Not many Nigerians were surprised when the country was adjudged the poverty capital of the world, recently.
Nigeria had reportedly taken over as the nation with the highest number of extremely poor people, a report by Brookings Institution had shown. Before now, India used to hold the position with a population of 1.324 billion people as against Nigeria’s estimated 200 million.
According to the report, the number of Nigerians in extreme poverty increases by six people every minute. The report reads in part:
“According to our projections, Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extremely poor in early 2018, and the Democratic Republic of Congo could soon take over the number 2 spot. “At the end of May 2018, our trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 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 fact, 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 is today. “Africans account for about two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor and that if current trends persist, Africa will account for nine-tenths by 2030.” “Fourteen out of 18 countries in the world—where the number of extreme poor is rising—are in Africa.” In March, the International Monetary Fund also said that Nigerians are getting poorer saying there is a need for coherent and comprehensive economic reforms.
And as if to remind us of our predicament, the British Prime Minister Theresa May, in her recent three nations visit of Sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria, told us and the rest of the world that we are the poverty capital of the world, in case we had forgotten. It was a testament of the failure of successive administrations in the country to share the resources of the country (which is huge), in such a manner that it could trickle down to the least members of the society in a sustainable way.
The widening gap between the rich and the poor; and between the haves and the have-nots is the fault of Nigerian leaders. Between 1999 and 2015, Nigeria had earned over $300billion from the export of crude oil, the main stay of Nigerian economy, yet it could not meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of Eradicating Extreme Poverty by 2015. Not even up to 10 per cent of this humungous amount had touched the lives of majority of Nigerians who continue to languish in poverty.
To make matters worse several poverty alleviation programmes embarked upon by successive administrations did not reach most of the people in dire need of it in the rural areas and the urban poor in the slums where poverty are endemic. Politicians and their cronies at Abuja and the state capitals often hijacked these programmes.
At this point let us remind ourselves on what is poverty?
In 1995 the United Nations adopted two definitions of poverty.
Absolute poverty was defined as: “A condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services.”
Overall poverty takes various forms, including: “Lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods; hunger and malnutrition; ill health; limited or lack of access to education and other basic services; increased morbidity and mortality from illness; homelessness and inadequate housing; unsafe environments and social discrimination and exclusion. It is also characterised by lack of participation in decision making and in civil, social and cultural life. It occurs in all countries: as mass poverty in many developing
countries, pockets of poverty amid wealth in developed countries, loss of livelihoods as a result of economic recession, sudden poverty as a result of disaster or conflict, the poverty of low-wage workers, and the utter destitution of people who fall outside family support systems, social institutions and safety nets.”
These are relative definitions of poverty, which see poverty in terms of minimum acceptable standards of living within the society in which a particular person lives. But ‘overall poverty’ goes further, recognising the many factors that can contribute to deprivation. In 2010, the United Nations, adopted a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) covering health and education, as well as standards of living.
In October, 2016, marking the 30th anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the UN focused on “Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation: Ending poverty in all its forms”.
Ending poverty is possible, just as the eradication of polio.
Developing nations with far larger population than Nigeria have lifted their countrymen from poverty. China has lifted a population almost four times the population of Nigeria out of poverty. India has also lifted a population about 85 per cent the population of Nigeria out of poverty.
India lifted 133 million people out of poverty between 1994 and 2012.
In the last two decades, India has halved the share of its population living in poverty.
In China the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) had in 1978 set for itself the target of eradicating poverty by 2020. The aim was to ensure that what is called ‘population poverty’ is eradicated in the country of 1.3 billion people. While China is yet to eradicate poverty but between 1978 and now, over 700 million people have been taken out of extreme poverty.
Nigeria is said to have 87 million people in extreme poverty. The responsibility of the Nigerian nation is to lift this number out of extreme poverty as quickly as possible. It is doable. We have the resources; human and material to make it possible. It is time to elect political leaders with the political will to make it possible. We must declare war against poverty, the same way we are hunting down looters and recovering the nation’s assets they had stolen. We are aware that there is a correlation between corruption and poverty, however war against poverty requires a different strategy to be successful.
India has a population of about 1.324billion, and it has presently about 73million in extreme poverty and the poverty figure is constantly falling according to the Brookings Institution, while Nigeria has a population of 200million with 87million in extreme poverty bracket. We should therefore learn from India and China on how to reduce extreme poverty in our country. The poverty level in our country is unacceptable. We must declare war against poverty. We can win the war!
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