July 2, 2018

Nigeria’s deepening poverty misery

NIGERIA continues swimming in the pond of damning statistics as each new worldwide rating is released. The latest is that Nigeria, currently with an estimated population of 198 million, has overtaken India (1.3 billion people) as the country with the highest number of poor people in the world.

According to a Brookings Institution report concluded at the end of May this year, Nigeria has over 87 million poor people (compared with India’s 73 million), though Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in 2016 had echoed a Nigerian Bureau of Statistics report which quoted the number of Nigerians living in poverty at well over 110 million. In fact, the report specifies that six Nigerians fall into poverty every minute, which means last year alone, 3,153,600 Nigerians were added to our already overcrowded poor population.

Two major reasons account for Nigeria’s deepening poverty misery. Number one is that available resources are increasingly spread thinner per person. In 2014 for instance, the country’s GDP growth rate was 6.3 per cent with a population hovering around 180 million. But after the recession, our GDP growth rate after the first quarter of 2018 stood at 1.9 per cent compared to our new population figure of nearly 200 million.

Secondly, though the President Muhammadu Buhari regime has focused on massive borrowing and infrastructure upgrades as a strategy to jumpstart the economy out of its recent recession, the amount actually committed to public amenities expansion is like a drop in the ocean and unable to support those struggling to stay afloat of the poverty level.

There is still so much hunger, unemployment, poor power supply and insecurity linked to insurgency, herdsmen’s attacks and criminal banditry. A large number of people who operate in the agricultural sector has been displaced and the law-enforcement agents appear unable to cope.

India, which is more than three times the size of Nigeria by land mass, worked very hard to expand its public facilities and utilities which were in decrepit conditions as recently as the mid-1990s. Buhari’s administration, having launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP (2018 – 2020), must work very hard to meet its main target of taking our economic growth back to levels that can sustain our rapidly-exploding population.

Without decisively addressing our insecurity problems – the killings and displacement of people – the ERGP is bound to fail. Efforts to increase power supply, build new highways while reconstructing damaged old ones and setting up modern standard gauge rail networks, must be pursued with vigour.  We must also rededicate ourselves to meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Plan, SDP, by 2030 to match human development with capital upgrades.

We must inspire fellow African countries, which occupy the lower rungs of the world poverty ladder, to rise and join the rest of the civilised world.