Amid the despair and angst among the country’s populace, fresh statistics from the World Poverty Clock (WPC) created by the Vienna, Austria-based global data lab has offered yet another confirmation of Nigeria’s ignoble status as the world’s poverty headquarters. In June 2018 when the Brookings Institution so named Nigeria, only 86.9 million Nigerians were living in extreme poverty, below $1.9 income per day. Four months later, the figure has been upped to 88 million, meaning that 1.1 million Nigerians slipped into extreme poverty in just four months.
It will be recalled that Nigeria overtook India as the world’s poverty capital despite the population differentials between it and the Asian country. One of the reasons for Nigeria’s displacement of India as the poverty capital of the world is the rate at which Nigerians slip into poverty. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), United Nations and other major development institutions across the globe like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have predicted that aside from not hitting the 2030 target of ending global poverty, West Africa, primarily Nigeria, will host 40 per cent of the world’s poorest people by 2030.
According to the WPC, “The outlook for poverty alleviation in Nigeria is currently weak,” with nearly six people slipping into extreme poverty every minute. Nevertheless, the overall effect will be muted. By 2030, we estimate that the percentage of Nigeria’s population living in extreme poverty will increase from 44.2 to 45.5 per cent, representing a total of some 120 million people living below $1.90 per day.” As a matter of fact, the Brookings Institution noted a significant distinction between Nigeria and India: while poverty is rising in the former, it is falling in the latter. The rate at which Nigerians are slipping into poverty should alarm the authorities. Certainly, the government needs to justify its essence by paying extremely urgent attention to the menace.
Along with this dismal statistics is the report of the plummeting performance of the country’s economy on the ease of doing business index. If the country does not offer a clement environment for doing business, how does it hope to alleviate poverty? All of the available figures confirm the widely expressed view that the government’s poverty alleviation programmes are a fluke. They are not geared towards achieving any discernible difference. Sadly, the profligate lifestyle of political office-holders, including governors and legislators, proves that they are not ready to stop the worsening poverty in the country. There is no urgency in the behaviour of the governors to end or alleviate poverty. For instance, in states whose economies are driven mainly by the civil service, the governors owe salaries in arrears and this impacts negatively on such economies. It would seem as if the governors are bent on entrenching poverty instead of good governance.
We believe that government expenditure across the states must be geared towards poverty alleviation through job creation and improvement of public infrastructure. The governors must commit to the reduction of the cost of governance, especially on items which reflect more of vainglory than necessity. It is befuddling to see state governors owing salaries in arrears keeping long convoys of vehicles. Also, public expenditure, especially in terms of contract awards, has to be in strict compliance with due process and probity. The poverty in the land has assumed a perplexing proportion and only positive, urgent and creative remedies can save the day.
To say the least, mass poverty has security implications. The government has to act proactively to stave off the impending cataclysm.