Are Nigerians the poorest people in the world?

June 29th, 2018

Recent findings by a United States of America (USA) based organization, Brooking Institute, a non-profit public policy organization, indicated that Nigeria has overtaken India in poverty index. This has rattled the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The Washington D.C. based research institute stated in its recent report that: “At the end of May 2018, our trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty compared with India’s 73 million”. The report went on to state the frightening aspect of the ugly story by saying that in Nigeria, poverty is growing by six people every minute. Hear this: “What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continued to fall”.

In a quick response to the Brookings report, the Federal Government said it was a lie. Responding to questions from State House correspondents on this matter few days later, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah, argued that the indices used for the report may have been compiled when Nigeria was in recession. He advised Nigerians not to take the report seriously, alluding that it was erroneous.

His words: “We need to understand when we get these reports that there are reports that are lagging in indicators, which means people are reporting on history”. According to him, “when you get reports from Brooking Institutes or all sorts of people, you need to look at the context. Somebody may have written a report when we were in recession. Remember that if you are in a recession, what it means is that even though your population is growing, people don’t stop procreating, which means that in theory depending on how they run those numbers, you will be going the other way”.

In other words, what the Minister was laboring to say to Nigerians is that the report may be true but was in the past. To him, Nigeria’s exit from recession may have rendered the report irrelevant because Nigeria is now economically buoyant and extreme poverty chased away from the land. He went on to give a contradictory presentation to the press at the same occasion when he said that with his experience in economic matters having come from the private sector, government current efforts will soon make poverty a thing of the past in the country.

His words: “What I can tell you, will certainly be based on one’s background in business and economics, is that if we complete the things on infrastructure and you implement these reports we are doing, that is what I mean by a leading indicator, poverty will go down. There is no magic to it”.

But the issue here is; whether Nigeria is the poorest nation in the world or one of the poverty ravaging nations in the surface of earth, we are not on solid ground economically. The Brooking report was not really categorical but rather speculative. That Nigeria has overtaken India in its findings on poverty index did not give a clear picture of the whole story.

The report did not show the general ranking of all the nations studied, the criteria used, the sampling format and other statistical requirements that should give a complete picture of the report. If what is presented in the Nigeria media is anything to go by, we need more clarifications. But this observation does not make the report entirely meaningless. The Federal government’s reaction to the report in real sense, does not give any hope of good tidings in the economic horizon of the country. At best, it was a weak reaction to a potentially depressing revelation.

But the truth lies in-between. From recent releases by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the Nigerian economy is recovering but slowly. Other indicators since the first quarter of 2017 up till now shows that Nigerians are facing one of their worst times in history. Apart from the Telecom sector that has been doing fine economically, other sectors are not doing well up till now. Even the Agriculture sector which the Federal Government says has been the yardstick to measure their performance has not shown any remarkable improvement in terms of price of foodstuff. The prices of other goods’ and services are still high, an indication that the economy is just marginally healthy or not healthy at all. The only saving grace is the rising crude oil price which in the past six months, has hovered between 73 and 80 dollars per barrel.

The truth is that Nigeria is going down seriously in most of the indices that show progress of any nation economically. When the economy is down for a long time, many people will slip into poverty. This is the case with the country. The rate of suicide in the country in recent time is also an indicator that many Nigerians who could not bear it any longer decided to take their own lives.

A recent report by NBS shows that in 2017, “Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) says about 50.8 per cent of Nigerian children, aged between five and 17, are involved in child labour.” This certainly is not a cheering news, for a country with the kind of natural and human resources we have in this country.

Our position in THE AUTHORITY Newspaper is that if the people of this country are living fine, it does not require a foreign report to tell. The people on the streets can easily tell you their conditions now in this country which is not palatable to any government that has the people at heart. Denying the report is not the answer but putting every effort right to make things alright for the people is the right thing to do by the government.

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