Income inequality fueling Nigeria’s poverty – OXFAM

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Despite being seen as Africa’s largest economy and one of the fastest-growing economy in the world more than half of Nigeria’s population still grapple with extreme poverty, while a small group of elites enjoys ever-growing wealth, a new report by OXFAM has said.

Oxfam is a confederation of 20 independent charitable organizations focusing on the alleviation of global poverty, founded in 1942 and led by Oxfam International.

This report by OXFAM provides a picture of the current state of poverty and economic inequality in Nigeria, identifies the main drivers of this situation and presents some policy solutions.

The report made available by Proshare said, over the past 40 years, the gap between the rich and the poor has been growing in developed and developing countries alike.  In 2015, just 62 people had as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity, and the richest one percent owned more wealth than the rest of the world combined.  At the same time, the poorest people are being denied their fair share: since the turn of the century, the poorest half of the world’s population has received just one percent of the total increase in global wealth.

In Nigeria the scale of economic inequality has reached extreme levels, and it finds expression in the daily struggles of the majority of the population in the face of accumulation of obscene amounts of wealth by a small number of individuals. While more than 112 million people were living in poverty in 2010, the richest Nigerians will take 42 years to spend all of his wealth at 1 million per day.

According to Oxfam’s calculations, the amount of money that the richest Nigerian man can earn annually from his wealth is sufficient to lift 2 million people out of poverty for one year. Lifting all Nigerian people living below the extreme poverty line of $1.90 out of poverty for one year will cost about $24 billion. This amount is lower than the total wealth owned overall by the five richest Nigerians in 2016, which was equal to $29.9 billion.

Poverty in Nigeria is particularly outrageous as it has been growing in the context of an expanding economy where the benefit is reaped by a minority.

Annual economic growth averaged over 7 per cent in the 2000s, and yet Nigeria is one of the few African countries where both the number and the share of people living below the national poverty line over that period, increased from 69 million in 2004 to 112 in 2010, equivalent to 69 per cent of the population. In the same period the number of millionaires increased by approximately 44 per cent. Income inequality, as measured by 9th Gini Index, grew from 40 per cent in 2003 to 43 per cent in 2009.

Regional inequality is high in Nigeria, and it translates into higher rates of poverty in the north-western states of the country. For example, in Sokoto State, 81per cent of the population is poor, while poverty incidence is much lower, at 34 per cent, in Niger.

Economic and gender inequality are interconnected and reinforce each other. The life of Nigerian women is affected by a myriad of discriminatory traditional and socio-cultural practices that put them at disadvantage in a number of areas compared to men.

For example, the majority of women are employed in casual, low-skilled, low-paid informal jobs; women are less likely than men to own land and 75.8 per cent of the poorest women have never been to school, compared to 28 per cent of 10 richest men.

In Jigawa State, 94 per cent of women (against 42% of men) are illiterate.  As a result of these disadvantages, women are more likely to be poor than men, and keep being excluded from full participation in the country’s economic, social and political life.

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