Attaining Nigeria MDGs: “A Case Study Of Poverty Reduction”

poverty in nigeria

Poverty either as a plague or cause of other specific problems of under-development afflicts Nigeria as it does to other Nations of the world.

The high level of prevalence of poverty in the world has attained an endemic nature, is becoming worrisome. This has necessitated the world leaders to formulate the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a means of addressing the menace of poverty in the world. Poverty has made Nigeria to attain an unenviable status such that no government (no matter the level), organization, community, clan or family can survive effectively without introducing one kind of poverty reduction programme. This problem of poverty is essential, not that of programme introduction but the effectiveness of such programme and strategies so adopted in poverty reduction efforts.

This study is, therefore, an attempt at evaluating the effectiveness of poverty programmes in Nigeria especially to the attainment of the first goal of MDGs.


At the dawn of the twenty-first century, strong efforts are being made around the world to accelerate the pace of economic growth and development. Concerns such as poverty eradication, empowerment of women, improvements in the education, health and environmental protection for people living in the developing countries have received increased attention in the world. The increasing attention paid to growth, development and social capital in the global arena is silently overthrowing the economic and social conflicts that are prevalent in most developing countries (UNDP Report; 2002, and Asley and Maxwell, 2001). Poverty is not new but at each mention, it stirs a lot of misgiving. This is because it has a very devastating influence on its victims. It reduces the social and psychological prestige of its victims. Poverty is a condition of being poor. Poverty is as a result of lack of knowledge to translate potentiality into practical creative benefits to motivate well being (Journal of Sustainable Development: Vol. 3, No. 4; Dec 2010).

When a deep reflection is made on the Nigeria condition, it is so pathetic in the sense that the country that is so blessed and rich in natural and agricultural resources, oil and gas can not boost of putting foods on the tables of its citizens. In fact, an average Nigerian is said to be living below one dollar. Research has it that the foundation of most social vices and corrupt practices both in high and low places in this scourge called poverty. At present, Nigerian is rated as one of the poorest country in the world, a country with abundant resources both in human and mineral replication. It is as a result of this and others maladies that are experienced by the citizens of the world especially the third world countries, that the United Nations Assembly in September 2000 in a meeting popularly referred to as Millennium Submit in the United State of American an eight-point development target tagged the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (United Nations, 2001 and Oxfam, 2003). The broad objectives of the MDGs are to reduce extreme poverty and hunger by half, achieve Universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development by 2015 in all the poor countries of the world (United Nations, 2003:2).

As a member of the United Nations, Nigeria keyed into the MDGs and subsequently produced a policy document called the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) to further see to the achievement of the millennium development goals. Specifically, NEEDS has the following actionable goal:

  1. wealth creation
  2. empowerment generation
  3. poverty reduction
  4. value re-orientation.


A search of the literature has shown that there is no general consensus on the definition of poverty. Since poverty affects many aspects of the human condition such as physical, moral and psychological, a concise and acceptable definition of poverty is elusive as it cannot be captured only by income and consumption based measures. According to World Bank report (2002), poverty is the inability to attain a minimum standard of living. The report constructed some indices based on a minimum level of consumption in order to show the practical aspect of poverty. These include lack of access to resources, lack of political freedom and voice, lack of shelter, poor access to water and sanitation, vulnerability to shocks, violence and crime, political discrimination and marginalization. Similarly, the United Nations Human Development (UNHD) has introduced the use of such other indices such as life expectancy, infant mortality rate, primary school enrolment ratio and a number of persons per physician to measure poverty in a country (UNHD HDI:2002).

Poverty concepts are categorized into three namely: absolute poverty, relative poverty and subjective poverty. These three concepts which form the basis of poverty alleviation programmes are reviewed below;

Absolute poverty

The term absolute poverty has to with basic human needs and is measured by resources required to maintain physical efficiency (Haralambos and Heald, 1980; Kuper and Kuper, 1996). In the words of Miller (1968), Plotnick and Skidmore (1978), individuals, families or groups are considered to be in absolute poverty when they lack the resources particularly real income to obtain the types of diets needed to enjoy some fixed minimum standard of living determined by a given society. This minimum standard of living considers some amount of goods and services essential, (Schiller, 1976) and those who are unable to obtain them are said to be poor. These goods and services include food, clothing, housing, healthcare, water, sanitation and education (O’Donnell 1997; Kuper and Kuper, 1996; Nweze and Ojowu, 2002).

