Nigeria as global poverty headquarters, by Jerry Uwah

Once again Nigeria has broken world record for the wrong reasons.
Africa’s largest economy has entered the Brookings Book of Poverty as the country with the highest number of extremely poor people.
India had all along kept the record.
And the reason is obvious.
With a population of 1.299 billion and a jumbo growth rate, India is second only to China in population and might soon become the world’s most populous nation.
It has limited natural resources.
In the 1960s, India was synonymous with famine and extreme poverty.
The government of India has since overcome that level of poverty.
The Brookings Institution report asserts that poverty rate in India is heading south, as Nigeria becomes the world’s headquarters of poverty.
Nigeria has no reason to contest poverty position with India.
Nigeria’s population is a tiny fraction of India’s.
Besides, Nigeria is blessed with abundant natural resources including a huge reserve of crude oil.
Ironically, by the first quarter of 2018, Nigeria slipped into the notorious position India occupied.
The Brookings Institution report painted a grim picture of the poverty situation in Nigeria.
Its data showed that Nigeria has 87 million people in extreme poverty as against India’s 73 million.
The report suggests that the poverty situation in Nigeria is so alarming that six people fall below poverty line every minute.
The 87 million people recorded by the Brookings Institution report is just below half of the official poverty rate recorded in Nigeria.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) claims that 112 million Nigerians live below poverty line.
Africa Development Bank (AfDB) has even more grim facts about poverty in Nigeria.
The bank believes that 80 per cent of Nigerians live below poverty line.
Judging from the AfDB data, it is obvious that 153.6 million out of an estimated population of 192 million live below poverty line.
Brookings Institution only recorded those in extreme poverty.
The federal government has never contested AfDB’s poverty figures.
It has equally not contested the figures flaunted by the NBS.
But it was obviously rattled by the figures from the Brookings Institution probably because it put Nigeria on the global poverty pinnacle.
Okechukwu Enelama, Nigeria’s minister of trade and investment dismissed the Brookings report as defective arguing that the data might have been compiled when Nigeria was in recession.
He listed the steps taken by government to combat poverty and concluded that the situation on ground was better than what the Brookings report suggested.
The truth is that poverty in Nigeria may even be worse than Brookings Institution painted it.
In rural Nigeria, poverty rate may be as high as 90 per cent.
Poverty is written on most of the faces in the villages.
Many do not know where the next meal would come from.
Even in urban Nigeria, poverty is on rampage.
Most of the employers in the land including state governments no longer pay salaries.
In Kogi State, poverty has permeated even the high echelon of the civil service.
Some directors have died in poverty related circumstances.
The picture in the private sector is heart-rending.
Many of the employers owe as many as three years salaries.
Employees have no one to complain to.
The governments that should prosecute debtoremployers equally owe their workers.
I have argued a number of times in this column that Nigeria’s poverty is man-made.
In fact, unlike India where a jumbo population and limited natural resources inflict poverty on the land, Nigeria’s poverty is the creation of its rulers.
The country’s income distribution system is skewed in favour of less than 1, 000 politicians.
More than N1.2 trillion of the country’s annual budget is spent on them.
Half of what is left in the budget is looted by the same class of people through project duplication and inflated contracts.
The unabated spate of corruption ravaging the land is a key factor fueling the rampaging poverty.
The judiciary and the legislature have inadvertently conspired to thwart the fight against corruption.
Treasury looting is still attractive because those who looted in the past stole enough to compromise the judiciary and obstruct justice.
Nigeria needs public prosecutors who can prove the cases of treasury looting preferred against scores of corrupt politicians and top civil servants.
The rate at which the judiciary frees arraigned corrupt politicians suggests that Nigeria only parades an array of over-paid, clever defence lawyers who run rings around poorly motivated public prosecutors and induce the bench sufficiently to free treasury looters.
Nigeria needs public prosecutors who can prove cases against treasury looters and free the nation’s wealth for use in the fight against poverty.
Now that poverty has permeated the ranks of the middle class who are owed years in salary arrears in the private sector, the federal government in its fight against poverty should consider the possibility of pumping money into the economy through the payment of a fraction of the billions of naira owed workers in the private sector.
Perhaps, the most effective way of fighting poverty would be through the nation’s power sector.
Millions of Nigerians would automatically create jobs for themselves if government can guarantee 18 hours of power supply in a day.
Nigeria’s eternal darkness is a major source of poverty in the land

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