Against the odds – Group aids poor Nigerians

Nigeria’s Institute for Poverty Eradication seeks to employ and educate the 70 percent of citizens living below the poverty line, the News of Lagos reports.

The Institute offers more than 20 job skills programs and provides graduates with referrals, which are particularly important in Nigeria’s patronage-run economy. The Institute even lends graduates decent work clothing until their first paycheck arrives, said Maria Sokenu, former managing director of the People’s Bank of Nigeria and benefactor of the Institute.

Sokenu helps pay the Institute’s expenses by consulting internationally in the areas of poverty alleviation and micro credit. The group, which has an American branch, also makes money from the paints it produces, and receives assistance from a U.S. organization called Bread and Water for Africa.

Sokenu says that eradicating poverty will take a fundamental shift in attitude, not just for the government but for all Nigerians. Virtually no tradition of organized volunteering exists in Nigeria.

“Those who are blessed,” Sokenu said, “should learn to share with those who are not blessed.”

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