By Seun Fakuade
Nigeria surpasses the World Bank projection of 100 million poor people and hit 133 million according to the recent Multinational Poverty Index (MPI) report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). In the report, multinational poverty index is defined as a measure of poverty that reflects the share of possible deprivations that poor people experience. Its value ranges from zero, which indicates no poverty, to one, which denotes universal poverty and deprivation.
Ekiti State was ranked very high at number 5 with an MPI of 0.125 accounting for the population of 1.31 million people and approximately 36% of its total population. Although no manner of poverty is admirable in any sense, but when a comparative analysis of Ekiti State is juxtaposed with other sub-nationals with higher GDP and internally generated revenue (IGR), it is very clear that Ekiti State has punched above its weight!
It is important to understand the concept of multidimensional poverty index which captures weighted score ranging from education to health, living standards, work, and skills content all of which impact social welfare and life expectancy of the households. The multi- dimensional poverty situation is further exacerbated by the CoviD 19 pandemic which ravaged the country particularly in 2020 and 2021.
That Ekiti State ranks high in the NBS study with respect to the MPI is no small feat. This has happened despite the various limitations and burdens on the State’s financial resources. Ekiti State is ranked as 35th and 32nd in terms of FAAC and IGR respectively. In spite of these limitations, how was Ekiti State able to minimize the level of poverty to the barest point among its peers?
As an insider, it behoves me to state clearly that Ekiti State did not achieve this 5th position by luck or wishful thinking. Central to this performance, amongst other things, is the design thinking which the leadership in Ekiti State put in place when setting its agenda and programs for governance reforms.
Ekiti State’s performance came from a set of purpose-driven, data-driven, specifically – designed and laser – implemented series of government programmers and policies with emphasis on ensuring value-for-money in its delivery of public services. Ekiti State’s relentless quest to improve its governance and development indices has indeed been validated by the NBS study on MPI as well as other renowned reports. For instance, the Transparency and Integrity Index (TII) survey carried out in 2021 by the Centre for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity Watch ranked Ekiti State (score of 73.33%) as 2nd out of 36 States! The latest survey in 2022 by the same TII ranks Ekiti 1st out of 36 states.
Under the careful watch of its leaders, Ekiti State continues to defy the norm despite its frugal resources by placing emphasis on programs and policies that deliver to the people.
A compelling design approach in programs that create jobs, alleviate poverty, and initiatives that lead to improvement in the competitiveness of existing services and which set the foundation for industrial policy are the drivers of Ekiti State’s development agenda. The EKSG is improving its hard and soft infrastructure and radically thinking out-of-the-box to wean itself from the national purse. A few points here will suffice.
The State continues to improve standards in healthcare service delivery in its health sector while working to improve the welfare of its health professionals. The State brought in some cost-saving programmes and reforms to improve access and affordability: rehabilitation and equipping of existing primary and secondary healthcare institutions, personnel recruitment and incentibisation to enhance healthcare delivery across communities, free healthcare delivery for pregnant women and children, and health insurance programs across its rural communities. This has improved health indicators significantly for Ekitikete, improving patronage of health facilities and reducing out-of-pocket expenditure. These and other improvements like highest level of immunization coverage in the South West and lower levels of maternal and child mortality are evidenced in the 2021 Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey(MICS) by UNICEF and NBS. All of these have also contributed to the high life expectancy for which Ekiti is known nationally.
During COVID-19, the State Government invested heavily in healthcare provision and delivery – for both 2020 and 2021, it committed heavily to healthcare delivery with combined budgetary expenditure spending of more than N8 billion (N3.54billion accounting for 89% in 2020 and N5.9billion accounting for 100% in 2021 of expenditure as percentage of health budget) to refurbish, rebuild and renovate the primary and secondary health facilities whilst also equipping them with state of the art facilities. Its unwavering support for vulnerable groups and indigent members of society continues with various social welfare reforms. This is further reinforced by the social investment program of the APC led Federal Government.
In the area of education which has also impacted the MPI outcomes, the Government built on its rich cultural heritage of being the fountain of knowledge by re-introducing reforms which reduced barriers to entry for poor households (affordability of quality education), and these necessitated expansion of school facilities – leading to the construction of new school infrastructure (8 new model schools), and rehabilitation of virtually all primary and secondary schools across the State. This alone led to a jump in educational enrolment: primary schools had improvement from 106,271 students in 2018 to 145,323 in 2022; secondary schools had improvement from 84,146 students in 2018 to 113,464 students in 2022; whilst technical collages had improvement from 700 students in 2018 to 2,505 students in 2022. Ekiti State along with Imo State have the lowest out-of-school children population in the country(MICS 2021). Analysis of student performance from WASSCE results also showed significant improvements: from 56.80% in 2018 to 70.81% in 2021 of five credits including Mathematica and English Language.
