The US-based Brookings Institution recently published a chilling report about poverty level in Nigeria. In the report entitled, “The Start of a New Narrative”, the institution stated that Nigeria has overtaken India as the World’s poverty capital, with the largest number of extreme poor. The report, which attracted the ire of the Federal Government, also pointed out that the Democratic Republic of Congo could soon take over the number two ranking in the world’s poverty index. The report said that at the end of May 2018, its trajectories suggested that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. This represents 42.4 percent of Nigeria’s population. More disturbing, the report held that “extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall.” Also, it affirmed that by the end of 2018 in Africa, there will probably be
about 3.2 million more people living in extreme poverty than there are today. It stated that Africans account for about two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor and said that, if current trends persist, Africans will account for nine-tenths of the world’s poorest poor by 2030. It blamed the governments and policymakers in Africa for the rising poverty level because they did little to address it.
The report is disturbing. Therefore, government should take it as a wake-up call and do the needful instead of disputing its accuracy. In fact, the World Poverty Clock, which tracks poverty estimates in about 99.7 per cent of the countries in the world, supports the Brookings’ report.
According to the World Poverty Clock, the Nigerian government should begin to redress the extreme poverty level, rather than wait till 2050 when extreme poverty will dawn on the country if some policy measures are not put in place. We believe that the data used by the Brookings Institution met the World Bank’s definition of “extreme poverty”, as those “living below under $1.90 per day.” The World Bank says that people living in extreme poverty are unable to meet their minimal needs for survival. The truth is that a significant number of Nigerians are living under this terrible condition.
Government should stop playing the ostrich. After all, the first goal of the SDGs is to “eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere by 2030.” To actualize that, the UN noted that at least “90 people need to leave poverty every minute”. Nigeria is far from getting to that threshold. Instead, extreme poverty is said to be growing by “six people every minute.” At present, the World poverty clock predicts that for the 2030 SDGs target to be met, 57 people have to leave extreme poverty every minute. How ever, both the World Bank and other Think Tank groups have expressed concerns about this problem worsening because rather than nine people leaving, the same number or more enter extreme poverty in Africa. For Nigeria to avoid getting into the extreme poverty hole, 11.9 people per minute must escape the poverty net. Available statistics indicate that unlike India, Nigeria’s population is growing faster than the economy. Between 1990 and 2013, Nigeria’s population increased by 81 per cent. And, by 2050, Nigeria might be the third most populous country in the world behind China and India.
This should worry policymakers because of the far-reaching implications of extreme poverty in a growing population. Upheavals are likely to be rife. Already, instability and inequalities are rising. Government should not pretend that things are in order. Nigeria’s mean household income per capita is less than $1168, compared to India’s $1759. Youth unemployment is about 24 million. Corruption is also endemic. These factors fuel extreme poverty. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), Nigeria’s misery index has reached 50 per cent. These negative developments should make the government to redesign its poverty alleviation programmes.