.
A major interest of most researchers/writers on development is to find out why the third world countries including Asian, Latin American and African countries, are still facing the problem of eradicating poverty despite numerous poverty alleviation strategies that have been adopted to combat poverty.
In Nigeria and indeed Akwa Ibom State, a number of programmes and institutions have been established among which are New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (SEEDS) and specialized credit institutions with a view to tackling the problem of poverty within the society. The difficulties encountered in the process of implementation of poverty alleviation strategies that have been adopted so far have partially been responsible for low performance. There are regarded as being more remedial, than providing terminal solutions to the problem. The resultant effect is that the rural areas continue to be grappled with lack of basic amenities, such as good drinking water, electricity, motorable roads, communication facilities, good educational and health institutions and other infrastructural facilities, increased poverty in urban and rural areas encouraged the phenomenon of rural urban migration.
The cities are now being inundated with new comers without accommodation. The circumstances of their living conditions further increase tendencies to poverty, ill health, congestion and other social ills and vices. Policy Analysts usually associate,these migatory tendency to factors of non availability of modern infrastructures, such as electricity, housing, efficient communication network, pipe-borne water and facilities which can attract young people from the rural to urban areas.
For this study, poverty alleviation programme as a strategy for sustainable development is seen as a process of improving the people with the necessity of life which leads to the improvement of economic activities, social, political, conditions and to raise the standard of living and reduce poverty.
The interest of this research work is to make a careful study of some strategies adopted by successive governments in Nigeria and to find out if these strategies have contributed to the reduction of poverty and increase sustainable development in Nigeria and with particular reference to Akwa Ibom State.
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
The Nigerian economy began to experience severe recessions from the early 1980’s and as a result of which she degenerated from a middle level income and expanding industrial base to become one of the poorest nations in the world (CBN, 2001). This has caused various governments in the past to introduce and adopt several poverty alleviation strategies to tackle the problem of poverty. Such strategies include among others, Better Life for Rural Dwellers Programme (BLP), Family Support Programme (FSP), Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP) National Directorate of Employment (NDE) etc. Despite the core poverty alleviation programmes and other poor programmes with mandate for poverty alleviation adopted by successive governments, poverty remains pervasive, the rural areas are still confronted with problem of poverty, malnutrition, diseases, ignorance, illiteracy, low employment, lack of basic infrastructure, exodus movement of people from rural to urban areas. This appears to cast doubt as to whether these poverty alleviation strategies have been properly implemented or have made any significant impact on the poor and enhance sustainable development.
The failure of these strategies to achieve their goals for individual and society at large in Nigeria, and indeed Akwa Ibom State has continued to plague the minds of policy makers. The evidence is the poor condition of roads, lack of electricity, water supply, living in slums, poor households face food security before harvest time and are limited to starch based diets, stale food and left over. The consequences of these conditions are that their negativeimpact on rapid development of the rural areas, as most of the able body men who would have stayed to develop the rural areas, now move to urban cities in search of jobs, good education, and good health facilities.
This in turn has caused the urban areas to be more densely populated and devoid of much needed facilities to meet the requirements of the new entrants. The influx of immigrants has contributed to the growing economic straints on the city as evidenced by inflationary trends, unemployment and high cost of living, in some cases, the conception has led to outbreak of epidemics, high mortality rate, poor sanitary condition, increase crime rates and other social vices.
Studies conducted in different countries have tried to identify the poor, for instance, most studies concluded that about 90% of the poor people in the third world countries today are to be found in Brazil, Central America, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
In a comparative study of some advanced and industrialized countries, Atikinson (1975) concluded that in the United States, the poor included the aged (over 65 years) minority racial groups and those living in urban slums.
The growing incidence and the dynamics of poverty in Nigeria have stratified and polarized Nigerian society between the haves and the have not, between the North and South, between the educated and uneducated, poor parent begat poor children, creating a kind of dynasty of the poor. Against this back drop, the Federal Government of Nigeria in further effort to tackle reduction of poverty came up with the establishment of National Directorate of Employment (NDE) in 1986 and its programmes were lunched nationwide in January 1987.
The resulting tensions and social conflicts have avoided the fabric that held society together. It is against this background, that this research study is being carried out in order to find out the extent to which those strategies have enhanced economic development and improved the standard of living, using some rural development indices, such as reduction, employment opportunities etc.