The poverty line used by the World Bank for international comparison is one dollar per person per day (Kankwenda et al, 2000; UNDP, 1997). Those below the poverty line according to Kankwenda et al (2000) and Balogun (1999) are grouped into two, the poor and the extremely poor giving rise to two poverty lines (upper and lower poverty line). While those whose income falls below the upper poverty line but above the lower poverty line are categorized as poor, those whose income falls below the lower poverty line are categorized as the extremely poor.

Relative Poverty

Relative poverty is a situation an individual’s or a household’s income is less than the average income of the population in the society being considered the result is that the individual or household has goods and services which are lower than those of other persons or households in the society (Schiller, 1976; Oladunni, 1999; Kuper and Kuper, 1996). In the words of O’Donnell (1997), those who are in relative poverty have their resources far lower than those possessed by average individuals or households to the extent that, they are, in effect excluded from ordinary living patterns, customs and activities. This definition is dynamic as it must be related to the needs and demands of a changing society.

Subjective poverty

This concept of poverty which is “expressed in a range of non-material and intangible qualities” (Nweze et al 2002), is based on respondents’ perception of their standard of living. The feeling of whether one is poor or not depends on the absolute minimum standard of living which one is categorized as poor (Vaidyanathan, 2002; Haralambos and Heald, 1980).


The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a set of measurable goals with associated targets that were adopted at the United Nations millennium summit in 2000. The fundamental reason for setting the above goals is poverty reduction which assumes the foremost position in the global development agenda. The MDGs state the paramount task of development, such as improving the welfare of all people on earth to help them realize their potential, to reduce insecurity and increase opportunity, and to ensure that benefits secured in the current generation are sustained and augmented in the next generation (World Bank, 2003c;3). The approval of the MDGs by the UN has further reinforced the need for Nigeria to redouble its economic development efforts towards achieving rapid and diversified development in the twenty-first century.

As a member of the United Nations, Nigeria keyed into the MDGs and subsequently produced a policy document called the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) to further see to the achievement of the millennium development goals. Specifically, NEEDS has the following actionable goal; wealth creation, employment generation, poverty reduction and value re-orientation. This programme is rooted in the experience of past failed plans, an articulation of a clear national purpose or vision, and a realistic appraisal of what is feasible within the medium to the longer-term framework (National Planning Commission, 2004:12).

Nigeria needs a vibrant and growing economy to be able to reduce the level of poverty in the country. With its many renewable and non-renewable resources, offering opportunities to jump-start faster growth with sound macroeconomic policies.

National Planning Commission, (2004; 32-33) policy objectives include:

  1. Sustaining high but broad, a non-oil base growth of GDP at a rate consistent with poverty reduction and employment generation.

  2. Diversifying the productive structures away from oil/mineral resources.

  3. Systematically reducing the role of government in the direct production of goods and strengthening its facilitation and regulatory functions.

In the light of these macroeconomic policy objectives, the Nigerian government intends to deploy the following key instruments to achieve its growth and development strategy (National Planning Commission, 2004), the policy objectives include:

  1. Privatization, deregulation and liberalization

  2. Coordinated national sectoral development strategies for agriculture, and industries (especially small and medium scale enterprise)

  3. infrastructural development, especially electricity, transport and water

  4. addressing the problem of financing the real sector and mobilizing long-term savings and investment.

  5. effective regulatory regimes

  6. the target of programmes to promote private sector growth and development

  7. strengthening the machinery for tax collection, and tracking of all government revenues paid into different bank accounts, as well as for recovering debts, misappropriated and looted funds and payments for work not executed

  8. tracking/responding to comparative/international standards

  9. promotion of investment

  10. export promotion and diversification of exports away from oil

  11. seeking of debt reduction to make Nigerian’s debt service sustainable

  12. restructuring of the composition of credit to the private sector to boost production

  13. provision of more credit to the private sector especially long-term credit for real sector development

  14. tackling of corruption and improvement of the efficiency of government accounts, and

  15. redefinition of the role of the government as a facilitator providing an enabling environment for the private sector to invest and operate in a free market system.


The centrality of poverty has made successive Nigerian governments initiate sustainable development programmes aimed at alleviating or minimizing the scourge of the poverty phenomenon. According to Odion (2009), programmes such as Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) which was launched in the 1970s and Green Revolution initiated in 1980 existed in the past to address the problems of poverty. Other efforts made by successive government include the establishment of the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI), National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Better Life Programme (BLP), the Peoples’ Bank of Nigeria (PBN), Family Support Programme (FSP), Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP), National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS), etc(CBN Report 1998 Enugu zone). The conscious policy effort by the government towards poverty alleviation began with the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). The period proceeded with a severe economic crisis that worsened the quality of life in Nigeria. The government through the assistance of the World Bank/IMF introduced SAP to check the crisis. However, the implementation of the programme further worsened the living standard of many Nigerians especially the poor people. In quick reaction to tackle the crisis, the government designed and implemented many poverty alleviation programmes between 1986 and 1993 under the guided deregulation of the economy. The impact of these programmes on poverty alleviation recorded the degree of success. Such programmes include; DFFRI, NDE, PBN, FEAP, FSP and National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) (Oyemoni, 2003 and Garba, 2006).

The Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) was an interim measure out in place in 2000 to address the problems of rising unemployment in the society and to improve the productiveness of the economy. It was designed to coordinate and monitors poverty alleviation effort and ensures that Nigerians were provided with steady sources of income, high purchasing power, quality education, water, healthcare and housing; stable and affordable power supply, among others. The implementation of PAP generated a public outcry and was accused of shoddiness and corruption. Subsequently, the government had to set up a committee which came up with the blueprint recommending National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) in 2001 (Okoye and Onyukwu, 2007). NAPEP aimed to address the aspect of absolute poverty and to eradicate them. The stakeholders recognize that certain fundamental reasons were responsible for the inadequacy of anti-poverty measures over the years and they include the absence of a policy framework, inadequate involvement of stakeholders, poor implementation and arrangements and lack of proper coordination. All of these seem to have received attention in designing NAPEP and to make it different from all past efforts. The mandate is to monitor and coordinate all poverty eradication efforts in order to harmonize and ensure better delivery, maximum impact and effective utilization of available resources. The effort to eradicate poverty, the government arranged NAPEP into four schemes. These are Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES), Rural Infrastructure Development Scheme (RIDS), Social Welfare Schemes (SOWESS) and the Natural Resources Development and Conservation Scheme (NRDCS). They performed individual functions which are as follows;

Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES): this deals with the capacity acquisition, mandatory attachment, productivity improvement, credit delivery technology development and enterprise promotion. The Rural Infrastructure Development Scheme (RIDS) has to do with the provision of potable and irrigation water, transport (rural and urban), rural energy and power supply. The Social Welfare Services Scheme (SOWESS) deals with interventions in special education, primary healthcare services, establishment and maintenance of recreational centres, public awareness facilities, youth and student hostels development, environmental protection facilities, food security provisions, agricultural inputs provisions, micro and macro credits delivery, rural telecommunication facilities, provision of mass transit and maintenance culture. Natural Resources Development and Conservation Scheme (NRDCS) deal with the harnessing of agriculture, water, solid minerals resources, conservation of land and space particularly for the convenient and the immediate community (Okoye and Onyukwu, 2007).

A major strategy for the implementation of MDGs in Nigeria as earlier noted is the NEEDS. The targets are to half by 2015 the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day. The second target is to half by 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger (MDGs, 2006). As a result of the improvement in the management of the economy, the growth rate of GDP average 8.2% between 2003 and 2004 against the average annual growth rate of 3.5% in the last decade. Findings in 2004 indicated that poverty was acuter in rural areas in Nigeria and that some geopolitical zones were particularly harder hit than others by the phenomenon while unemployment kept souring with the worst affected age bracket being 13-25 years (MDGs, 2006 and Obadan, 2001). In line with the policy thrust of NEEDs, the government set up the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) to tackle the challenges of poverty. But since the establishment of NAPEP, it has nothing tangible to show for its existence. The general impression is that NAPEP has failed the country because the poverty rates are still high, it is gathered that the agency has received a total of 11.8 billion Naira but it has nothing to show for it (Guardian Feb. 24, 2009). The local governments in collaboration with their State governments are not helping matters neither, there are reported cases of misappropriation and diversion of budgetary allocations that are meant to efficiently tackle some of the challenges of poverty in the country. The revelation from the probe by the House Committee on power and steel into the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) of the former president Obasanjo’s administration buttresses the fact that intention on the pages of paper is not enough to tackle the scourge of poverty in this country. The probe revealed that over 10 billion US dollars were said to have been spent on the NIPP without any result to show for it (TELL Magazine, April 21, 2008).

The civilian administration that started in 2007 proposed a seven-point agenda of development. The main objectives and principle of the agenda include improving the general well-being of Nigerians and making the country become one of the biggest economies in the world by the year 2020. The agenda has critical infrastructures as the first key area of focus. These include; power, transportation, national gas distribution, and telecommunication. The second focus is to address the existing issues in the Niger Delta through the NDDC and the Niger Delta ministry. Food security constitutes the third priority area. The fourth area is human capital development and the land tenure reform is the fifth key area. While the sixth key area is national security, the seventh area of focus is poverty alleviation through wealth creation as laudable as these programmes appear, poverty still remains endemic and pervasive in Nigeria Abdullahi (Mrs.) 2008.

