The matter is very serious. It is something that every patriotic Nigerian should worry about. How come that the giant of Africa, the most populous black nation in the world, a country endowed with abundant human and natural resources, has taken a back seat in the world poverty index?
In a report just published by Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington DC, the United States of America, Nigeria is now the new headquarters of global poverty as it has the highest number of poor persons in the world, with six persons becoming poor in the country every minute, thus overtaking India.
According to the Bookings Institution report: “At the end of May 2018, our trajectories suggest that Nigeria has 87 million people in extreme poverty compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall”.
In other words, with 87 million people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria, about 45 per cent of the country’s estimated 190 million population are extremely poor. This is too bad.
When Bill Gates, the second richest man in the world, early this year, delivered a similar verdict, Nigerian authorities simply waved it away with the back of the hand. According to Bill Gates, “the present economic templates being used by the Muhammadu Buhari government do not have the ability to address the unique needs of Nigerians at present “, adding that “Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth “.
It may be easy for the Nigerian authorities to dismiss these reports as jaundiced or biased, and as not reflecting the actual situation of things in the country, (some may even read political motives behind it), but the fact remains that things are not so rosy in Nigeria today, and that millions of people in the country are suffering and are finding it difficult to eke out a living.
Take for instance, four years ago, our Naira was exchanging at N19 per $1, but today the exchange rate is N305 per $1. Four years ago, a bag of rice was selling for N7,500, today it is selling for N26,000. Four years ago, a litre of petrol was N97, today it is N145; etc.
Upon all these, the federal government has not added one kobo in the salaries of civil servants. Similarly, while thousands of workers both in the public and private sectors have lost their jobs, those working are not regularly being paid.
At the same time, millions of other Nigerians have remained unemployed, and every year thousands of youths graduate from universities and other institutions of higher learning, but there are no jobs waiting for them as they will continue to roam the streets in search of nonexistent jobs.
Worse still is the herdsmen attacks which have destroyed several farmlands and displaced millions of people from their ancestral homes in states like Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa, Kogi, while thousands of them are now crammed into the hurriedly put together IDPs camps that lack many facilities. This is not talk of millions of other people in IDPs camps in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, as a result of Boko Haram activities.
Poverty level is increasing in Nigeria because the federal government is yet to seriously address the issue. The matter is not helped by lack of articulated economic blue print by the administration and the Executive-Legislative feud where the federal budget could stay up to eight months in the parliament without being passed into law.
Take for instance, the government has not mapped out any programme to tackle the growing unemployment problem in the country. The N-Power programme that gives job to unemployed graduates is a mere palliative, since it only takes care of a handful of participants, and there is no guarantee that the people will continue with the job after two years. Besides, it is only the first batch of 250,000 participants that have been taken after three years of the present administration, while millions of other youths are still waiting in the wings.
The Bookings Institution report therefore, should serve as a wake up call for the government to wake up from slumber and begin to address the issue of poverty in the country. The reality is that millions of Nigerians actually live in extreme poverty. There is no politics about it. There is no point trying to defend the indefensible. The people who wrote the report are not Nigerians and may not be interested in the politics of Nigeria.