Relentlessly, privation is afflicting more victims, and providing compelling evidence of the failure of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to turn the economy around. Tellingly, the just released National Bureau of Statistics’ 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index shows that 133 million Nigerians, representing 62.9 per cent of the population, are living in poverty, plagued by insecurity, energy insufficiency and monetary penury. Buhari and other regime actors should stop living in denial, and fashion new, realistic strategies to stop the poverty rampage.
Really, the NBS just put in figures the frightful experience of Nigerians. Based on several components – health, living standard, education, security, and unemployment – the report revealed that a majority of Nigerians “are multidimensionally poor and cook with dung, wood or charcoal, rather than clean energy. High deprivations are also apparent nationally in sanitation, healthcare, food insecurity, and housing.”
Conducted between November 2021 and February 2022, the MPI survey sampled 56,000 households across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Pervasive nationwide, nevertheless, rural dwellers, women and children are hardest hit by poverty: among children aged 0-17, 67.5 per cent are multidimensionally poor, and overall, 51 per cent of the country’s poor are children. Geographic and regional disparities also vary widely. In the rural areas where 70 per cent of the population resides, 90 per cent of children experience poverty. This is not surprising as many hinterland communities lack access to basic amenities, and most children lack the intellectual stimulation deemed pivotal to early childhood development. Some 72 per cent of rural dwellers are poor compared to 42 per cent of urban dwellers, while the intensity of poverty there is also 42 per cent compared to 37 per cent among the urban population.
Reflecting prevailing human development indices patterns, multidimensional poverty is highest in the North; 76.5 per cent in the North-East, 75.8 per cent in the North-West, and 66.3 per cent in the North-Central. Poverty is also high in the South-South zone at 62.6 per cent; the 49 per cent, and 40 per cent recorded in the South-East and South-West respectively though the lowest nationally, are also higher than the international threshold of 26 per cent.
The triggers of poverty are known, and the practical solutions repeatedly proffered. Unfortunately, the Buhari regime persists in denial, in misdirected policies, and shuns the low-hanging fruits that can break the binding constraints to productive activities and job creation. The state governors entrench the inhibitive, centralising governance system through waste, corruption and incompetence. They have no holistic, autonomous economic plans targeting self-reliance, production, private investment, job creation and poverty reduction. This is a recipe for poverty.
A promise by Buhari in 2019 to set in motion policies to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030 – 10 million each year beginning 2020 — sounds hollow. By 2018, Nigeria overtook India as the world’s poverty capital with 87 million poor; by early this year, the number had risen to 95.1 million, with three million more Nigerians slipping into extreme poverty between January and September this year, according to the World Bank.
In fairness, failure is not for a want of some effort: apart from inherited schemes like the National Poverty Eradication Programme, the Youth Empowerment Scheme, and Rural Infrastructure Development Scheme, the Buhari regime initiated the National Social Investment Programme which components include N-Power, the Conditional Cash Transfer, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, TraderMoni scheme, and the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme. Separately, these target distribution of resources to the vulnerable population segments, including children, the youth and women, and promoting self-employment.
All have floundered; instead of remission, poverty and unemployment are galloping. Without a reliable national database and driven by sectionalism and corruption, the $300 million the government said it distributed to 10 million households (at N5,000 each per month) in the four years to January 2022 has not made significant impact. A new forecast sees about 7.0 million more persons slipping into extreme poverty by year-end. Unemployment currently at 33.3 per cent may reach 40 per cent by December say some analysts; in the critical youth segment, Statista estimates 53.4 per cent jobless.
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic and its worldwide economic fallout, turbulent global markets, floods and insecurity have afflicted all countries, including Nigeria. But the country makes wrong choices. According to Oxfam, “poverty and inequality in Nigeria are not due to a lack of resources, but to ill-use, misallocation and misapplication of such.”
To avoid Bloomberg’s grim forecast that without reforms, Nigeria will soon host 25 per cent of the World’s poor, Buhari and the governors must act fast. Experts recommend rapid, sustained economic programmes, provision of basic health care and sanitation, education, access to jobs, enhancing equality and entrepreneurship, empowering the very poor and promoting access to ICT and innovation.
In a 2019 analysis, the Borgen Project, a non-profit, attributed poverty-reduction successes in Ghana, Norway, Singapore, Bolivia, and South Korea to investment in education, diversification, export promotion, mining, attracting private investment, and doggedly implemented national development plans. Brookings Institution credits China’s feat in dragging 800 million persons out of poverty in three decades to sustained, phased economic growth beginning with agriculture, industrialisation, export promotion, infrastructure development, and social policies targeting poverty eradication, job creation, innovation and technology.
Nigeria should opt immediately for efficient, honest and transparent privatisation, radically improve the ease of doing business to attract foreign direct investment, implement effective policies to promote start-ups, SMEs, agriculture, mining and ICT, and reform its revenue/tax collection machinery.
Corruption must be tamed and emphasis placed on efficient delivery of infrastructure, especially roads, water supply, health and education facilities. The federal and state governments should attract investments –domestic and FDI – in railways, power, ports and airports, mining, agriculture and manufacturing. The power quagmire has to be resolved. They should drastically prune the cost of governance to free funds for social investment. Insecurity must be crushed.
The states should prioritise the provision of rural infrastructure; design autonomous, self-reliant economic programmes emphasising private investment, agriculture, SMEs, job creation and exports. The various governments should not relent until they have significantly reduced poverty.