More importantly, Ekiti State is developing an ambitious knowledge economy agenda – a plan for the future which focuses on the co-location of innovation and research – hopefully making Ekiti State the knowledge corridor of Africa in the near future. The Knowledge Zone will be Nigeria’s first deliberately planned knowledge and innovation-centered research park when ready!
The establishment of Ekiti State Polytechnic Isan as a research and technology base for Agriculture (designed after The Netherland’s Wageningen University) speaks to the vision of connecting theory to practice in agriculture. Continuing the emphasis on science, technology, and innovation, the College of Education in Ikere became the Bamidele Olumilua University of Education, Science and Technology. The uptick in enrollment rates, in innovation practice in the technology and creative space, and in the transformation of the education sector is proof that education is a transformative tool to catalyze jobs growth, innovation and prosperity and a strategy to reduce poverty and impoverishment in Ekiti society.
Furthermore, although Ekiti State does not have oil deposits like Ondo State, nor does it possess the industrial endowments of Anambra or Lagos State’s high internally generated revenue, yet it has succeeded in being at par with these states in terms of reducing poverty if we go by the independently verified indices such as the NBS-MPI 2022 and UNICEF-MICS 2021 rather than beer parlor anecdotal evidence.
With its comparative advantage in the production of food and cash crops such as rice, cassava, and yam, the EKSG is continuing in its plans to connect the dots by improving agricultural competitiveness (expand access to land, inputs and credits) and industrialize agriculture by attracting more large-scale farmers which will further impact jobs and reduce poverty rates.
The State’s concerted planning approach comes through in its well-documented RAAMP program which has already started with pilot road projects in key agrarian communities connecting farms to markets. Its impact will provide access to farms by more than 1,000km. Alone in 2020-2021, the EKSG refurbished more than 200km of roads, including the Agbado-Omuo road, Oye-Otun road, Aramoko-Erijiyan-Ikogosi roads amongst others; constructed a Category 4E 3.2km runway Agro Cargo Airport, improved on its community access through bridges construction, and was ranked the first in the country in the NEWMAP WB-supported environmental program.
Ekiti State is working assiduously to improve its sanitation and hygiene ranking amongst its peers and investing heavily in its utilities infrastructure provision and delivery. The Third National Urban Water Project was a watershed in Ekiti, with an investment of $50million resulting in the complete refurbishment of 4 out of its 5 dams and the reticulation and repair of pipes to households. The project, on completion, will result in delivery of potable water to most of the communities and households.
The State Government is not resting on its oars in its long-term futuristic aspiration for real GDP growth and prosperity. More seriously, the State Government, cognizant of dwindling resources, is continuing the programmes of ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth through long-term transformative programmes that will deliver jobs, decent wages, and ultimately prosperity to the people of Ekiti State.
This is evident in its planned approach to stirring its economy. The infrastructural projects are not in isolation, and work in complement to the State’s industrialization aspirations and altogether, the State’s 30 year economic development strategy which was unveiled last year. The State’s Agro Cargo Airport and the Ekiti Knowledge Zone are designed to impact on the Special Agricultural Processing Zone (SAPZ) starting in the Oye-Ikole-Moba industrial zone. This will have significant impact on employment generation, innovation, spillovers including suppliers networks, as well as attract further investments with multiplier effects. Governor Oyebanji is building on these to improve food security for Ekitikete.
This is why the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) result for Ekiti State is not totally surprising. The Government of Ekiti State, led by the Governor, believes firmly in delivering transformative programs through data driven, analytical insights. This is why our programs achieve higher returns. The State’s data and value-for-money approach drives its programs, projects, and public policy initiatives. I know this well because I served under Governor Fayemi as the Senior Special Assistant on Research and Documentation, and now serve under Governor Oyebanji as Special Adviser on Governance, Reforms and Innovation; and the efforts to gather the most accurate data for our programs are more than well documented and constantly improved upon.
There is indeed contention amongst academics and policy makers whether the quality or quantity of resources determine the development outcomes of a State. Although both matter, deliberate planning and judicious utilization of resources are the most important factors. Prosperous societies are built through deliberate thinking and action.
Ekiti State, when compared with other States with oil revenues and high IGR, has shown how meticulous planning and data application to government activities can improve governance and development programs. Perhaps there is a need to under-study the Ekiti State economic-policy and governance delivery framework on how best to utilize limited resources to achieve optimal and effective service delivery. I am certain this peer review can and will result in some positive outcomes.
- Seun Fakuade, who is Special Adviser, Governance, Reforms and Innovation to Governor Oyebanji of Ekiti State, writes from Ado -Ekiti.