According to Odion (2009), 70% of the over 140 million Nigerians currently live below the poverty line of one dollar per day. The rapid urbanization, put at over 5 percent per annum, exerts severe pressure on ailing infrastructure. Nigeria is further ranked as one of the twenty-five poorest nations in the world. This further intensifies youth unemployment. The Human Development Report 2007/2008 on Nigeria showed that the Human Development Index for Nigeria is 0.470, which gives the country a rank of 158th out of 177 countries. Life expectancy was 46.5 percent, ranking Nigeria as 165th and literacy rate (% ages 15 and older) was 69.1, ranking Nigeria as 104th out of 177, the report also indicated the Human Poverty Index value of 37.3 percent for Nigeria, which ranked the country as 80th among 108 developing countries for which the index was calculated (UNDP, 2008). According to Bello (2007) about one million Nigerian children were given out for forced and exploitative labour, of which 18 percent work in dangerous environments after school hours. Ten million Nigerian children of school age were reported to be out of school as shown by statistics on school enrolment released by UNICEF (2008). Eradicating poverty as a step towards sustainable development in Nigeria via MDGs framework continues to appear as a Herculean task.


Just as there is no universally accepted definition of poverty, so it is with theories of poverty. Attempts have been made to discuss theories of poverty from various dimensions. No matter the dimension, every theory of poverty falls into one of the four identified perspectives. They are the Conservative, the Liberal Reformists, the Radical Structure/Marxists and the Social Exclusion. The conservative theories namely: individualistic and culture of poverty posit that the poor are responsible for their poverty. The liberal reformists’ perspective which deals with the situational theory of poverty is hinged on the fact that poverty results from experiences that individuals or groups pass through. The radical structural/Marxist perspective argued that capitalism produces poverty due to its exploitative syndrome. The social exclusion theory is predicated on poverty resulting from people who tend to be excluded from effective participation in a society’s activities due to segregation. These theories are reviewed below;

Individualistic Theory

This theory is viewed from the angle of the individual’s inability to be productive so as to get out of poverty. As argued by O’Donnell (1997), writers of the 19th century and early 20th century in both Britain and United States attributed poverty to individual weakness. This theory is founded on self-help and survival in which those who work hard succeed while the weak fail to succeed giving rise to the non-poor and the poor respectively. The individual attribute theory is of the view that the poor are the architects of their misfortune. Programmes established in Nigeria in line with this theory are poverty alleviation programme (PAP) and the on-going national poverty reduction programme (NAPEP). This is because these two programmes have been characterized by payment of stipends (in case of PAP) and granting of loans to individuals under NAPEP.

The Culture of Poverty

The culture of poverty also known as vicious of poverty was developed in the late 1950s, by Oscar Lewis from a field study among the urban poor in Mexico and Puerto Rico (Islam, n.d.; Haralambos and Heald, 1980). It is known as the culture of poverty theory because it concerns people whose environment and belief exhibit different culture and or a sub-culture from the rest of the society.

Situational Theory of Poverty

This theory which was to respond to the culture of poverty theory views poverty as a reaction to situational constraints rather than an issue of culture. That poverty results from imposed constraints such as low income, unemployment and illness (O’Donnell 1997; Haralambos and Heald 1980). Haralambos and Heald further argued that the poor share the same culture with that of the society with the difference being their inability to translate opportunities into realities due to imposed constraints.

Structural/Marxian Theory of Poverty

The Structural/Marxian theory of poverty is hinged on the fact that capitalism brings about fundamental social problems including severe by inequality which leads to poverty. Since wealth is concentrated in the hands of a minority who are bent on pursuing profits through exploitation of labour, redistribution of resources is more within the classes than between classes. Those stricken by poverty are often subjugated by bourgeoisie so as to glean profits and capital via exploitation.

Social Exclusion Theory

The social exclusion theory which was officially adopted in a world summit which in Copenhagen in 1995 holds that certain people within the society become more vulnerable to poverty because of discrimination. This approach which has been described as ‘peoples centered’ as against ‘goods centered’ is characterized by three paradigms namely: solidarity, specialization and monopoly (Islam, n.d.; Anyanwu, 1997).

