Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resource Centre in collaboration with Voices for Food Security and OXFAM have decried the rising levels of poverty and gender inequality in the country.
The group opposed the situation where despite an expansion in the Nigerian economy at an average of 6 per cent, more than half of its populace continue to live in poverty.
Addressing participants at a one -day colloquium on Inequality in Nigeria, the executive director, HEDA, Mr Arigbabu Sulaimon , noted that the scale of economic inequality has reached an extreme level, finding an expression in the struggles of the majority poor against the the few rich.
According to him, “We are looking at inequality in the private sector and public sector, in terms of access to equal services, inclusion in all sector, and access to opportunities. Women constitute a bigger chunk of the population and yet, they do not have access to means of production delivery, they are the worst impacted by climate change.
“Government policy is hinged on equality but unfortunately, the life of Nigerian women are affected by a myriad of discriminatory, traditional, socio-cultural practices. For instance, majority of women are employed in casual low paid jobs, 75 per cent of the poorest women have never been to school; these disadvantages make women poorer compared to men.”
Country director of OXFAM, Mr Iftikar Nizami , represented by Mr Abdulazees Musa, said the issue of inequality has become one of the biggest economic, social and political challenges of our time.
Nizami said to combat high levels of inequality in the country, there was urgent need for political and business leaders to build a country that puts the needs of the people, particularly that of women and children first.
In a report launched by OXFAM, the amount of money that the richest Nigerian can earn annually is sufficient to lift two million people out of poverty for one year.
“Lifting all Nigerians living below extreme poverty line of $1.90 out of poverty for one year will cost about $24billion and yet, this amount is just lower than the total wealth owned by overall five richest Nigerians which is about $29.9billion,” he said.
He urged for an evolution of economic thinking that recognises the well-being of all and make reducing inequality and eliminating poverty the absolute goal of for economic policy making.
In his presentation, a partner with OXFAM, Dr. Otive Igbuzor , who acknowledged that poverty and inequality is a global phenomenon said Nigeria presents harsh cases in terms of societal statues, standard and opportunities.
Igbuzor revealed that while global wealth increased seven times, income has only increased three times hence increased among t of poverty among the populace.
He identified the driver of inequality as retrogressive tax, poor budgeting system and allocation, poor resource management and implementation and prohibitive cost governance.
According to him, “ Nigeria is among 30 most unequal countries of the world, women in the parliament is low compared to some African countries, we live in a country where people make money by peddling influence.”
The group called for the strengthening of economic empowerment that ensures equality, make tax system more progressive, take adequate measure to address unemployment crisis and increase support for small – scale businesses to address the poverty and inequality crisis.
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