REFLECTIONS ON INCREASING POVERTY IN NIGERIA

It has never been easy for millions of Nigerians these years as they wallow in poverty, which is pervading many people in the country. Year in year out millions of Nigerians fall into poverty, while the quality of life of several others continue to diminish..

Unemployment is rife, as millions of youths roam the streets in search of nonexistent jobs, with the resultant outcome of daily rise in criminality such as armed robbery, kidnapping, banditry, prostitution, political thuggery, religious fanaticism, oil bunkering, 419, yahoo yahoo, etc.

In the same vein, many Nigerian workers are not paid salaries and allowances on regular basis, while pensioners are equally owed pensions and gratuities running into several months, if not years.

Terrorism and insecurity resulting from Boko Haram activities and Fulani herdsmen attacks have taken over many areas in the country, rendering millions of people homeless, their houses burnt and farmlands destroyed. Majority of these people now take refuge in several Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps scattered in different parts of the country.

Corruption has become endemic, not only among those who are amassed at the base of the ladder, but even more at the highest level of government, in an administration that prides itself to have the fight against corruption as its number one priority. That was why former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and former Head of Federal Civil Service, etc., fell by the way side.

As a result of all these abnormalities, a good number of Nigerians now go without food, while several others do not have anything to cover their nakedness, nor roof over their head. These are the basic necessities of life.

In June 2018, the Geneva based World Poverty Clock which monitors global poverty, reported that Nigeria has overtaken India as the poverty capital of the world, with 87 million Nigerians in extreme poverty and living below the poverty line of less than $1.90 a day.

In February 2019, the figure of these extremely poor Nigerians jumped up to 91.16 million, while in June 2019, the number further rose to 91,885,874, which is an increase of almost five million people over the June 2018 figure!

With an estimated Nigerian population of 200 million, the implication is that these 91,885,874 extremely poor Nigerians constitute almost half of Nigerians living below the poverty level recommended by the United Nations. This is alarming.

In the meantime, President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that his government would no longer inflict more hardships on the people. Receiving the leadership of Trade Union Congress (TUC) of Nigeria that recently visited him in Abuja, the President said the administration would rather seek for ways to ameliorate their suffering.

He promised that the federal government would implement the controversial N30,000 new national minimum wage that has been dragging on for the past two years. Everybody was happy.

But President Buhari had hardly done with his speech when the federal government announced increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT), from 5% to 7.5%, even before the government has started implementing the new minimum wage. The aim, according to the administration, was to enable the government rake in more money, without considering its effects on the poor masses who already are groaning with economic hardships and difficulties.

At the same time, the government went further to close the country’s boarders so as not to let in goods and food items from across these borders, while the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), also placed restrictions on the importation of certain food items, even when thousands of Nigerian farmers who would have been producing food to feed the nation, were displaced from their ancestral homes and their farmlands and crops destroyed, by rampaging Fulani herdsmen.

Not yet done, the CBN also came out with a new monetary policy of taxing both depositors and withdrawals of money above N500,000.

Meanwhile, all the major roads in the country are bad, not constructed or rehabilitated; electricity supply is still epileptic; water pipes, where they exist at all, have remained permanently dry resulting to various types of water borne diseases; women and children die daily of malnutrition and other maternal and childhood diseases because our hospitals have remained “mere consulting clinics”; our children and wards find it difficult to access basic education, etc. You then begin to wonder where all the money the government claims to be making go to.

Putting all these things together, perhaps, by the time the World Poverty Clock comes up with a new assessment of global poverty, the number of extremely poor people in the country would have far outnumbered those other Nigerians who claim to be existing, not living.

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