Notwithstanding repeated official denials and somewhat feeble attempts, over the years, to alleviate poverty in the country, the monster still persists and it is making life miserable for the citizenry. It is, therefore, not surprising that the 2019 global multidimensional poverty index, once again, ranked Nigeria among the poorest in the world.
The development corroborates the British charity, Oxfam’s own index, which has also raised the alarm that about 69 percent of the Nigerian population lives below the poverty level. Why Nigeria, Africa’s most populous and arguably the richest in terms of human and material endowments, is always ranked among the poorest in the world is curious. It is a jinx that needs to be broken by the governing elite in the country.
Previous rankings by different international bodies and institutions reached the same verdict, which underscores the fact that Nigeria’s toga of mass poverty has become a global issue. The fact that the malaise is worsening on a daily basis calls for a drastic change in the way and manner the issue of poverty has been treated in the country.
A different socio-economic model, coupled with unfailing resolve and commitment in implementing people-oriented government policies and programmes is needed. The authorities should do something to reverse the ugly trend that has given Nigeria a bad image.
The United Nations report unveiled in New York, revealed that besides Nigeria, Bangladesh, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Pakistan, and Peru still have below 40 percent growth rate. The UNDP Head of Communication Unit, Lucky Mosunda, said experts would present new findings on poverty from 101 countries, representing 76 percent of the world’s population.
He said the 2019 global multidimensional poverty index challenges the traditional notions of where poor people live and how they experience penury and inequality, the complexities of poverty in the 21st century, which show that the conventional ideas of rich and poor countries are now outdated.
Like the UNDP, the report by Oxfam, an international confederation of 20 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working with partners in over 90 countries to end the injustices that cause poverty, should be taken seriously.
Oxfam’s acting Country Director, Constant Tchona, who disclosed Nigeria’s poverty status in Abuja ahead of the organisation’s West Africa and Development Finance International maiden Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRII), said the report ranks Nigeria last out of 157 countries overall inequality and ranks it 125 out of 145 countries on the Gender Inequality Index.
Tchona noted that the government was exacerbating inequality and called on it to reverse the trend. He said the index measures, compares and ranks West African governments’ commitment on three pillars – public spending, taxation, and labour markets.
It will be recalled too that in its World Poverty Clock, The Brookings Institute had estimated that 87 million Nigerians were already living in extreme poverty, which was strangely debunked by the Federal Government, which could not show where it had reduced poverty in real terms. The organisation had then stated that Nigeria had overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty in the world.
Doubtless, Nigeria doesn’t need an Oxfam to know that a clear majority of Nigeria’s citizens are denied the most essential elements of a dignified life like access to quality education, healthcare, and decent jobs. It is so disheartening that Nigeria’s poverty status has become a subject that experts and institutions around the world constantly broach.
That being the undisputed fact, the issue now is what to do to reduce poverty. Both the people and government have a role to play to bring about a solution. Nigeria is too endowed to be poor.
To start with, a lot has been said about the return to agriculture. Nigeria has vast arable land for agriculture that should be cultivated to provide food and raw materials for industry. Unfortunately, the land is abandoned in pursuit of oil money that is largely stolen by the politicians. The ordinary citizens are left forlorn.
A vibrant agricultural policy across the states of the federation would provide food and jobs through value-chain in productive ventures. A situation where basic staples like rice are imported promotes unemployment, hunger, and poverty.
The huge amount of money the government spends on debt servicing and subsidy is a drain on the country. This, plus the fat salaries political appointees and lawmakers at all levels pocket leaves virtually nothing to cater to the citizens. This is why the political class and indeed our leaders need to reform institutions of governance – to cut waste and redundancies at this time.
This explains why critical social amenities and services are not available. The government should work for the people. We don’t, for instance, need a bicameral legislature. It is a drain on the economy and the people are the casualties.
Being a politician should not be a career or profession but a job that is done on a part-time basis. The warped political system is a major contributor to the poverty malaise and that is where any lasting solution to the problem will continue to be a mirage.