Considering rising unemployment and inflation, President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years may not be feasible. This is the verdict of the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB). President Buhari had in 2019 promised to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over the next 10 years.
However, the global bank’s latest report on Nigeria’s economy shows that the country is currently going through its worst unemployment crisis, pushing more people into poverty. Under the government’s poverty reduction plan, 10 million people should be lifted out of extreme poverty annually. But the global financial institution believes that the plan looks unrealistic in view of the present economic crisis in the country. To realise the plan, the bank says that at least 30 million new jobs will be created in Nigeria by 2030.
Similarly, the Director-General of AfDB Group’s Nigeria Country Department, Mr Lamin Barrow, said the plan is seriously threatened by high rate of unemployment and income inequality. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put unemployment rate at 33.28 per cent, with youth unemployment rate at 47 per cent.
Specifically, the AfDB claimed that poverty headcount in Nigeria has increased, with approximately five million more Nigerians pushed into poverty in 2020, and income inequality at over 35 per cent. The development can be traced to high fiscal risks due to reliance on oil, weakness in non-oil revenues and high debt service payments. According to the global bank, over 25 million Nigerians went to bed without food in a particular day last year. Undoubtedly, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have further undermined the actualisation of the poverty reduction plan.
Despite the doubts, the government can still pull many Nigerians out of poverty if it can make prudent fiscal adjustment and implement necessary policy reforms that will stimulate steady economic growth. The current ‘extreme poverty’ status of the country can be reversed. What is required now is to unlock public-private partnerships through incentives as well as boosting entrepreneurial system with much emphasis on apprenticeship.
These are some of the ways to spur growth and reduce poverty as done in other countries. To reduce poverty, the masses should have access to microfinance. Sadly, the government has not taken the problem of poverty seriously. Three years ago, the US-based Brookings Institution stated that Nigeria had overtaken India as the ‘world’s poverty capital,” with about 87 million people in extreme poverty. Today, the situation has not significantly changed.
Also, Oxfam International raised the alarm that poverty was threatening the fabric of the African largest economy. Though the government has initiated some social welfare programmes to lift many Nigerians out of poverty, they have been overtly politicised, with the beneficiaries not getting the needed boost.
Statistics also show that six Nigerians are falling into extreme poverty every minute. In fact, the World Poverty Clock supports the Brookings Institution report that about half of Nigerian population risks been trapped in extreme poverty if urgent measures are not taken to address it. According to the World Poverty Clock, the Federal Government must be committed to curbing the rising extreme poverty. We urge government to heed the advice of global institutions on the need to reduce poverty. Government should not pretend that all is well with millions of Nigerians living below $1.90 per day.
The situation is likely to get worse with youth unemployment rate reaching 50 per cent by end of the year. Already, Nigeria’s misery index has reached over 50 per cent, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). These should make the government to do something urgently to halt the rising poverty. Let it redesign its poverty alleviation programmes in line with present realities. For the country to avoid irretrievable extreme poverty level, about 12 million people must be taken out of the poverty net annually.
Unlike India and China, Nigeria’s population growth at five per cent per annum, is higher than the economic growth rate, currently at less than two per cent. The large size of Nigeria’s labour force has made it imperative for government at all levels to initiate and implement measures to create more jobs and other social welfare programmes that will alleviate poverty and unemployment. The United Nations projects that Nigeria will have an estimated 398 million population by 2050, making the country the third largest population in the world, with China and India coming first and second, respectively. This calls for urgent reforms in education, health, sanitation and infrastructure sectors. With the size of the informal economy at about 50 per cent, it requires concerted efforts of the three tiers of government to drastically reduce the nation’s poverty rate.