Reflections on the High Poverty Rate in Nigeria
Does Nigerian Government Genuinely Care About Poverty Reduction?
Policy, Politics and Governance
I needed to interview someone at a Market in Ibadan sometime in 2019. She was an approachable, kind 60-year-old Woman.
She smiled many times in the course of our conversations. What she was selling was not up to N10 000 Nigerian Money. She was in a pitiable condition. I like her personality. I felt so bad because I felt a nice, old woman like that should not be still struggling.
One day, I went to see a Relation to seek his help for employment. I did not get a good response. I felt sad. One of those bad days.
While waiting for a commercial motorcycle (Okadaman in Nigerian Parlance), I saw Two Children in front of a roofless house that has partly collapsed. Their condition made me felt bad. I stood there thinking and feeling terrible about their condition and my own problem. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help.
Every now and then, I see many unkempt elderly people, children, people living with disabilities begging for money and food. I am sure you have seen many of them with bowls.
Most of these children are from Northern Nigeria, a region that have controlled Nigeria for more than half of the country’s existence and still have a terrible poverty rate that is higher than that of Southern Nigeria.
Welcome to Nigeria where People in government drive expensive cars, use high-end Smartphones, live in breathtaking houses, collect Millions of Naira as salaries, allowances, travel abroad like the countries they go to are a stone’s throw from Nigeria. Muhammad Buhari, President of Nigeria, reportedly has about Ten Aircraft serviced by public money, yet his country is now the country with the highest number of poor people in the world according to the World Poverty Clock by World Data Lab.
Some Facts and Figures
According to the World Data Lab, out of Nigeria’s Population of 209, 663, 744 (Two Hundred and Nine Million, Six Hundred and Sixty-three Thousand, Seven Hundred and Forty-four), 86, 849, 507 (Eighty-six Million, Eight Hundred and Forty-nine Thousand, Five Hundred and Seven) (41%) live in extreme poverty. See worldpoverty.io for the information.
The NBS-National Bureau of Statistics 2019/2020 Nigerian Living Standards Survey according to a Vanguard Newspaper Report shows that 82.9m Nigerians (40.1%) are poor.
The survey shows that there are more poor people in Northern Nigeria than Southern Nigeria. See ‘Poverty and Widening Inequality’, published on July 21, 2021 on Vanguard.com for the report.
Poverty Headcount Rate in Nigeria, 2019 by State, is presented below;
Sokoto State (89.73%), Taraba State (87.72), Jigawa (87.02), Ebonyi (79.76), Adamawa (75.41), Zamfara (73.98), Yobe (72.34), Niger (66.11), Gombe (62.31), Bauchi (61.53), Enugu (58.13), Nasarawa (57.3), Katsina (Buhari's State of Origin) (56.42), Kano (55.1), Plateau (55.1), Kebbi (50.2), Kaduna (43.5), FEC-Federal Capital Territory-(38.7), Cross River (36.3), Benue (32.9), Abia (30.7), Imo (28.9), Kogi (28.5), Ekiti (28), Akwa Ibom (26.8), Rivers (23.9), Bayelsa (22.6), Kwara (20.4), Anambra (14.8), Ondo (12.5), Edo (12), Oyo (9.8), Ogun (9.3), Osun (8.5), Delta (6), Lagos (4.5).
Source: Simona Varella, Statista.com
What the children, old people and others I made reference to above are experiencing is Poverty. Poverty is described as the state of being poor or a lack of something. To be poor is to have very little money, not having enough money for basic needs such as food, accomodation and clothes.
Poor people are people who live below $1.90 a day. $1.90 is the poverty threshold according to the World Bank. The Poverty Threshold (the poverty level or the poverty line) is the official level of income that is necessary to be able to buy the basic things you need such as food and clothes and to pay for somewhere to live.
Poverty is a universal problem i.e. existing everywhere or involving everyone. But, it is more prevalent (common) in some places.
Reasons Why Some People Are Poor
Lack of Good Jobs
Lack of Education
When people do not have quality education, they won't have adequate knowledge that can make them to be employable. What this mean is that it will be difficult for uneducated people to get good jobs. Some people that do not have good education may not also have skills that can make it possible for them to employ themselves.
