The authorities could do more to address the increasing misery in the country

Few weeks after the World Bank released a report that sluggish growth, low human capital, labour market weaknesses, and exposure to shocks are contributing to poverty in our country, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has revealed that no fewer than 133 million Nigerians, representing 63 per cent of the population are currently living in multi-dimensional poverty. The latest report is in tandem with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) requirement of a basket of goods and services needed to live a non-impoverished life valued at the current prices rather than those who live on less than two dollars a day. People who do not have an income sufficient to cover that basket are deemed to be multi-dimensionally poor and that is currently the reality of more than 133 million Nigerians. 

Going by the NBS figures, 105.98 million poor Nigerians are located in rural areas compared to 16.97 million in urban areas. A further breakdown of the report indicates that the multi-dimensionally poor Nigerians cook with dung, wood, or charcoal, rather than clean energy. According to the report, the north accounted for 65 per cent or 86 million poor Nigerians while 35 per cent or about 47 million people living in poverty reside in the South. The incidence of multidimensional poverty was high in Sokoto State which accounted for 96 per cent of poor Nigerians while the lowest incidence of 27 per cent was recorded in Ondo State. 

On the proportion of poverty and its intensity, the poorest states included Sokoto, Bayelsa, Jigawa, Kebbi, Gombe, and Yobe. “But we cannot say for sure which of these is the poorest because statistically, their confidence intervals or the range within which the true value falls considering the sample overlap,” the report noted. It also pointed out that the incidence of national monetary poverty stood at 40 per cent in 2018/2019, compared to 63 per cent who are multi-dimensionally poor in 2022. 

We are not surprised by the disparity between the north and south in the poverty survey. At the 4th edition of the Kaduna Economic and Investment summit in 2018, Africa’s richest man and President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote spoke about the frightening scope of poverty in the region. “It is instructive to know that the 19 northern states, which account for over 54 per cent of the country’s population and 70 per cent of its landmass, collectively generated only 21 per cent of the total sub-national internally generated revenue in 2017. Northern Nigeria will continue to fall behind if the respective state governments do not move to close this development gap”, Dangote said. 

However, it is also clear that poverty is a national problem which requires multi-level support from critical stakeholders to address. Food affordability has long become a major challenge confronting most Nigerian homes. Basic staples have been priced beyond the reach of an average Nigerian. Even the on-season periods when prices of certain items drop, providing a window for consumers to stockpile against off-season periods, no longer count due to the national security situation. In several parts of the country where farming is the main occupation, incessant violence on communities by terrorists have made the profession a serious hazard.  

Rising unemployment, inflation and an increasingly vulnerable currency have continued to torment the people and render their lives even more miserable. We therefore call on government, at all levels, to come up with interventionist measures to provide immediate succour for more than 60 per cent of our population and in the long run put in place sustainable measures aimed at addressing the growing multidimensional poverty in Nigeria. People-friendly programmes must be put in place to inject the much-needed hope in the populace. 

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