By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
The International Human Rights Commission, IHRC, has raised the alarm over the recent report by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, NBS, which stated that the country is now home to 133 million poor people, saying the nation’s economic situation is a recipe for crisis.
The global right organisation, therefore, stressed the need for the government to rethink its empowerment programs for the citizens, especially those in the rural communities with a view to averting any looming upheaval occasioned by inflation and mass hunger.
With the latest inflation figures at 21.47 per cent, the NBS had blamed the rise in the number of poor people in Nigeria on unemployment, insecurity, poor access to education and health services and a general fall in living standards.
However, IHRC’s Head of Diplomatic Missions in Nigeria, Dr Duru Hezekiah, spoke on Friday during the presentation of relief materials and cash gifts to over150 vulnerable populations, including women and people with disabilities, PWDs, in Abuja ahead of the Christmas celebration to cushion the effects of the growing inflation.
He said: “We are really in an economic crisis and if it is not checked, I tell you, the time is coming when the country will slide into a state of 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 the International Human Rights Commission, we don’t believe in protests and riots. We believe in dialogue and negotiation. And so we keep appealing to the government; advising them on the way forward to finding 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 and well-taken care of, there will be growth.
“A comparative look at the developed countries today reveals a low rate of poverty compared to us here. So, if governments want to be true to themselves, they should empower the vulnerable people to cope up with the country’s high level of inflation.”
Speaking also, the Director, of IHRC’s Department of Gender and Vulnerability, Ms Oby Ogueri, said going beyond offering mere aid, grants and gifts, the real challenge before all stakeholders in the Nigerian project is to fight the cause of ending all the conditions which relegate certain portions of the society into the state of vulnerability.
According to her, “This would mean advocating, lobbying, raising funds, and engaging in social action to tackle illiteracy and poverty among women, to give more women opportunities and access to education, employment, wealth creation and empowerment, all of which translate to abilities for living in better conditions and environments away from situations that leave them exposed to risks.
“Let us, in our charitable acts of giving to the vulnerable, also learn to complement this charity with the cause of practical social, political, economic and cultural activities to end practices of inequity and injustice,” Ogueri added.
In his response on behalf of the beneficiaries, the Secretary-General of the Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities, FCT Chapter, Mr Agbor Christ, said most of the 133 million Nigerians in poverty are Persons With Disabilities who have limited opportunities.
While commending the IHRC for the advocacy backed by humanitarian gestures in the yuletide season, he stated: “Attempting to curb poverty without including persons with disabilities is only a joke. Most of us suffer a lot of discrimination. The offices where we will even move to earn living are not accessible for many. There are a whole lot of other opportunities that we don’t really have and thus, it is a very serious thing that the country should begin to explore more ways to include persons with disabilities in whatever we do.”
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