Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, has reiterated the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within ten years.

Agba spoke on Tuesday (June 8, 2021) at a High-Level Round Table on Hand-in-Hand-Initiative (HiHI), which held in Abuja. HiHI is an initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) to eradicate poverty, which is the focus of the Sustainable Development Goal 1 (SDG1) and end hunger and all forms of malnutrition, which is the focus of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2) by accelerating agriculture transformation and sustainable rural development.

According to him, “It is the irreversible desire of our administration to address poverty and the President has gladly committed himself to ensure that 100 million Nigerians are lifted out of poverty in a decade.”

He stated: “That desire is captured in the process of producing our new Medium-Term National Development Plans (MTNDPs 2021-2025 & 2026-2030),” adding that “as a government, we are sharply focused on this important agendum, which is a must for entrenching an enduring legacy of people-oriented governance for posterity.”

The minister said it was significant to “correlate these important goals with the sub-goals of poverty alleviation and rural development in the bigger picture of sustainable economic development pursuit of the administration of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, in which I serve as Minister of State for Budget and National Planning.”

He said that the HiHI would also help to achieve the other fifteen SDGs for the “overall transformation of our world.”
The minister stated that in September 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 SDGs, stressing that “building on the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’, the new Agenda emphasizes a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all, including persons with disabilities and the vulnerable populations in the rural settings.

“This is where the Hand-in-Hand-Initiative to reduce inequities and vulnerabilities of the rural poor comes in as a game-changer. The Initiative will help to achieve the other SDGs by using available tools including advance FAO geo-spatial modelling to identify big opportunities to raise rural incomes and reduce inequities and vulnerabilities of the rural poor.”

The minister explained that the Federal Government had earmarked a whopping N34 billion for the construction of 377 rural roads in 266 communities along the agro corridors in order to put an to post-harvest losses.

According to him: “This will create wealth for the rural population and ensure economic empowerment of the hitherto vulnerable rural poor.  It is part of our deliberate strategy of taking development to the poor people most of whom live in the rural areas.

“We have made very significant progress in the area of opening up many farming communities through the construction and rehabilitation of these rural roads.  I have, as part of my ministry’s mandates, embarked on Monitoring and Evaluation or what you may wish to call inspection of some of the rural roads in the South-south and Southeast zones.

“The inspection tour will be extended to other zones of the country to monitor the progress of work on the rural roads earmarked for construction and rehabilitation.”

Agba commended the FAO for leading this important Initiative in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

“The HiHI Initiative essentially uses tools, data and other geo-spatial modelling and analytics to gain a comprehensive understanding of economic opportunities for the poorest of the poor and the vulnerable populations.

“It will also use these tools to improve targeting and tailoring of policy interventions, innovations, finance and investment, and institutional reform with the aim to increase the quantity, quality, diversity and accessibility of nutritious foods available in local, regional and national markets using market-oriented food system approach.

“I am also glad to let you know that our ministry is committed to working with all stakeholders within the framework of this Initiative to support actions and interventions that will accelerate the achievement of SDGs 1 and 2.

“I must place on record that we are equally committed to pursuit of other SDGs for the overall transformation of not only our nation but also our world,” he added.

He continued: “It is gratifying to learn that the geo-spatial data platform and big data lab are open for use by countries, and capacity building in that respect is in the pipeline.  These data-sharing systems need to be effectively linked to our own national systems so that we all work in synergy and in tandem when we implement response mechanisms.

“Our administration, through the Ministry of Budget and National Planning is working on developing geo-spatial data platforms.  The one that is in the works is a web-based application to be known as “Eye-Mark” app that will help Nigerians to monitor Federal Government capital projects being executed by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and report poorly executed capital projects to government.

“We will work towards enhancing the capacities of civil servants in understanding the operations of these geo-spatial data platforms as well as their abilities to utilize data to identify opportunities to raise income and reduce inequalities especially of the rural poor and the vulnerable.

“Overall, the processes will help in the prudent and transparent management and expenditure of public funds for projects to which they are tied or appropriated.”

The minister commended the FAO and assured stakeholders that he would work with his other colleagues in the Federal Cabinet and the State Governors to ensure ownership of the Initiative both by the federal and sub-national governments.