Viewpoint

June 8, 2023

Poverty in Nigeria: The pains, deprivation and remedies

Cartoon: Tears for (Mis)Education

By ELVIS EROMOSELE

Poverty is a real concern in Nigeria. It permeates the lives of individuals and communities, leaving many trapped in a cycle of deprivation. Poverty casts its dark shadow over countless lives, and starving millions of opportunities for a better future.

Nigeria serves as a poignant case study, a country grappling with the complexities of poverty despite its vast resources. To uncover the true face of poverty in Nigeria is to inspire collective action and foster a society where every Nigerian can thrive.

Poverty is more than just a lack of income. It extends far beyond the absence of financial resources. It encompasses a wide range of dimensions. Beyond the World Bank’s international poverty line of $1.90 per day, it covers a multidimensional range of deprivations, including limited access to education, healthcare, clean water, adequate housing, and decent employment opportunities.

In Nigeria, poverty manifests itself in overcrowded slums, dilapidated infrastructure, high illiteracy rates, widespread malnutrition, and a lack of access to quality healthcare. Understanding these aspects is crucial in comprehending the magnitude of the challenges faced by the impoverished.

Statistics paint a disheartening picture of poverty in Nigeria. The Multidimensional Poverty Index, MPI, survey 2022 indicates that a significant number of individuals in Nigeria face multidimensional poverty. Specifically, 63 per cent, which accounts for 133 million people, fall into this category. The distribution of poverty reveals that 65 per cent, approximately 86 million people, reside in the North, while the remaining 35 per cent, nearly 47 million people, live in the South. Notably, poverty levels differ substantially among states, ranging from a low of 27 per cent in Ondo to a high of 91 per cent in Sokoto.

The survey also highlights distressing living conditions in Nigeria. More than half of the population, suffering from multidimensional poverty, rely on dung, wood, or charcoal for cooking instead of clean energy sources. Additionally, the nation faces significant challenges concerning sanitation, timely access to healthcare, food insecurity, and housing. The overall scenario is far from ideal.

This is the situation: a significant percentage of the population lives below the poverty line and struggles to meet their basic needs. The rural-urban divide further exacerbates the situation, with rural areas suffering disproportionately from limited infrastructure, insufficient social services, and reduced economic opportunities. Women, children, and vulnerable groups face heightened vulnerability and bear the brunt of poverty’s impact, perpetuating a cycle that stifles progress and social mobility.

To stem the tide of poverty and limit its reach it must be tackled, in the exact same way it is threatening to strangle the nation, multidimensionally.

The reality is that effective policy reforms are crucial to combat poverty. Governments must prioritise poverty alleviation and formulate strategies that address the root causes of poverty, such as corruption, unequal distribution of resources, and lack of inclusive governance.

Strengthening social safety nets, implementing targeted programmes, and enacting transparent policies can create an enabling environment for poverty reduction.

While the National Cash Transfer Office, NCTO, through the Household Uplifting Programme claims to provide support for poor and vulnerable citizens through targeted cash transfers, capacity building, coaching and mentoring and livelihood support, its operations leave much to be desired. It is shrouded in mystery, opaque and openly nepotic. No one, outside the government, knows where it gets its working database of poor Nigerians or anyone on it.

Secondly, education is a powerful tool for breaking the cycle of poverty. Investing in accessible and quality education for all Nigerians, particularly in marginalized communities, is essential. Providing vocational training and skills development programmes that align with market demands can enhance employability and empower individuals to secure better economic opportunities. Education is an investment.

Now, viewing education as an investment is crucial for governments to recognise its far-reaching benefits. By allocating adequate resources, developing quality educational systems, and prioritising educational reform, governments can unlock the transformative power of education. The dividends of this investment include economic growth, poverty reduction, social cohesion, improved health, and sustainable development. By embracing education as an investment, governments lay the foundation for a brighter future, where individuals can reach their full potential, and the nation can prosper.

In addition, enhancing infrastructure in marginalised areas is pivotal for poverty reduction. This includes improving road networks, access to clean water, electricity, and healthcare facilities. Investments in rural and urban infrastructure will promote economic growth, create jobs, and improve living conditions, fostering inclusive development.

Also, everyone talks of Nigeria’s huge population but ignore its humongous landmass. Indeed, Nigeria’s vast agricultural potential can be harnessed to lift communities out of poverty. Strengthening the agricultural sector through improved access to credit, modern farming techniques, and market linkages can enhance productivity and create sustainable livelihoods for rural populations. Of course, we cannot ignore the security issues that are today keeping many from going to the farms. Bandits and other non-state armed groups must be dislodged from our forests and farmlands.

Another step to poverty eradication is women’s empowerment. Initiatives that promote gender equality, and enhance women’s access to education, healthcare, financial services, and economic opportunities can break down barriers and create a more inclusive and equitable society. Women are essential ingredients in the quest for poverty eradication. One empowered woman can uplift the family, boost the community and strengthen the nation.

Let’s cycle back to our original proposition. Poverty in Nigeria is a complex challenge that demands comprehensive solutions. The new administration must appreciate the fact that it is only by understanding the various dimensions of poverty and assessing the state of the poor, that it can chart practical strategies for change. Tackling poverty requires sustained efforts and a multifaceted approach encompassing policy reforms, investment in education, infrastructure development, gender equality and women empowerment support for agriculture and rural development.

Nigeria must work to build a more prosperous and equitable society, where poverty becomes an issue of the past. It is only through collective action, sustained commitment and dedicated investment that Nigeria can break free from the clutches of poverty and create a more equitable and prosperous future for all its citizens. This is the only way that we can transform the lives of millions of Nigerians and create a future that leaves no one behind.

Eromosele, a public relations professional and public affairs analyst, wrote from Lagos.