A recent report by the World Bank has put the poverty rate in the North of Nigeria at 87 percent and 12 percent in the south. The report was for 2016 and tended to show that poverty in the country followed geographical lines.
World Bank said, “Nigeria experiences high inequality along geographic lines, with poverty mostly concentrated in the North and in rural areas. Poverty in the Northern region of the country has been increasing, especially in the North-West zone. Almost half of all poor lived in the North West and the North accounts for 87 per cent of all poor in the country in 2016.” It also estimated that about 74 million Nigerians are living under extreme poverty, and that one in four Nigerians live on less than $I.9 (or N684) a day.
According to the report, poverty was significantly higher in rural areas of the country in 2016. It estimated that 64 per cent of all poor lived in rural areas and 52 per cent of the rural population lived below the poverty line, whereas the poverty rate in urban areas remained stable at 16 per cent between 2011 and 2016.
A later report gave a dire outlook on the poverty level in Nigeria. The World Poverty Clock in 2018 put Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world, overtaking India and China as the country with the largest number of persons living under the poverty bar. It estimated that 90.8 million of Nigeria’s nearly 195 million population were living in extreme poverty,
Climatic disasters and conflicts, especially in the North East region, contributed largely to pushing more people into poverty with both factors leading to two million internally displaced persons, most of them in the North. Climatic disasters in the form of flooding and desertification have cost millions of farmers their livelihoods in the region while the attacks by terrorists in the fold of Boko Haram, Islamic State of West Africa Province, cattle rustlers, herdsmen militia and kidnappers have forced many more to abandon the traditional means of earning a livelihood, in the process unsettling hundreds of thousands of communities and plunging their inhabitants into uncertain existence.
Even beyond the twin factors of conflict and climatic pressure, huge populations across Nigeria, especially in the North East and North West, are either unemployed, underemployed or engaged in low productivity jobs, which have already put them at great economic disadvantage.
This is not helped by the poor level of education in the affected region. A greater chunk of the over 10 million out-of-school children in the country is found in the region. A lot of concerned Nigerians have blamed the almajiri system of education for this, chief among them is the Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II. This system of education basically teaches children to master the Qur’an, and the Emir Kano says it is not adequately equipping the children of the region with the requisite knowledge and skills to survive in the modern era. In fact, most of children/youth end up begging and hawking in the streets and most do not progress to secondary education.
As a newspaper, we urge the northern elite to see this army of youths as people to equip with life skills, rather than taking advantage of their helpless situations by using them as political thugs during elections. In fact, it goes without saying that it is this class of youths – jobless, without skills, without trade, without family hood – that are easily susceptible to recruitment and radicalisation by Boko Haram.
The attitude of politicians in the region does not help matters. Many of them engage in misplaced priority; they would rather expend huge resources in sponsoring pilgrimages to Mecca and breaking of fast than funding primary education and giving out scholarships to needy children and youths.
Just like other reports showing Nigeria’s slide in the human development index, the report by the World Bank offers Nigerian leaders, especially those in the north, another opportunity to review and right-tune their governance style in order to tackle the main existential challenges facing their subjects.
They must prioritise the provision of formal education to children and youth in the region. They must also enunciate programmes to capture the aimless army of youths and empower them with necessary trade skills to earn livelihoods. If not, they will continue to be easy targets for Boko Haram recruitment. Also, governments need to provide basic social amenities in the rural areas in order to reduce the poverty level in the communities.
The north and its people cannot experience any form of economic growth with the level of insecurity in the region. So, we urge the federal government to do everything within its power, including seeking foreign intervention, to rein in all the violent criminals wreaking havoc on the people of the region.