Poverty In Nigeria: What Is The Serum?

Poverty is an endemic problem of the world. It is prominent in the Global South countries which we could probably say majority of the third world countries. With the vast human resources and economic potential of Nigeria as largest producer of crude oil in Africa as well as the 6th largest producer of crude oil in the world. Nigeria is too blessed to be on that poverty list. Several causes have made Nigeria a permanent member of that poverty-stricken group.

The poverty scale which is drawn at the number of individuals living below a dollar per day is still another level of poverty redefined. Ask yourself how much a dollar is? N198.95.What can that really buy you in terms of affording a three-square meal? That doesn't measure up to our politicians spend in a micro-second time frame during leisure but that is what the common man shares for not being connected to the elite class. The scale only covers mere life necessities like shelter, food and clothing.

On paper, Nigeria boasts of the largest economy in Africa. Nigeria also has one of the highest economic growth rates on the average of 7.4% according to the World Bank economic reports of 2014. This puts Nigeria's poverty level at a significant point of 33.1% as against the staggering 60.9% in 2010 according to the National Bureau of Statistics. This was predicted to rise. Statistically based on the 60.9% poverty level, 100 million Nigerians are living in abject poverty. The truth is, how has these above embellished statistics reflected on the lives of the masses? The chances of success get slimmer everyday. The economy gets better on paper while the conditions of living of the people and chances of success worsen. When you miss an opportunity, you may never encounter such again. More jobs are hardly created coupled with the skyrocketing prices of commodities and services that never fall. We still battle with the poor state of social amenities. There has been an improvement in the road constructions across the country but most projects are not well monitored. They are either hyper-inflated by corrupt leaders using it as an avenue to siphon state funds, or abandoned or even executed with inferior materials which creates the shortest excitement over the usage. Out of the 36 states in Nigeria, there is too much concentration on Lagos state because that is where economic success is well guaranteed. There is a bitter competition for resources in the country leading to high mortality rates. The menace of Boko haram today came as a result of power tussle before the group went awol as a couple of people in the North felt marginalized about the control of government. The same issue applies to the Niger Delta militancy crisis which resulted over a bitter contest for economic resources in Nigeria. Till date, we Nigerians live with the fear of their re-emergence. The looming crisis of Biafra has been widely undermined and downplayed. The Igbos are also in the stiff competition of producing the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria so that their sectional interests can be guaranteed. It was reported this month that hate and secession messages are currently being spread by a Biafra Radio station which has covertly been launched. We also have rumours of a possible coalition between Biafra and the Asari Dokubo-led ex Niger Delta militants group. All these amount to unhealthy rivalries over the vast economic resources in Nigeria that hardly reaches the poor.

As a Masters degree holder in Lagos state with a comfortable job, I still struggle to give myself the life I want not to talk of catering for my old parents. Atimes I sit down to think about the plight of the uneducated folks in class of the 'Alabarus or kayas', the beggars, Sachet water sellers, bus conductors, kids (roaming aimlessly instead of being in school) you see at motor parks who do dirty jobs to survive. They earn as low as N50 for a service. They can't afford nutritive meals or drugs, no decent place to sleep, some are blindly into drugs to boost their labour productivity to their own future detriment. 
This is nothing compared to the poverty-inflicted wounds under the beautiful clothes and smiles of the working class people who spend above what they earn on transport costs, feeding and accommodation in Lagos. Some civil servants who appear to be living their dreams live entirely on loans from banks and cooperative societies throughout their productive years. This is the ordeal people pass through for cheap achievements in Nigeria.

Nigeria boasts of several millions of ladies of marriageable ages but no suitors. This can be traced to the issue of poverty. The men are scared of the huge costs of running a family. It is easier to get a sex partner that is interested in fun which is far cheaper than settling down for the cost of catering for extra mouths for feeding and other welfare provisions. I have several friends that are willing to marry, everyday they fight off the strong desire of their lovers for a quick marriage because they don't want to be plunged into poverty by the financial demands of marriage.

In 2010, I had the golden opportunity of staying in the northern part of Nigeria as I was posted to Bauchi state for my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). I experienced the real menace of poverty. I researched on the poverty statistics of the north then and I got some unimaginable statistics that were true. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, poverty was more pronounced in the northern part of Nigeria. Sokoto state had the lion share of poverty with a record percentage of 86.4. 
Furthermore, in the north-west and north-east parts, poverty rates were recorded at 77.7 % and 76.3% respectively. The south-west region where I grew up came up with an encouraging figure of 59.1%.

