President Muhammadu Buhari had, in his Democracy Day Speech, boasted that his administration had lifted 10.5 million Nigerians out of poverty, while the recent World Bank report indicates that the President appears to be day dreaming.

According to President Buhari, “my administration has lifted at least 10.5 million people out of poverty in the last two years”, claiming further that the government would pull 100 million of its current population out of poverty in 10 years.“In the last two years, we lifted 10.5 million people out of poverty – farmers, small-scale traders, artisans, market women and the like,”

President Buhari claimed, even when the National Bureau of Statitics had published figures showing that poverty rate in Nigeria has risen to an astronimical level of 40.1 %, or that four out of ten Nigerians, or 82.9 million people in the country were classified as poor.

In the same vein, according to the World Bank report, Nigeria’s soaring inflation and food prices have pushed seven million more people into poverty in 2021. It explained that with “inflation rising around the world as the global economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, soaring food prices are having dramatic consequences in countries like Nigeria”.

The World Bank further reported that the number of people living in poverty in Nigeria was among the highest in the world due to the double economic effects of low global oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, with the consequent effect that food prices have increased more than 22 percent since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

We cannot agree less with this World Bank report. Today, there is hunger everywhere in the country, due to scarcity of various food items. Go to any market in Nigeria, you will hardly see anything to buy, even as prices of the available ones have skyrocketed to the rooftops. Many people are finding it very difficult to have something to put into their stomachs.

Nigerians are currently sitting on the keg of gunpowder, which could explode at any time. Many people are suffering, dying of hunger and starvation. Things are getting worse by the day, but the government appears to be oblivious of what is happening, or is unwilling to admit the situation on the ground.

That was why President Buhari had come out to claim that his government had lifted 10.5 million Nigerians out of poverty, rather than acknowledge that his administration had plunged more millions of Nigerians into poverty, which might escalate in the years ahead, if urgent measures are not taken to avert the situation.

While we may go with the World Bank’s assertion that the scarcity of food items in Nigeria, together with their accompanying high prices, was as a result of “low global oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic”, we however observe that the Fulani herdsmen and bandits attacks, who kidnap, kill and destroy many farmlands and crops and prevent farmers from going to their farms, as well as the government not showing sufficient interest in agriculture, have in no small way contributed to poverty in Nigeria.

When farmers have deserted their farmlands due to herdsmen and bandits attacks, who would cultivate food for the people to eat? It is either that the government moves swiftly against these herdsmen and bandits that are attacking, kidnapping and killing farmers, in the same way as they moved against Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho and get rid of these undesirable elements, or that Nigerians will be facing severe famine in the years ahead, which could even lead to people rising against the government.

At the same time, the three tiers of government in the country – federal, state, and local governments, should stop paying lip service to agriculture, but embrace it with all seriousness it deserves. With the population of Nigeria bursting almost to the extreme, something urgent must be done to avert the danger of what might happen when population outstrips food production, something Adam Smith had feared many years ago.

Nigeria should no longer depend sorely on oil as her main source of revenue earning. The country is blessed with many other resources, which could be easily tapped to make money, using the overflowing human resources available in the country.

But the government will leave all these resources to be wasting, while the people starve in the ocean of plenty. At the end of every month, our state governments will carry their begging plates and go to Abuja to wait for their ration of federal revenue, without which they would not be able to execute even their minutest project, including paying salaries to their workers.

Dr. Dons Eze, KSJI

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