President Muhammadu Buhari, during the 25th Nigeria Economic Summit, stated that few individuals in four to five states include the FCT hold the country’s wealth, leaving over 150 million Nigerians in the remaining states to languish in abject poverty. President Buhari’s statement coincides with the Oxfam shocking revelation of increase of poverty in the land, from 89 million to 94 million as captured by the World Poverty Clock. Although, President Buhari neither mentioned the names of those individuals and the states they live nor the sources of their wealth, his statement has puzzled many Nigerians .The million- naira questions begging for answers are: Who are these individuals? What are the sources of their stupendous wealth?
Even before the return of democratic rule in 1999, Nigeria is a country with a high rate of income inequality as the country’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of few elite. These few elite normally made their fortune in government. They were once public servants in government or are highly connected to the ruling elite. They own oil wells and investments in petroleum industry, power, telecommunication and any lucrative business they can lay their hands on. Yes, they have corruptly enriched themselves through abuse of office or dispersed favours to their friends, families and cronies. Is Buhari referring to these categories of people? Or is Mr President referring to our enterpreneurs, business moguls and captains of industries who own and control our manufacturing industries?
If only few individuals in few states own the country’s wealth and the vast majority of Nigerians live in poverty as stated by Mr President, it means something is actually wrong somewhere. What are causes of this high level of income inequality in the country? The answers to these questions are not far-fetched. Firstly, the way and manner with which corruption is entrenched in our national lives has contributed tremendously towards widening the income inequality and promoting widespread poverty in the country. Secondly, few individuals have hijacked and cornered the resources meant for the development of the country. The high rate of poverty being experienced in the country cannot be unconnected with how some few individuals who stole the country dry.
I think, if the few individuals’ wealth is tied to the proceeds of corruption, Buhari’s administration which came to power under the mantra of fighting corruption, should quickly bring them before the law of the land. Sadly, our corruption fighting institutions are weak so are our laws. No wonder, these corrupt elements become untouchable and continue to undermine our peace, unity and socio-economic development.
Ibrahim Mustapha, Pambegua, Kaduna State