By Muhammad Ajah
Before delving into the categories of poverty in such a naturally well-endowed nation, Nigeria – a pride that should have intoxicated Nigerians to render self sacrifices to salvage their country – I may pose this questionable question, “Is there a poor man in Nigeria?”
An unwell thought out answer would create confusion in the Nigerian context. This is because it is as much harder for a Nigerian to accept that he is rich than to accept that he is poor. Many rich Nigerians do not believe that they are rich. One of the famous Nigerian leaders once claimed that all he knew about himself was that he was comfortable, meaning that he does not accept being fixed into the two edges of wealth and penury.
Another past Nigerian leader severally, even while abroad, asserted that Nigerians are the happiest people on the mother earth. If such caricature statement is critically analyzed, it means that Nigerians – nay the greatest number of them – are happy. And judging from a philosophical aspect of happiness, it is a relaxed mind that attracts such abstraction. Where does happiness lie amongst Nigerians? This is another questionable question.
It is he who is contented that is he who is happy. How many Nigerians are truly contented – not pretentiously contented? Every Nigerian is a potential wealth expectant because there is wealth everywhere within the shores of the country. It is only when the possibilities are closed that their hope falls just as the grape is declared sour when it is beyond reach.
However, three levels of poverty are adduced from Nigerians. One, there are those who are poor but do not believe that they are so. For this group, they struggle – sometimes by all means possible – to find ways of keeping their bodies and souls together. They are not limited to:
– those begging on the streets
– those unable to feed thrice a day with good meals
– those unable to cater for their own children in terms of education, health and shelter
– those languishing in the prisons for trivial offences
Two, they are those who are not poor but they believe that they are equal to the poor. This group is made up of the insatiable minds who will refuse to pay a labourer his paltry reward upon the abundance they swim in. They compete to be the greatest in wealth amassment which arithmetically translates to impoverishing more Nigerians. One of such may be gathering the fortunes of a quarter of the entire population of Nigeria. They are not limited to:
– some politicians, including political prostitutes and sycophants
– some businessmen and women
– hardened criminals involving in bank robbery, pen robbery, 419, arms smuggling, kidnapping and bunkering
And three, there are those who are neither rich nor poor and they believe in what they are. This category constitutes an insignificant number of the Nigerian population.
Poverty is really a big challenge in Nigeria because there can be no hiding the fact that a hungry man is an angry man. The masses and the youth, statistics have shown, are poor. Poverty is the cause of many of our problems. It has led many Nigerians to attach no value and regard to life itself.
According to the former Senior Special Adviser (SSA) to a former President on Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Magnus Kpakol, in a paper titled, “NAPEP Programmes As Enabler For Rapid Economic Development In the South-South Region”, presented at the South-South Economic Summit in Calabar, the Cross River State Capital, 74 million Nigerians are poor. The figure, which was so as at December 2008, dropped by one million from 75 million in 2007. He said the population of the nation’s poor people was 80 million in 1999, i.e., when Nigeria returned to democracy.
According to him, the poverty rate was higher in the northern part of the country. His analysis showed the following percentage of the poor in all the six geopolitical zones of the country.
North West – 72.2% of its population
North East – 71.2% ‘’ ‘’
North Central – 67% ‘’ ‘’
South East – 26.7% ‘’ ‘’
South-South – 35.1% ‘’ ‘’
South West – 43.1% ‘’ ‘’
With the fact so nakedly stated, it means that a lot has to be done by governments at all levels to improve on the life of the people and enrich more of the people. The level of development of a people is measured by the number of the citizens who are well-off. Nigerians have not erred in any way not be well-off in the sea of wealth and bounties.
Jobs should therefore be created to engage the teeming population. It is only when this is done that majority will earn their livelihood from legitimate sources while corruption and anti-development factors would be reduced to barest minimum, if not completely arrested.
Daily Trust of Thursday, January 27, 2011 reported Nigeria’s high poverty level as gathered by governmental and non-governmental organizations in Nigeria. The report quoted that over 12 million youths as poor because they have no means of livelihood. It is dangerous to development.
The Punch of February 14, 2012 reported the National Bureau of Statistics to have said that 112.519 million Nigerians live in relative poverty conditions. This figure which was contained in the 2010 poverty profile report of the agency represented 69 per cent of the country’s total population.
Fears hovered that the figure might increase to 71.5 per cent in 2011as the 2010 figure showed data collected from 20 million households having an average of between four to six family members.
According to the report, the North-West and North-East recorded the highest poverty rates in the country in 2010with 77.7 per cent and 76.3 per cent respectively. The South-West geo-political zone recorded the lowest at 59.1 per cent. Among the 36 states of the federation, the report stated that Sokoto had the highest poverty rate (86.4 per cent), while Niger had the lowest at (43.6, per cent). As at 2004, Jigawa State had the highest poverty rate (95 per cent), while Anambra, with a poverty rate of 22 per cent, was the least poverty-stricken state.
In 2004, Nigeria’s relative poverty measurement stood at 54.4 per cent but increased to 69 per cent or 112.518 million Nigerians in 2010. Therefore, using the absolute poverty measure, 54.7 per cent of Nigerians were living in poverty in 2004 but this increased to 60.9 per cent or 99.284 million Nigerians in 2010.
Also, Leadership Newspaper of 3rdMay, 2012 reported a federal minister of youth development, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, as declaring about 67million young Nigerians to be jobless, a figure out of which 80 per cent don’t possess a university degree. Bolaji, who addressed hundreds of youths at TY Danjuma Foundation’s ‘Career Day 2012: Developing capacity of youths to build successful careers and businesses’ in Benin City, Edo State capital attributed the high unemployment rate to years of failure at different levels, but explained that “lack of job is a consequence of lack of skills”.
At the Annual Microfinance Conference and Entrepreneurship Awards held in January 2011 in Abuja, the Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, stated that 70 percent (105 million out of which were over 12 million unemployed youths, mostly educated and potentially productive) of Nigerians were living below the poverty line, up from 54 percent a year or two ago. Sanusi said such high incidence of poverty threatened national economic growth and development.
When will poverty be reduced to the barest amidst the vast natural wealth for Nigerians? Programmes upon programmes are mapped out to tackle this colossal setback to peace, unity and development of Nigeria. When will the correct programme take effect?
Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org