NIGERIA is one of the world’s poorest countries. One`fifth of Africa’s population is in Nigeria; two thirds of Nigerians, over 80 million people, live on less than $1 per day. One in five Nigerian children dies before its fifth birthday.

A 2005 study noted the intensity of the poverty in Nigeria thus, “80 to 90 million Nigerians live in poverty; only India and China have more poor people.” India and China each has a population over 1 billion to Nigeria’s 140 million.

Nigerian governments initiate half-baked programmes to fight poverty. These programmes rather enhance poverty. Some examples are the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), which invested billions of Naira in providing commercial motor-cycles which people buy and pay for from their earnings.

The programme created a new mass of poor people, who unable to access other opportunities tied their future to commercial motor-cycle operations.

Those who survive the hazards from accidents now face the new policies of states that are banning commercial motor-cycles riders mostly for their involvement in criminal activities.

NAPEP succeeded largely in sustaining a mass of unskilled adults, who would return to more poverty with these bans, and whose future is always at risk, because better transportation systems would eliminate their “trade.”

Worse examples of government’s duplicity on fighting poverty exist. Execution of projects that would ensure more electricity supply, water, roads and more security, to enable more investments in industrial and commercial activities are ignored. Our governments have reduced poverty eradication to boring speeches at workshops and seminars that make no meaningful impact on poverty reduction.

Similarly, government’s commitment to spending all funds from debt relief on poverty reduction has no known effect on millions, who would never have a decent meal, and cannot plan for any future for their children.

“Over the period 1980 – 1996, the proportion of poor peoples rose from 28.1 per cent in 1980 to 65.6 per cent  in 1996. This translated to 17.7 million poor people in 1980 and 67.1 million people in 1996.  With government’s on-going reform programmes and poverty reduction strategies, the proportion of poor people is still very high — about 66 per cent of the population which translates to about 90 million poor people. By 2015, it is expected that the economic reform programmes will begin to bear fruits and the population of poor people will reduce to about 40 million people,”African Foundation for Population and Development, noted in a paper.

Poverty deep, pervasive, is on the increase with the combined factors of poor health care systems, corruption and uncaring government is fueling it.

Statistics on the impact of poverty in Nigeria are largely deceptive. They tend to take for granted that acclaimed government programmes to minimise poverty work.

The dangers that poverty poses in Nigeria are already evident. Among the consequences of poverty are high crime rates, communal clashes, unstable political institutions, and a country that remains uncompetitive.

Nigeria is stuck in poverty. Her leaders are too occupied, lifting themselves out of personal poverty to notice.


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