Metro

December 4, 2022

133m in Poverty: Trouble coming as more Nigerians will go poor — Experts

•’How to stem the tide’

By Nnamdi Ojiego

Following reports by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, which revealed that 133 million Nigerians (63 per cent) are multidimensionally poor, experts have called for deliberate actions to stem the tide.

The experts drawn from both the financial and security sectors blamed the frightening poverty level on wrong government policies, inflation, volatile exchange rates and insecurity, warning that if urgent measures were not taken to reverse the trend, many more Nigerians would be plunged into poverty.

Recall that the NBS had, on November 17, released the results of the 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index, MPI, Survey.

Read Also: 133 million Nigerians poor – NBS

The survey was a collaborative effort between the NBS, the National Social Safety-Nets Coordinating Office, NASSCO, the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, OPHI. 

The survey, Sunday Vanguard gathered, sampled over 56,000 households across the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT. It was conducted between November 2021 and February 2022 and provided multidimensional poverty estimates at the senatorial district level.

The highlights of the report according to a statement signed by the Director of Communications and Public Relations Department, S.J Ichedi, for the Statistician-General of the Federation, revealed that 63 per cent of persons living within Nigeria (133 million people) are multidimensionally poor.

“The National MPI is 0.257, indicating that poor people in Nigeria experience just over one-quarter of all possible deprivations.

“65% of the poor (86 million people) live in the North, while 35% (nearly 47 million) live in the South. Poverty levels across States vary significantly, with the incidence of multidimensional poverty ranging from a low of 27% in Ondo to a high of 91% in Sokoto.

“Over half of the population of Nigeria are multidimensionally poor and cook with dung, wood or charcoal, rather than cleaner energy.

“High deprivations are also apparent nationally in sanitation, time to healthcare, food insecurity, and housing.

“In general, the incidence of monetary poverty is lower than the incidence of multidimensional poverty across most states.

“In Nigeria, 40.1% of people are poor according to the 2018/19 national monetary poverty line, and 63% are multidimensionally poor according to the National MPI 2022.

Multidimensional poverty is higher in rural areas, where 72% of people are poor, compared to 42% of people in urban areas.

“The National MPI is reported with a linked Child MPI, which provides additional information on Multidimensional Child Poverty in Nigeria.”

Population growth 

Throwing more light on the reports, the Statistician-General and Chief Executive Officer of the NBS, Adeyemi Adeniran, explained that more Nigerians were becoming poorer because the country’s population was growing faster than the economy. 

Appearing on national television, Adeniran said: “We need to put two things side by side. You look at the economic growth rate and the population growth rate.

“If the population is growing at a higher pace than the growth of the economy, it means that the government will not be able to provide facilities and amenities that will improve the living standard of the citizenry because the resources that the economy is generating are not at pace with the population that we are having. 

Unproductive Youths 

“Again, when we said that the higher the population, we expect that we should have enough people that will be working in the country to generate income and wealth within the country.

“As we all know, the productivity of the youth in the country is not at its peak because of the kind of education system that we run, which does not give vocational skills to our youth to be able to stand, be independent and generate employment for themselves. 

“We churn out graduates every quarter of the year but these graduates are waiting to get employment from the government which is not there for them.

“So we keep on government policy has not been a progressive one that will grow the economy. 

“For example, the issue of capital flight, as some companies are shutting down and leaving the country.

“A friend of mine in Abuja just shut down his business. He employs some people and those people have now lost their jobs because of a government policy.

Increase in production 

“I have always advised the leadership of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to focus on improving domestic production of goods and services.

“We are a consuming nation, we are not producing enough. We depend on imports. Therefore, the Naira policy is for an export-oriented strategy.

“You devalue when you are exporting so that your goods and services can compete in international markets. 

“When you increase production, yes, inflation will rise but there will be convergence after three to five years and inflation will automatically drop because you’re producing enough of the things that you consume.

“So, these are some of the things that made it possible for 133 million people to be poor,” Nweze stated.

He however appealed to the government to reduce interest rates to enable companies to borrow and expand their factories and create more employment for people to earn income and contribute to the economic development of the country.

The lecturer added that more people would go into poverty if there were no intentional efforts by the government to create enabling environment for businesses to function, improve production and employ more people.

“If nothing urgent is done, crime will increase. The solution is to begin to improve your production. What can you do to improve domestic production? It will affect every other thing that you do. There are no two ways about it.”

Incompetent management 

Similarly, the Vice Chairman of Highcap Securities, Mr. David Adonri, linked the high poverty rate in Nigeria to galloping inflation, high unemployment rate, misallocation of forex resources, damaging monetary policies and population explosion, among others.

According to him, since President Muhammadu Buhari took over the office in 2015, Nigeria’s macroeconomic condition has steadily deteriorated due to his incompetent management of the socioeconomy. 

Imported inflation

“Within the past seven years, the economy has experienced two Stagflations that have sent many citizens into poverty.

“Principally behind the high inflation is imported inflation due to the economy’s import dependence and crippling of the agricultural economy due to pervasive rural insecurity.

“Misallocation of forex resources by CBN and damaging monetary policies have also contributed immensely to escalating inflation. 

