Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
Oxfam, an International organisation, has raised the alarm that about 69 per cent the Nigerian population lives below poverty level.
Oxfam is an international confederation of 20 Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working with partners in over 90 countries to end the injustices that cause poverty.
Oxam’s acting Country Director, Constant Tchona, made this known in a statement released yesterday in Abuja ahead of the inauguration of Oxfam West Africa and Development Finance International maiden Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRII) Report.
The report, according to Tchona, ranks Nigeria last out of 157 countries overall inequality and ranks it 125 out of 145 countries on the Gender Inequality Index.
Tchona, who expressed disappointment over the poor ranking of Nigeria on the global inequality, however, urged the federal government to expedite actions that would bring about reduction of inequalities in the country.
“The federal and state governments of Nigeria are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services such as healthcare, education, water and sanitation, women empowerment and agriculture.
“We call on them to reverse the trend to lift Nigerians out of poverty. We also call on ECOWAS to provide more funding to the agricultural sector on one hand and implement policies that will encourage fair taxation for corporations.
“The wealthy in Nigeria and in the region should put in policies to clamp down on tax evasion, tax avoidance and corruption on the other.
“We need to work very hard to end inequality in Nigeria,” he said. Tchona said that the index measures, compares and ranks West African governments’ commitment on three pillars – public spending, taxation and labour markets.
The report, according to him, also includes a regional analysis of agriculture and land rights.
He stressed that as the poorest continent, Africa was also one of the most unequal with some of the most extreme wealth and income concentrations in the world.
According to him, inequality is at crisis levels in West Africa, yet these governments are less committed to reducing inequality than the rest of the continent.
He lamented that a clear majority of the country’s citizens were denied the most essential elements of a dignified life like access to quality education, healthcare and decent jobs.
“The scale of economic inequality in Nigeria has reached extreme levels and it finds expression in the daily struggles of majority of the population in the face of accumulation of obscene amount of wealth by a small number of individuals.
“While more than 112 million people were living in poverty in 2010, the richest Nigerian man will take 42 years to spend all of his wealth at $1 million per day.
“According to the report, 57 million Nigerians lack access to safe water, over 130 million are without access to adequate sanitation. “Nigeria has the highest number of out of school children in Africa of over 10 million,” he said.
Similarly, Adama Coulibaly, Regional Director of Oxfam in West Africa, noted that the report also presented an ambitious policy agenda to address inequality in Nigeria both for the Federal Government and for ECOWAS.
He noted that the organisation released the index ahead of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in New York commencing on Tuesday.
Coulibaly however, urged West African governments to prioritise the fight against inequality. “This year marks the fourth year of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and action to cut down on inequalities is one of the 17 SDGs.
“It’s time for West African governments to act decisively to strengthen this commitment.
“West African governments must promote progressive taxation, boost social spending, strengthen labour market protection, invest in agriculture and strengthen land rights for smallholder farmers.
“We cannot beat poverty without fighting against inequality.” he said.