 The vastly uneducated people in the north were blind to the economic potentials of the country. They never saw it as a problem. I met breadwinners in families doing odd jobs that were incapable of feeding him for a day. I felt for the fate of the men involved in minor trades on a petty scale like kolanuts, dates, vegetables, sugar-canes, men who did pedicure and manicure in a crude way, herbalists etc. I saw the large size of homeless children called ''Almajiri'' who steadily came around the corpers' lodge to beg for food. I had a terrible experience when I saw one searching a dustbin to eat rotten beans disposed by a corper, tears rolled down my eyes. I said to myself, no child deserves to live like this especially in a blessed country like Nigeria. These children roam about the neighbourhood begging for food to eat, they grow up developing no skills for survival. Let it be known that the Almajiri stage will be outgrown. They graduate into the society with no definite skills of survival. Unscrupulous politicians hijack them to cause mayhem. Terrorists brainwash them into killing for an empty cause. This accounts for the reason by Boko haram has become almost impossible to conquer due to their large army from the class of former almajiri.

Poverty in the north is so pronounced that a 35-year old man may stab his good friend over a struggle for a N20 note. This is a real life experience. I was almost a victim when an Okada man pulled out a screw-driver in readiness to stab me and my colleague over an amount not up to a N100. That is how bad life is over there. It should also be noted that the rich few in the north are extremely rich but the gap between the rich and the poor is just too wide.

My next question is: what are the causes of poverty in Nigeria? There is no need for long talks in this aspect. The causes principally centre around corruption and mismanagement of funds by political leaders. They have degenerated into high rate of unemployment, political instability as there is a desperate contest for the economic resources of the state, uneven development between rural and urban areas, high level of illiteracy as a result of the government's neglect of orientation programmes about the efficacy of formal education, inadequate social amenities, welfare facilities, inadequate societal palliative measures and other issues.

I have sat down to carefully recommend measures to ease the wounds of poverty in Nigeria. These will ameliorate it and in a couple of years it will be reduced to the bearest minimum in an oil-rich state like Nigeria.

First of all, the cost of governance should be reduced. According to the former Central Bank of Nigeria governor, the National Assembly consumes about 40% of Nigeria's gross domestic product. This is highly despicable in a country that is heavily stricken by poverty. We have unacceptable costs of the Presidency spending a sum of N1 billion on feeding alone in just a year. What about the N8.64 billion spent on the Senators for their wardrobe allowance yearly as if they contested naked? These among other flimsy expenses have in a peculiar way crippled the country's developmental processes as economic resources are not equally distributed in the country. A large chunk of the economic resources are vested in the hands of a privileged few who are supposed to be representing the interests of the poor majority.

Secondly, due to the over-concentration of poverty in the rural communities, access to banking and micro-credit services to help local farmers invest in agriculture will help boost productivity, thereby increasing profitability and reducing poverty in the rural areas.
The funds will be used in the acquisition of machines, farmlands, improved seedlings, chemicals (pesticides), fertilizers, irrigation facilities and the likes.

Thirdly, the high rate of unemployment in urban areas can be reduced an encouragement of entrepreneurship as well as creating an enabling ground for businesses to grow.

And also, women in the north should be allowed to participate in economic activities in the country rather than being widely kept in the purdah as bread-eaters alone. Their inclusion has boosted the growth of economic activities in the south-west.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission should be allocated more power to enable the institutions prosecute corrupt government officials without fear or favour. This will go a long way in curbing corruption in Nigeria. Resources would be saved and re-invested in the development of the lives of young people towards an even development in the country. According to the Vice-President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria loses N3.1 trillion to crude oil theft annually. Let us picture the impact of such a massive figure if judiciously re-invested into the economy of Nigeria.

If all these structures are put in place alongside others. I believe the lives of the masses will be impressively improved.

I am the Village Town Crier. I hope one day my views will count.

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About Osahon

I'm a journalist and a Political Scientist undergoing a doctoral programme focused on media, democracy and governance in Africa. My mission is to uphold the role of the media as the 'fourth estate of the realm' and also tell the Nigerian Story to the world. You can contact me on smile2georgex@yahoo.com Phone number: +2347053302356.
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