“Other factors include the economic burden posed by population explosion and the large reserve army of unskilled labour.

“The import-dependent structure of the economy for finished capital and consumer goods and export of raw commodities are also remotely responsible for high inflation and unemployment”, Adonri stated.

Socio-economic foundation 

He, however, expressed hope that poverty could be eliminated in Nigeria only if “the government can control the growth of the population, restore firm order in the rural economy, revamp Science, Technical, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and develop the country’s engineering infrastructure.” 

According to him, if the stated measures were put in place, “the socioeconomic foundation would be created for poverty elimination. Of course, sound monetary policies and fiscal discipline will contribute immensely to building an economy that lasts.”

Badly managed economy

Also reacting was the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, in the 2023 general elections, Mr. Peter Obi. According to him, the NBS’s report showed “how badly Nigeria is doing in terms of investing in the wellbeing of the people”.

Obi’s position was contained in a series of tweets on his verified Twitter handle, on Thursday.

He noted that multidimensional poverty was widespread across the country, stressing that the report provided some sobering facts. 

Mirror of failure

“Multidimensional Poverty Index is the best mirror of the failure of governance in the country. In spite of earning trillions in oil revenue, in spite of borrowing trillion Naira for infrastructure development, almost half of Nigerians are poor and close to two-thirds of Nigerians do not have access to basic sanitation, access to basic education, lack basic nutrition and do not visit hospitals,” Obi lamented.

The LP standard bearer described the situation as a “terrible disgrace and disservice to a country with our tremendous natural and human resources.”

He said: “First, the rural part of Nigeria is trapped in abject power; second, we are leaving our children miserable and uneducated.

“27 per cent of school-age children are out of school and poor, 29 per cent of all school-aged children are not attending school, and 94 per cent of out of school children are very poor.

Terrible lack

“What future does Nigeria have without educated and happy children? What violent, nasty, and poor future are we building with such a terrible lack of investment in our children?”

Obi, who is also an economist, stated that the political economy of the report should be made clear to every Nigerian voter because, “It means that the state is working for the few, and not for all the citizens of the country. It means that the future is terrible for every Nigerian- young or old, rich or poor.  

“The trending of multidimensional poverty if not arrested immediately will damage state capacity and effectiveness and therefore disarray economic and social policies that will reverse the trend in the future.”

Generalized poverty

The LP candidate further painted a gloomy picture of the report saying, “If we combine atrocious fiscal decline with grand and pervasive corruption and the level of incompetence of public leadership to such generalized poverty, we will end up a completely collapsed state, thrown back to a state of nature.

“The failure of government to invest in basic social and human infrastructure and the lack of commitment to the wellbeing of ordinary Nigerians, especially those in the rural communities is heart-breaking.”

He noted that unless the situation is arrested, “With our population estimated to reach 400 million in the next 28 years, Nigeria would become a security risk to entire Sub-Saharan Africa.”

The presidential hopeful said that LP offers a different approach to development that emphasizes the well-being of the people and ensures that policies and resources are targeted at materially improving the well-being of everyone, not just political leaders and their cronies.

Meanwhile, a security expert, Mr. Alfred Ononugbo, linked the worsening security challenges in the country to the growing poverty rate.

According to him, people in their search for desperate survival engage in lawless behaviours and criminal activities.

He said: “With the dwindling economy and poor resources, people are exposed to opportunistic survivals and many times, these opportunistic survivals have no guidelines.

“They don’t have too many choices, so in desperation, a lot of people make choices and decisions that breach the rules of possession.

“What that does is that when there’s a little and there are too many people, those who have an idea or have access to the little, those within the proximity of that opportunity will want to share it among themselves or grab it for themselves.

“The sharing principle doesn’t often work because it might not reach everybody enough to satisfy them. So few people will like to take enough to satisfy themselves at the expense and detriment of the rest. 

“So that’s where the lawless culture that grows and breeds crime comes in.

“People are forced in their search for desperate survival to engage in activities that become threats to the safety of both public properties and lives and that’s the connection between the growing poverty statistics in Nigeria and also the trend in crime escalations. 

“People do not see the opportunity of equitable distribution of wealth, therefore, they make choices that put others at risk and put the general public interest at risk. They want to have enough to survive and that has remained one of our biggest concerns.”

Continuing, Ononugbo maintained that solving the poverty problem would lead to a safer society. “When people have things to do, are engaged in activities that generate revenues for them, and they can meet their family and personal obligations, and attend to their necessities they will have less disposition to do things that would bring them humiliation.

“Again, when there is equitable distribution of resources and democratic dividends, the benefit is that a lot of people will therefore have access to more means of survival and basic necessities and that discourages people from getting involved in lawless activities that expose them to hazards of crime. 

“So if we have a stable economy, there will be employment and people will be busy with work, and they will have resources to manage their needs and have a comfort of a place to sleep, there will be other basic amenities like electricity, good road, good medical facilities and these are the incentives that stabilize any society. 

“Therefore, we need a stable society, and a stable economy to grow opportunities for employment to take people out of idleness and keep them from wrong associations and interactions that encourage lawless behaviours and criminal activities,” the criminal intelligence specialist stressed.