By Adeparua Damilola
POVERTY is not just a state of being poor and people do not just become poor as some factors are responsible for the enhancement of poverty. In the society, observation enables one to realise that there are few wealthy individuals with the majority of the people being poor.
These wealthy individuals have influence and power which they pass down from one generation to the other and they are ruling over the poor majority who also bequeath poverty to their generations. Now, with such a vicious cycle, how can we possibly curb poverty?
Poverty is defined as a state or condition in which a person or community lacks the financial resources and essentials for a minimum standard of living. Poverty means that the income level from employment is so low that basic human needs cannot be met. The United Nations describes it as a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.
The Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics said in 2020 that 40 per cent or 83 million Nigerians live in poverty. Although the country’s poverty profile for 2021 has not yet been released, it is estimated that the number of poor people will increase to 90 million, or 45 per cent of the population.
Laziness was blamed as the major cause of poverty in the olden days, but today with the realisation that education can enable people to eradicate poverty, the question that arises is: What is the reward for giving way to education rather than relying on hard work on the farm for survival?
Poor access to education is one of the major causes of poverty in Nigeria. Research shows that one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria. Although primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school.
Does it need to be mentioned that the so-called free primary education is a mere propaganda? Apart from that fact, how many of the schools are well equipped for learning? Many of the primary school pupils are still sitting on the bare floor in their classes?
In some primary schools, parents are still the ones providing chairs and tables for their children, with many children out there still working to pay for their school fees. Majority of the leaders have their children enrolled in private schools which are well equipped for learning with the public funds which are meant to equip public schools.
While the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, recommends that between 16 and 25 per cent of the budgets of developing nations like Nigeria be devoted to education, federal allocations to education in Nigeria rarely go beyond six per cent, a far cry from the internationally recommended standard.
In most of the tertiary institutions in the country, students sit on the floor while those who cannot, stand for hours to receive their lectures. What about incessant strikes? Programmes which ought to last for four years get extended to five or six years due to incessant strikes that have roots in the country’s governing system.
While leaders send their children to schools abroad, children of the masses remain impoverished. Many of our students only graduate to realise that even the employers out there cannot employ them due to their age and this leads to higher rate of unemployment. Statistics shows that currently, 33.3 per cent or 23.2 million of the about 70 million people who should be working in Nigeria are out of work.
The World Health Organisation, WHO, estimates that 77 per cent of the health care spent in Nigeria is out-of-pocket expenses. This means that most Nigerians do not have health insurance of any kind and the poorest have extremely limited access to quality health care.
Does it then need to be mentioned that healthcare in Nigeria is underfunded and the health workers underpaid? Health workers go on strike intermittently and also treat patients with a non-challant attitude because their salaries, which should be a source of encouragement to them, are denied them and as a result, they are poor and many lives are lost.
Research shows that over 90 per cent of deaths recorded in Nigerian hospitals are due to poor attitude of health workers. As posited by a source, maternal mortality in the country is among the worst in the world, as the country records a whopping 19 per cent of global maternal deaths. Additionally, the infant mortality rate is far too high at 19 deaths per 1,000 births.
The mortality rate of children under five is 128 per 1,000 while life expectancy is at 54.4, which is incredibly low. Report shows that between 2009 and 2019, a total of N576.36 billion was allocated as capital expenditure for the health sector. From this sum, N408.79 billion was released, but only N318.65 billion was spent. The question is: how was the remaining sum of money spent?
Although about 70 per cent of Nigerians are reported to have access to basic water services, more than half of these water sources are contaminated and only nine litres of water on average is available to Nigerians daily. UNICEF also discovered that poor access to improved water and sanitation in Nigeria remains a major contributing factor to high morbidity and mortality rates among children under five.
Water being one of the major necessities of life is something that should in no way be denied the people but unfortunately, the reverse is the case as people who can afford clean water spend a fortune on it while those who cannot, suffer for the aftermath which is cholera or other life threatening illnesses or diseases.
What about the situation in the Niger delta? Water which serves as a means of survival for the people, has been polluted by oil exploration, yet the government has no solution to the situation. How many lives have been lost because of that?
Overall, corruption is the root of all the causes. According to Wikipedia, in 2018, Nigeria ranked 144th in the 180 countries listed in Transparency International’s Corruption Index (with Somalia, at 180th, being the most corrupt, and Denmark the least).
Government officials reallocate allocations meant for public finances in order to embezzle public funds. What about insecurity, which has rendered countless lives homeless and wretched?
These and many more are responsible for the increased rate of poverty in Nigeria. How can the people keep quiet when they are passing through such horrible situations and how can government officials understand their plights when they are not in the people’s shoes? Overall, how can poverty be minimised if these situations persist?