Opinion: What are we really doing to check Nigeria’s poverty rate?

Poverty

The descent of Nigeria’s economy into poverty has been a recurrent matter of regular discussions and debates, particularly in the last three years. Expectedly so, since the regress has taken effective toll on all of the country’s spheres and become a matter of serious concern for its citizens and friends, locally and internationally.

The economic situation of any nation should understandably interest her citizens, and where decline is the case, it should worry the citizenry because a viable economy is essential for any government to do its roles, such as making provisions provision of employment, delivering social and infrastructural amenities.

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Nigeria has one of the world’s highest economic growth rates, averaging 7.4% according to the Nigeria economic report released in July 2014 by the World Bank. Poverty still remains significant at 33.1% in Africa’s biggest economy. For a country with massive wealth and a huge population to support commerce, a well-developed economy, and plenty of natural resources such as oil, the level of poverty remains unacceptable. However, poverty may have been overestimated due to the lack of information on the extremely huge informal sector of the economy, estimated at around 60% more, of the current GDP figures.

With oil being the mainstay, the recent dwindling oil wealth due to the global oil price reduction meant its oil-dependent GDP was affected too. The country’s economy was hit hard by the recent recession in the country. And where a nation’s economy deteriorates, the poverty levels increases, crime, violence, unrest, insurgency and other sad indicia take the stage and breed weak governance, ill health, hunger, diseases and even debt burden. Such evidences as deprivation, neediness, hardship, hand-to-mouth existence, pauperism,straitened circumstances, and bankruptcy have since laced Nigeria.

Daily reports of March, 2018, as released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Nigeria needs urgent and coherent policies because Nigerians were getting poorer.

Earlier in 2017, the World Bank says unemployment and poverty rates increased in Nigeria despite supposed exit from recession. The apex global financial institution made these remarks in a report made available to newsmen as at April, 2018.

According to the report titled, “Nigeria Bi-annual Economic Update: Fragile Recovery,” policymakers at the federal and the state levels need to identify interventions that are best suited to realise development potential of sub-national regions and integrate domestic markets.“ The rates of unemployment and underemployment increased in 2017 and poverty is estimated to have increased slightly. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in 2018 is expected to hover just over 2 per cent, largely oil sector-driven.

In his article entitled “Nigeria Is Set To Become The Poverty Capital Of The World”, Olanrewaju Eweniyi, opined that at least 50% of of the world – over three billion people – live on less than $2.50 (N900) a day. And closer to home, Nigeria has one of the world’s highest economic growth rates, averaging 7.4% (according to the Nigeria economic report released in July 2014 by the World Bank) but over 80 million Nigerians – 42.4% of the population – currently live below the poverty line, according to the UN.

Eweniyi believes it can get worse, relying on the report by the World Poverty Clock, that Nigeria’s rising overpopulation will pose a problem now, rather than in 2030 or 2050. By February 2018, Nigeria will overtake India as the country with the most people in extreme poverty. For context, India has 5 times the population of Nigeria. According to World Bank standards, living in extreme poverty is living on less than $1.90 (N680) per day. People living in extreme poverty are unable to meet even the barest minimal needs for survival.

In 2015, the UN set up the Sustainable Development Goals, and the first of them is to “eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere by 2030”. However to achieve this globally, 90 people need to leave poverty every minute to eradicate poverty totally by 2030; and to achieve this in Africa, 57 people have to leave every minute; and in Nigeria, 12 people per minute.

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As you can imagine, this is not the case. In fact the opposite is the case. On the average, 9 people are entering extreme poverty every minute, and Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo are both responsible for the 9. And individually, Nigeria has about 7 people going into poverty every minute. This is due to many reasons, first of all, population. Nigeria’s population is growing faster than its economy. Between 1990 and 2013, Nigeria’s population increased by 81 percent. And by 2050, according to the UN, Nigeria will be third most populous country in the world. Only behind India and China.

And while poverty is billed to wildly increase in 2018, the IMF projects Nigeria’s GDP to rise by only 0.8 percent in 2018, after the 2016 recession slowed down the economy. Nigeria’s 2018 record budget (which President Buhari stood for 69 minutes to present, this was news for some reason) is running on a deficit, and will be funded by much borrowing with government debts already on the rise.

This is a moment for drastic decision on the part of the governing authority of the country. It is a time for brilliant economic policies potent and practicable enough to resuscitate the downward slope of Nigeria’s economy. It’s a wrong time to play politics with obvious decline in the fortunes of a nation, for a decent living condition of the citizenry which can only be guaranteed by good economy is at stake here.

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