Poor Family Background
Some health issues made some people to spend more than they should and so they end up not having money to spend on their other needs.
When Conflict happens, some people are displaced, some have to sell their things to survive. This means they will have less things than they previously have.
Debt cannot be avoided sometimes. Some People borrow money unnecessarily while some people spent the money they borrowed for one important reason e.g. business purpose on unimportant things.
Bad Government Economic Policies such as the frequent increase in the cost of fuel in Nigeria which has resulted in inflation.
Learning and Physical Disabilities
There are people who have learning problems and physical deformities. Such people may not be able to cope with some jobs. And so, they may be poor.
Bad Spending and Saving Habits.
Lack of Government Support.
Lack of Plan.
Some people have no plan for their lives. Such people may become poor because there are no realistic and good things they want to do with their lives.
Some Past Poverty Reduction Initiatives in Nigeria
Over the years, Nigeria has had some initiatives aimed at reducing poverty. Some of these initiatives were good ideas.
Some of these initiatives are; Operation Feed the Nation, Better Life Programme by Maryam Babangida, People’s Bank headed by late Tai Solarin, YouWiN-Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria, NAPEP-National Poverty Eradication Programme and some others.
Why Many of the Poverty Reduction Programmes Didn’t Work
Inadequate Policy Formulation and Implementation
Indifference (lack of interest or concern) on the Part of the People
Meddling by Politicians/Government Officials and other people
The Poverty Situation Under President Buhari
Photo: President Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
When Mr. Buhari became President, he promised to improve the economy by creating jobs and do other things that can make lives better.
He managed to come up with a Social Welfare Programme known as NSIP-National Social Investment Programme which consists of Home Grown School Feeding Programme, N-Power Programme and other initiatives. The N-Power Programme provides N30,000 periodically to each of the unemployed, educated Beneficiaries.
To be honest, the stipends given to the beneficiaries helped them to survive but it is not okay enough for them to do something meaningful with their lives.
The N-Power Programme, Home Grown School Feeding Programme and other initiatives that formed the NSIP were affected by corruption, unseriousness by Government and other issues.
The programme is a good programme. The problem with it is that it was poorly implemented. We have a situation whereby people from some parts of the country were favored while millions of Nigerians that deserve to benefit from it did not benefit from it.
Before President Buhari assumed office in May 2015, Nigerians were already dealing with a terrible economy-high cost of food, huge cost of Education and other issues. He came and exacerbated the situation with his bad economic policies such as the frequent increase in fuel prize, electricity charges and other things.
Prices of many things have gone up. Unfortunately, there are no decent jobs. Some people that are working are dealing with poor salaries. Many Nigerians, including me, have now realized that former President Jonathan’s time was better. We voted out President Goodluck Jonathan and brought in Buhari. We thought he will improve the economy.
Photo: President Goodluck Jonathan, former President of Nigeria.
The major problems many Nigerians had with President Jonathan's Government were corruption and his inability to take decisive steps in fixing the economy.
I remember how I campaigned online and offline for President Buhari. His first term came with so much disappointment. That explains why I did not vote for him in 2019. Nothing impressive in his second term as well.
Many people such as Chief Dele Momodu, my humble self and others regretted voting for President Buhari. So much for our wasted time and effort!
Does Nigerian Government Genuinely Care About Reducing Poverty?
Honestly, I am not sure because no Government will have this high level of poverty and will not be seriously bothered about it.
President Buhari's bad economic policies have resulted in more crime-internet fraud, kidnapping and some other worrisome things.
If the people in government are genuinely concerned, they would have come up with a realistic and all-inclusive programme that would have helped to lift millions of people out of poverty. Too bad! their remaining time is short.
I still think they can still do something. Hopefully, something good.
The Way Forward
Despite the fact that I feel the time left for this government is short, I still believe they can still improve lives if they really want to.
Here are what I think governments at all levels can and should do;
Use the information about Nigerians collected by various agencies to plan and provide good financial and other forms of support for them.
Lastly, monitor whatever you try to do and ensure people get your provisions for them.
Comments are welcome.