The Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), has said that there is an urgent need for accelerated infrastructure development in rural areas in order to curb poverty and its related challenges across the country.
Participants, who spoke at the recent pre-investiture colloquium organised by the NSE for its 31st President, Adekunle Mokuolu, in Abuja, observed that the widespread poverty in rural communities was inimical to the country’s development.
The colloquium had ‘Strategies for Achieving Accelerated Rural Development in Nigeria’ as its theme.
The Africa Regional Manager, International Road Federation, Dr. Amoah Bekoe, who was the lead speaker at the event, called for the establishment of a rural development authority to initiate, plan, coordinate and monitor rural development projects and programmes with the sole aim of bringing the needed focus required for the development of rural areas.
He said, “Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, has about 51 per cent of its population living in rural areas who face the challenges of poverty, income inequalities, high rural-urban migration, high unemployment, poor health care, high maternal and infant mortality, among others.
“In line with the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Federal Government has prioritised poverty alleviation as part of its developmental agenda. However, to stem the tide of rural poverty and its related challenges, there is the need for accelerated rural development.”
To fast-track rural development, another speaker at the colloquium, Prof. Babatunde Adewumi, said the country needed to rapidly step up agricultural mechanisation, embrace competitiveness and cluster system, revive farm settlement projects and arrest mass migration of people from rural to urban areas.
He stated, “The agricultural policy of Nigeria minimally captures mechanisation. A full-blown agricultural mechanisation policy submitted to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture by the Nigerian Institution of Agricultural Engineers should be considered by the government.
“The policy captured the need for rural areas to be scaled up to discourage rural-urban migration, thereby diversifying the Nigerian economy through mechanised agriculture.”
Similarly in his speech, Dr. Christopher Chukwurah of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, said rural development in Nigeria should involve the synergy of all stakeholders in driving the planned development processes in communities that were less than 5,000 persons and providing them with the desired social, infrastructural and industrial facilities.
“Lack of this synergy has occasioned large scale rural-urban migration, abject rural poverty and wide disconnect between stated national development objectives and miserable rural reality in Nigeria,” he added.
Earlier in his address, Mokuolu, the NSE president, explained that the colloquium was organised to see how engineers could contribute meaningfully to the development of rural communities scattered across the country.
“Farmers and other inhabitants of rural areas support the existence of those of us living in cities in many ways. But the irony is that these rural dwellers live in poverty despite the hard work, which many of them are engaged in. So we need to come together to deliberate on how we can help in the development of rural areas in Nigeria,” Mokuolu stated.