The angst that greeted a recent report, released June 29 2018, that Nigeria has toppled India in people living below poverty level, though expected, is nothing new. Because the report had earlier been published.
In 2006, the United Nations Human Development Index put Nigeria at 159 out of 177 countries, with 70.8 per cent of the population living on less than one dollar a day and 92.4 per cent on less than two dollars a day.
In 2014, reports ranked Nigeria to be among five countries with the highest number of the poor.
The report which had ranked Nigeria third in the world, similarly ranked India number one with 33 per cent of the world poor. China was ranked second with 13 per cent of the world’s poor, followed by Nigeria where seven per cent of the world poor live in. Bangladesh was said to have six per cent share of the world’s poor while the Democratic Republic of Congo had five per cent of the world’s poor population.
Again, on June 29,2018, another report based on a projection by the World Poverty Clock and compiled by Brookings Institute revealed that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or about half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.90 a day.
The findings, showed that more than 643 million people across the world live in extreme poverty, with Africans accounting for about two-thirds of the total number.
In Nigeria, as with other countries in the continent, that figure is projected to rise. The report also indicated that 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.
It also indicated that, while the number of Nigerians falling into extreme poverty grows by roughly six people every minute, poverty in India continues to decrease. At present, an estimated 5.3 per cent of Indians or 71.5 million people live below the poverty line.
Responding to this new rating, the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning faulted the rating on the World Poverty Clock by World Data Lab in Vienna.
It claimed that the report was unreliable and assured Nigerians that the report was not based on any recent surveys of recent trends.
According to the statement, the Poverty Clock did not directly rely on household survey data as national statistical offices in most countries do.
Nigeria argued that the Poverty Clock used as baseline the General Household Survey of 2012/13 which was not designed to measure poverty indicators accurately, adding that it also follows a methodology that can be misleading if relied upon for poverty estimates.
Sadly, while Nigerians continue to cry foul over this poverty rating, it would seem unjust not to tackle the real issues that have continued to bring Nigeria down rather than improve on it.
These issues vary and touch on all sectors from social, economic, political, educational, ethnic, religious and even academic.
Stressing this, there is no doubt that cost of goods and services have continued to take a desperate slide as a result of the insecurity challenges caused by insurgency in the North East, farmers/herders clashes and communal clashes in some parts of the country
This has led to a cut down in agricultural activities across the nation, thereby leading to a hike in the cost of food commodities across Nigeria, while terrorist activities in the North East of Nigeria have continued to gulp a huge amount of the developmental resources being budgeted.
These crises, which are promoted by social, ethnic, religious and economic trends, have lowered the nation’s social and economic standards, thereby leading to a high poverty rating in those areas.
Unemployment level has also continued to take a downward slide with more graduates joining the unemployment market. This has not only affected the economy but is, no doubt, boosting the crime and insecurity across the nation
The nation’s health services have continued to be on a downward trail, with increased Maternal, Infant and Under-five Mortality Reduction (including Malaria), spread of diseases including HIV/AIDS, poor Nutrition, lack of early child care as well as poor water supply and environmental sanitation.
In our opinion, It is not enough to continue to decry the negative poverty ratings. Instead, the country has to wake up to the responsibility of creating jobs, creating technical education to promote jobs in both the private and public sectors, improve health care services as well as promoting unity through promoting ethnic and religious tolerance across the nation.
In addition, it is pertinent, in our view that the government and its agencies concentrate on measures to help the poor and the downtrodden to pull themselves out of the poverty threshold. That is the way to go to get rid of this vicious cycle of poverty, engineered in the main by a lack of purposeful leadership and a governance strategy that is people oriented. Attacking the report and its source is counterproductive if not diversionary from the real issue of eradicating poverty from among the people.