COVID-19 made Nigerian billionaires richer by 38% – Oxfam

Oxfam Nigeria has raised the alarm on the level of poverty in Nigeria, saying billionaires in Nigeria had their wealth increased by 38% at the climax of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an estimated 7.4 million people falling into extreme poverty in 2020. 

This is even as it said the pandemic has set gender parity back from 99 to 135 years, as women collectively lost $800 billion in earnings in 2020, with 13 million fewer women in work now than there were in 2019. Two hundred and fifty-two (252) men have more wealth than all 1 billion women and girls in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean combined.

Oxfam Country Director, Dr. Vincent Ahonsi, stated this Monday why addressing the press on the official launch of the report with the theme: “Inequality Kills, The Unparalleled Action Needed to Combat Unprecedented Inequality in the Wake of COVID-19”. 

According to Ahonsi, there are 4,690 individuals with a net worth of $5 million or more, with wealth totaling $107.2 billion and there are 245 individuals with $50 million or more with a combined wealth of $56.5 billion, hence the need for more taxation of the rich to the tune of 30%, and that this should be invested in agriculture and other social infrastructure that would impact on the poor in Nigeria.

“It is now a moral burden on billionaires to invest more on social goods, including water and sanitation, education, food security, health and social infrastructure as part of their corporate social responsibilities for a just post-pandemic recovery,” Dr. Ahonsi stated. 

Oxfam advised that government should claw back the gains made by billionaires by taxing this huge new wealth made since the start of the pandemic through permanent wealth and capital taxes. 

It said, invest the trillions that could be raised by these taxes toward progressive spending on universal healthcare and social protection, climate change adaptation, and gender-based violence prevention and programming.

“Tackle sexist and racist laws that discriminate against women and racialized people and create new gender-equal laws to uproot violence and discrimination. All sectors of society must urgently define policies that will ensure women, racialized and other oppressed groups are represented in all

decision-making spaces,” he said.

Ahonsi said inequality is contributing to the death of at least 21,000 people each day, or one person every four seconds, explaining: “This is a conservative finding based on deaths globally from lack of access to healthcare, gender-based violence, hunger, and climate breakdown.

“It is disappointing that the two richest billionaires in Nigeria have more wealth than the bottom 63 million Nigerians. It is about time we begin to correct these extreme inequalities. 

“Collectively, the total wealth of the 3 billionaires in Nigeria equal to $24.9 billion and throughout the pandemic (beginning in mid-March 2020), their wealth increased $6.9 billion while the majority of Nigerians are poorer. It is a remarkable surge in wealth at the very top of the society, which has not impacted positively on the majority,” Ahonsi said.

Also speaking, Mr Auwah Rafsajanisaid there is a need to tackle the issue of inequality cause by COVID- 19 which has further deepened 84 million Nigerians in extreme poverty.

He said the introduction of new taxes on sugar and soft drinks would further create inequality that would continue to deepen the country’s poverty level as the inequality gap is winding up.