World Bank and Nigeria’s worsening poverty




Last week the World Bank shocked the world with its release on state-by-state poverty index on Nigeria. The index is a sad reminder of the abject poverty in the midst of Nigeria’s enormous wealth.

A summary of the index puts Nigeria’s average poverty rate at 65.2 per cent. That is a precipitous decline from the 40 per cent touted around by government officials.

The World Bank report suggests that northern Nigeria is directly responsible for Nigeria’s infamous ranking as the global headquarters of poverty. Northern Nigeria is actually the world headquarters of poverty.

Sokoto state stands out in the index as the actual global headquarters of poverty. It leads the table with a poverty rate of 87.73 per cent. The rating means that almost nine in every 10 person in Sokoto state wallow in abject poverty. Sokoto is followed closely by Taraba state with 87.72 per cent, while Jigawa state places third with 87.02 per cent.

Ebonyi state breaks the northern poverty monopoly with a poverty rate of 79.76 per cent. That makes Ebonyi the southern state with the highest poverty rate. Neighbouring Enugu state strangely trails Ebonyi as the southern state with the second highest poverty rate.

Curiously, Enugu state sitting on eastern Nigeria’s ancient capital of Enugu is embarrassingly the second poorest of the five south-eastern states widely known for industriousness. Its poverty rate of 58.13 per cent is an incredible embarrassment to the Igbo as neighbouring Anambra state flaunts a commendable poverty rate of 14.8 per cent.

Anambra state’s relatively low poverty rate is understandable. The state musters the highest number of manufacturing firms in Igbo land. Ebonyi state’s poverty rate of 79.76 is not only alarming for a southern state, but it is indefensible given the state’s historical record as a leading rice producer. Ebonyi community fed the rebel enclave with rice during Nigeria’s civil war.

The alarming poverty rate portrays a gross mismanagement of resources and the inability of the state government to upgrade the inherent farming acumen of Ebonyi indigenes. The rice farmers clear the land with cutlasses, till the soil with hoes and plant rice through back-breaking processes.

That automatically inhibits the quantity of rice they can produce in a year. The state government just watches the farmers toil to produce rice through the primitive means they have used over decades.

Lagos state has less land for farming than Ebonyi. Ironically, the state has practically completed work on a giant rice mill that would process the rice produced by individual farmers.

Even Cross River state has a modern rice mill that has reduced the burden and losses recorded through primitive processes of rice milling. Ebonyi state government should borrow a leaf from its neighbor to the east which has a poverty rate less than half of Ebonyi.

Kwara state stands out in the World Bank poverty index as a shining star in poverty-ridden northern Nigeria.

Kwara state’s poverty rate is a pardonable 20.4 per cent, a remarkable record for a northern state. Kwara state relatively low poverty rate is comprehensible. The state borders Oyo which flaunts a single digit poverty rate of 9.8 per cent.

Like Oyo, agriculture is the bastion of Kwara state’s economy. Most of the indigenes are accomplished farmers exploiting the vast arable land.

When Zimbabwe’s late President Robert Mugabe confiscated land from white owners of mechanized farms and re-distributed it to black peasant farmers, some of the white farmers reportedly fled to Kwara state and were allocated vast lands for mechanized corn farming.

The World Bank report shows that the south-west is practically winning the war against poverty in Nigeria. Lagos, a bustling city-state with a bumper population sailing perilously close to 25 million, leads with low poverty rate of 4.5 per cent.

Lagos infrastructure is practically bursting at the seams because of alarming migrant rate. But the World Bank report suggests that the state is gradually turning its population bubble to an advantage as it puts everyone to work and flaunts a record poverty rate of 4.5 per cent. Lagos is Nigeria’s richest state. It stands out with an invincible monthly internally generated revenue (IGR) of N43 billion.

Delta state follows Lagos closely with a curiously low poverty rate of 6 per cent. That is strange. One would have expected Ogun state with its massive industrial base to follow Lagos as the state with the second lowest poverty rate.

Ogun state is next to Lagos in IGR mobilization. That is largely because of the huge sums it collects from the numerous industries in Ota and Agbara which it has calamitously failed to provide roads for ease of operations.

Ogun state has a poverty rate of 9.3 per cent probably because it has one of the country’s worst road networks which grossly inhibit productivity.

Ogun state government just does not build roads. It does not even grade the dusty roads it inherited when it was created in 1976.

Even as an oil producing state, Delta lacks the industrial background of Ogun state. Yet, the state has practically wrestled poverty to the ground by Nigerian standard.

The poverty plaguing northern Nigeria and making Africa’s largest economy the global headquarters of poverty is a cultural, not economic problem.

It is imposed on the system by a skewed income distribution system, high illiteracy rate and disingenuous polygamy. Unskilled illiterates marry four wives each and raise dozens of children into the streets.

Northern leaders have perpetrated a fiefdom that allocates 90 per cent of public funds to an infinitesimal fraction of the population with feudal control of the inconsequential majority.

They give the inconsequential majority just enough resources to keep them alive for use to settle scores with political opponents.

Zamfara state with a poverty rate of 73.9 per cent recently spent close to N40 billion purchasing 260 Cadillac limousines for super rich emirs and district heads.

The state with a population of five million has less than 40 doctors in its pay roll. There were unconfirmed reports that students in Zamfara public schools were not registered for 2022 WAEC exams because the state could not settle arrears of three years exam fees.

Poverty in the north is the product of inordinate corruption and gross misalignment of priorities. A calamitous grain shortage rocked the world when Ukraine with a population of 40 million could not export grains because of the Russian invasion.

Ukraine produces a sixth of the world’s wheat. Northern Nigeria has more arable land than Ukraine. It can feed the whole of Africa if it invests in mechanized farming. It has no reason to be poor.

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