The Way Forward for Nigeria

Poverty in Nigeria is multi-faceted and deeply rooted. As such, an effective poverty reduction strategy in Nigeria must reflect its multidimensional nature, incorporating economic, social, cultural and political dimensions. Consequently, achieving the MDGs and hence unsustainable development through poverty reduction would require the decisive commitment of all stakeholders involved – individuals, communities, governments, non-governmental organizations and relevant international agencies. First, the federal, state and local government must ensure commitment in the areas of fund allocation for provision of social services that are beneficial to the poor; fostering efficient macroeconomic and sectoral policies and the provision of an enabling environment to facilitate private sector economic framework. Also, the government should recognize and encourage non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to be actively involved in a wide variety of activities to help provide development opportunities for grassroots communities considering the disproportionately high incidence of endemic poverty in the rural communities. Such encouragement of the NGOs should be closely accompanied by governments increased investment in human capital, a requirement necessary to equip the poor with education/training in order to enable them to share in such grassroots opportunities.

Another strategy for the government to realistically undertakes a comprehensive study on the causes of poor implementation of development policies and strategies and develops a plan of action to address this critical and persistent problem. There is also the need to develop long-term strategic plans that address unemployment, taking into consideration the educational curriculum and the needs of the labour market as well as strengthening the human and financial capacity of poverty alleviation institutions in the country.

Finally, there is the need to fully integrate the MDGs into the national development strategy and enhance monitoring thereof. There should be periodic and consistent reporting of the MDGs.


For the successful study and analysis to ascertain the attainment of MDGs on poverty reduction questionnaires were drafted sample peoples opinion if the MDGs is still attainable in 2015. A total of fifty (50) questionnaires have been designed and used. The questionnaires were randomly administrated on campus to both lecturers and students, the information retrieved will be presented in a table while the simple percentage method of data analysis was used to analysis the data.

TABLE 1: Have NAPEP/ other programmes reduced poverty incidence in Nigeria?













Source: Field survey, 2011

From the table above, it could be deduced that the respondent disagreed to the fact that NAPEP/other poverty reduction programmes has actually reduce poverty incidence in Nigeria with about 84% representing 42 respondents while 16% agreed that the various poverty programmes has actually reduced poverty incidence in Nigeria.



Most government activities are poverty reduction based. For instance, each ministry has elements of poverty reduction embedded in their programmes/projects. Therefore, if these government ministries are empowered and are well focused, there may not have been any need to establish any special agency for poverty reduction.

Poverty has various dimensions such as lack of adequate food and shelter, education and health, vulnerability to ill health, natural disasters and economic dislocation as well as lack of voice in matters concerning them. Until the adequate understanding of all the multi-dimensional nature of poverty is put into place and brought into play, all strategies may end up addressing only one dimension or, at best, some dimensions of poverty.

To be able to effectively achieve the objective of reducing poverty to a considerable low level, efforts or strategies formulated and directed towards poverty reduction need to be holistic in nature. Poverty issues cannot effectively be addressed in isolation of social norms, values, and customary practices at different levels of the family, community, state, region or nation.

The poverty reduction institutions of the government should be seen as an integral part of agencies responsible for the realization of good governance and provision of basic social amenities, especially enhancing security and providing means of cushioning vulnerability of citizens to external and mostly uncontrollable events such as violence, economic shocks, natural disaster etc.


In view of the reviews, surveys conducted and findings drawn from it, suggestions made by respondents and review panels, above conclusions and the need to move Nigeria forward in its poverty reduction efforts, the following recommendations are put forward.

– Poverty reduction programmes should be given its pride of place through adequate budgeting and prompt releases of funds to them;

– Efforts should be made to effectively target the poor in all consideration and at all levels of articulation, implementation, monitoring and review of the poverty reduction strategies.

– The government’s anti-corruption efforts should be stepped up and seriously upheld in dealing with matters concerning poverty reduction programmes/agencies and even beneficiaries.

– The National Poverty Eradication Programme should be strengthened for its coordination and monitoring mandate;

– Issues concerning inconsistency should be resolved through the approval and faithful implementation of the national policy on poverty reduction;

– Government and its agencies should develop a multi-dimensional approach to poverty reduction strategies and implement along that line;

– No strategies, programmes or projects on poverty reduction should be articulated and implemented without the proper consultation with the stakeholders on a bottom-up approach basis;

– Everything possible and practicable should be done to bring about good governance, sustainability of policies and programmes, and good leadership generally and specifically into poverty reduction efforts; and

– A complete re-orientation package in the form of campaigns, publicity, talks and seminars should be embarked upon in order to change the attitudinal disposition of the poor towards government programmes, employment and empowerment drives etc.


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