The World Poverty Clock assessment is true and even if it is not, it is only reminding us of our poverty situation and the kind of poverty we should also expect in the years to come. So, let us not sweep this assessment under the carpet. It is the truth.
The whole of the North-East region is affected. Almost 70 per cent of North-Easterners are poorer than they used to be in the last four or five years. The same situation is in the North-West because of the farmers and the herdsmen’s crises.
Secondly, let’s agree that our economy cannot grow in isolation. I have said it that Nigeria is a rich country pretending to be a poor country. It all depends on all the economic policies we put on the ground.
If we continue to import most of the things we consume, we will only put pressure on the exchange rate and the naira value will continue to go down. So, my take is that let us go back to the drawing board. Let’s stop this neo-liberal economic approach. Let’s go back to the economic policies which are not conventional and conservative, but common-sensical.
Besides, the government is doing everything to grow the economy by helping the real sector. The government should understand that it is only horizontal growth that brings multiplier and trickle-down effect.
The Value Added Tax on luxury goods should not be less than 40 per cent so that the government can have more investment in social infrastructure and social welfare. To reduce poverty, we must come up with a policy to redistribute and mainstream the economically excluded.
-Odilim Enwegbara (An Abuja-based development economist)
It is self-evident. You need to tie that ranking up with the reality on the ground; you will agree with me that the rate of unemployment is worsening by the day. The inflation rate is on the rise; there are more dependants, whereas you have fewer breadwinners. Of course, tied against this background is the fact that for several years, successive administrations have failed in their duty to provide basic amenities such as: education, healthcare, housing and transportation.
So, the workers’ take-home pay does not take them home. Pensioners are being owed several months of their entitlements. It is the totality of all of these that has worsened the poverty rate. The ranking must be accepted for what it is. Those who did the ranking have been fair to Nigeria. Otherwise, the reality on the ground shows the situation is worse. If you look at our estimated population, which is about 190 million, 80 million is less than 90 million. How do we verify this without having a scientific investigation?
It is to know that the working population is now in excess of one-third of Nigeria’s population. Over 80 to 90 per cent of this population is either underemployed or not employed at all. Add that to the growing number of dependants, who, before now, were eating about two meals a day. Many of them now have to go with just one meal per day. Do not forget that those who do this ranking have been doing this overtime; so, they are reliable.
-Austin Osakue (Executive Director, Foundation for Good Governance and Social Change)
I am not a statistician; I’ve not undertaken the study but an international organisation that is reputed for doing this kind of work comes out to release such a report and they reject it. Is this the first time the World Poverty Clock would issue a report? The report is not solely for the purpose of Nigeria but it ranks countries across the world. They would also use the report at the World Bank and international aid organisations. But one wonders why the Buhari government always contests all international reports considered unfavourable. They contested the ones by Transparency International, Amnesty International and now this one. It has become a habit for them to do so including rejecting the one by the National Bureau of Statistics which is a Federal Government agency. Why would an international organisation have a vested interested in demonising Nigeria? If these things were false, why would they release such reports? It is a pattern of people who don’t want to face reality and it is becoming a general attitude of this government; escapism, avoiding reality and creating their own. I am no longer surprised since this government loves to escape reality, but reality cannot be changed by escapism. Why would these organisations be lying? What is their vested interest in demonising Nigeria? It is ridiculous for our government to keep acting this way. This is characteristic of President Muhammadu Buhari who came out publicly to say Gen Sani Abacha never stole any money despite all the evidence. Today, he has taken custody of over $350m of the same Abacha loot which he now claims he wants to distribute to poor Nigerians. So, deception and denials have become the hallmark of this government. They only embrace reports that paint them in a rosy manner. Unfortunately, everybody cannot be wrong. This is the same attitude they have adopted in dealing with the Fulani herdsmen crisis
-Akin Osuntokun (Spokesman, Coalition for Nigeria Movement)
For me, it is an indication of years of neglect and indiscretion on the part of leadership.
It is for the leadership to actually take pragmatic steps towards reducing poverty in Nigeria on the one hand and a reflection of the reality based on the indices used in arriving at the conclusion reached; which is to the effect that Nigeria is now a nation with the most people on extreme poverty displacing India.
There is no doubt that today, unemployment is at its peak, and poverty is on the increase. Critical social infrastructure such as roads, electricity, health service delivery, are all in short supply.
With a situation such as this, poverty is the reality. On top of all this is festering insecurity in the land, which has displaced thousands of Nigerians from their homes and made many lose their means of livelihood.
It is no wonder that Nigeria today has become the world’s poverty capital.
The reality on the ground from deep reflection is that government at all levels must make concerted efforts to arrest these unsavoury parameters.
Provision of basic needs of the citizenry should be the main business of leadership. The security situation must also be improved upon; leaders must close ranks and work together in the interest of the people.
The issue of corruption should be tackled; if all these are done, Nigeria’s poverty rate will drastically reduce.
I must also add that the present government is doing its best, but a lot still needs to be done. For now, it’s still too little, given the enormity of the problems.
-Lekan Oketokun (Peace and conflict resolution expert)
Most Nigerians like to live in self-inflicted delusion until a foreigner makes an unbiased observation which jolts us into reality.
The recent report by the World Poverty Clock assessment of Nigeria is a reality which we have lived with for years. Rather than confront the issues both politically and economically, we choose rather to use sweet-smelling fragrance to cover the stench that has pervaded the country over the years.
We do not need to wait for a foreign agency or organisation to issue a report before we know that cancerous cells known as corruption, ineptitude, parochial and provincially ineffective policies, have eaten away our gum and what we have is a rotten tooth in a smelly mouth.
Bad economic policies and insecurity, which is now the order of the day, have rendered millions of people jobless and homeless. Factories have closed down across the country due to unfriendly policies and the hostile economic environment which has forced them to move their operations to neighbouring countries. Those that choose to remain are operating and producing at less than a quarter of installed capacity. They have downsized their workforce and reduced the salary of the lucky few who are still engaged.
People who are into farming are being killed daily in their homes and farmland by marauding herdsmen.
Poor power supply has also made artisans and other self-employed people less productive.
It is not rocket science to figure out why we are where we are today and if no decisive step is taken, one will wake up one day to face the reality that the number we are shouting about today has doubled.
-Mr. Harrison Osenum (A legal practitioner)
I think we are generally facing an economic crisis as a nation, which has increased the level of poverty. Even when you have money, the number of people that are dependent on you will have an impact on whatever you have; this can also lead to poverty. When you consider some economic indices such as: the unemployment rate, the Gross Domestic Product and peanuts paid out as salaries, also take a look at the facilities you have in our schools and the commitment of government to poverty reduction; then you can get the complete picture. How many school pupils are benefiting from the Federal Government’s school feeding programme?
–Idris Miliki (Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution)
Originally published in PUNCH