Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.90 a day, making the country the world’s poverty capital.
The chilling report indicates that extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing to the extent that no fewer than six people are plunged into this extreme state of economic despair every single minute. In contrast however, the poverty rate continues to decline in India, with a population of over 1.3 billion, which previously held this ignoble title.
According to findings, based on a projection by the World Poverty Clock and compiled by Brookings Institute, more than 643 million people across the world live in extreme poverty, with Africans accounting for about two-thirds of the total number. To make it worse, in Nigeria, just like other African countries, the figure is projected to rise and researchers say by the end of 2018, in Africa as a whole, there will probably be about 3.2 million more people living in extreme poverty than there are today.
This report, coming nearly 2 years after Nigeria slid into recession following the slump in the price of oil, which has remained the major revenue earner for Nigeria is disturbing to say the least. Even though the country is said to be out of recession now, it is quite disheartening and even shameful that in spite of Nigeria’s oil earnings, considering its position as the highest producer of oil on the African continent, the impact of this wealth is yet to be felt by the citizens who are so poor and can hardly afford a decent meal a day.
Indeed, this report only authenticates what is already known to many discerning Nigerians. The number of poor people in Nigeria has increased especially in the last few years with issues of non-payment of salaries by various employers of labour including government, a situation that has translated to weak purchasing power of the citizens and low earnings for those involved in business. All of these have combined to do away with the middle class social strata, leaving the extreme rich and extreme poor.
We therefore find it reprehensible that rather than study closely, the findings of this report, the federal government as has become typical of it not to accept any form of criticism, has rather chosen to deny the findings and dismiss the report. This is the same government that welcomes every positive report even when the reality on ground does not show same, including the ease of doing business report by the World Bank which it celebrated, amidst the difficulties business continue to face in the Nigerian business environment. Nigeria’s Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enalamah, in a reaction said the report may have been compiled when the nation was in economic recession. Indeed in the minister’s opinion, unless Nigerians stop procreating, the country will become poorer. We find it difficult to correlate the minister’s position on the link between extreme poverty and procreation, especially in the instant case, bearing in mind that India which has handed Nigeria the shameful baton of poverty is nearly ten times more populated than Nigeria, yet is making progress in improving the economic conditions of the citizens even as they continue to procreate. India’s economic prosperity in our view, is a result of careful and strategic planning with the development of the right policies and creating a stable economic environment which makes it possible for the people to carry on businesses that help improve their economic standing. What the government needs to do at this time, in our view, would be to study the report, study what countries like India are doing to return their people to economic prosperity, and above all, create a stable and secure environment in which people can live and carry on thriving businesses. This is not the time to play the ostrich.