Many more Nigerians are sinking into poverty and this is a worrisome development.
According to a recent report by the African Development Bank (AfDB), as many as 152 million Nigerians out of an estimated 190 million population live on less than $2 a day. That’s about 80 per cent of our citizenry living below the poverty line.It would appear that most people in the working class bracket fall within this unsavoury statistic.
Most Nigerians would readily agree that things have progressively got worse for most families over the past few years, but they will be unanimous in insisting that the country has no business being in this quagmire with the kind of human and material resources at its disposal.
In its 2018 Nigeria Economic Outlook, the AfDB lamented the unacceptably high level of poverty in the country. According to it, Nigeria faces significant challenges, including foreign exchange shortages, disruptions in fuel supply, power shortages and insecurity in some parts of the country
The African bank is right. The country’s greatest woe is due largely to the country’s over dependence on oil. So, any disruptions to the country’s oil production as well as any negative price fluctuation in the international market would hit the country’s economy hard.
Insecurity is another factor that has increased the poverty level among Nigerians The little gain recorded in the agricultural sector is being undermined by the herdsmen/farmers’ crisis in Benue, the food basket of the nation, and other agrarian communities across the country. Thousands of farmers have lost their lives, and fled their farmlands and homes in the last one year alone. Herders also count their losses. A lot of the survivors are now living as internally displaced persons (IDPs), another vista of poverty. Others have run to the townships to take up odd jobs.
Government needs to quickly resolve this crisis in order for the country not to lose the rekindled spirit in agriculture among the youth.Massive youth unemployment is another peg in the poverty index. Every year, the nation’s secondary schools, polytechnics and universities churn out hundreds of thousands of young men and women into the already over-saturated labour market. Most are ill-equipped and unemployable.
It is unfortunate that while other countries are working strenuously to lift their people from poverty, the reverse is the case with Nigeria. India and China are countries that used to have large populations in poverty but both have remarkably lifted hundreds of millions of their citizens out of poverty in the last few years.
In the past 15 years, through targeted economic reforms and a single-minded fight against corruption and waste, China lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty, accounting for about 70 per cent of those brought out of poverty worldwide. And the country’s president Xi Jiping last year made it his mission to remove the remaining 70 million people in the country from the clutches of poverty by 2020. This year alone, 10 million people will kiss poverty good bye in the world’s most populous country.
India, too, is reported to have lifted 133 million of its citizens out of poverty between 1994 and 2012.
Nigeria must head in this direction. It must brace up to the challenge of lifting millions of Nigerians out of poverty – as India and China have done.
It should invest heavily on infrastructure that supports the economy. The first is power. The government must do its utmost to ensure steady electricity in the country. That is sine qua non to industrialisation and job creation. Other economic amenities like roads, rails, technical/functional education, hospitals, pipe-borne water, etc, must be available to the people. All these will improve the standard of living.
Government should encourage investment by drastically cutting down the interest rate. It should also stop any form of multiple taxation, offer tax incentives and subsidies to manufacturers and local businessmen and pay local contractors the backlog of debts. These will increase their capacities to produce more and pay their workforce.
The federal government should avoid any attempt to politicise empowerment programmes. There is growing complaint that such programmes are given to party supporters or cronies. This should not be happening.
In our opinion, the government can further reduce poverty by cutting down on graft and the cost of governance and applying the savings to empowering the youth.