The European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS has called on the Federal Government to minimise the persistent rural-urban development gaps by designing and implementing innovative programs for rural revitalisation.
Montserrat Pantaleoni, First Counsellor, EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, made the call in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja.
She said the call became imperative based on a recent report released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs that Nigeria was projected to be the world’s third most populous country by the year 2050.
Pantaleoni said to overcome these challenges, the three tiers of government and other stakeholders must come together and initiate workable policies on institutions and investments to transform rural areas into vibrant and healthy places to live, work and raise families.
She said: “The report that Nigeria, currently the world’s seventh largest country, has the fastest growing population of the 10 most populous countries worldwide.
“Also that the report projects it will surpass the US shortly before mid-century calls for great concern.”
The first counsellor stressed that the human capital must be a priority to boost the low index of development in Nigeria.
Pantaleoni said: “High percentage of rural populace are living below poverty level and the deficits must be addressed.”
She stressed that it was time to get set for the challenges and in order to meet the growing food needs, agricultural production must be improved upon.
Pantaleoni said Nigeria had no reason to face food security because its agriculture sector had enormous potential and if be properly harnessed, it could make a vital contribution to promoting inclusive growth on the continent.
She said many communities living in rural areas were often marginalised and most vulnerable to climate change, given that their livelihoods heavily depend on the land and the environment.
Pantaleoni, therefore, urged the government to support rural development and proffer solutions to ensure communities benefit from economic growth and access basic services like hospitals, schools and good roads among others.
She also lamented that more than 47 million Nigerians were engaged in open defecation, thereby making the people vulnerable to various types of diseases.
Pantaleoni warned that open defecation was a public menace capable of resulting in the outbreak of serious health complications and communicable diseases like cholera, typhoid, diarrhoea, intestinal infections, respiratory diseases and tuberculosis.
She said the menace was also responsible for the increased air and water pollution.
She explained that during the raining seasons, human faeces are washed away to various river and leaking pipes, hence posing a very serious threat to clean as well as safe drinking water.
Pantaleoni, however, urged all concerned to work diligently to promote rural areas as viable habitats and economic areas where livelihoods are secured, economic growth is enhanced and natural resources are used efficiently.
She also promised that the EU would always give the required assistance to Nigeria.