The recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) that a staggering 112.519 million Nigerians live in relative poverty conditions is alarming. This figure represents 69 per cent of the country's total population estimated to be 163 million.
More worrisome is the fact that the poverty rate is rising at a time the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate is put at 7.75 per cent.
In a 26-page report, “The Nigeria Poverty Profile 2010,” released, last week, in Abuja, the Statistician-General of the NBS, Dr. Yemi Kale, noted that the figure might increase to 71.5 per cent when the 2011 figure is computed, especially if the potential impacts of several anti-poverty and employment generation intervention programmes are not factored in.
The 2010 figure, the report said, was arrived at based on a survey of randomly selected 20 million households with an average of between four to six family members using the relative poverty measurement. According to statisticians, this measurement compares the living standards of people living in a given society within a specified period of time.
Also, other poverty measurement standards used in measuring poverty by the NBS such as absolute measure, the dollar per day measure and the subjective poverty measure, show that the poverty level is on the increase.
For instance, absolute measure puts the country's poverty rate at 99.284 million or 60.9 per cent; the dollar per day measure puts the rate at 61.2 per cent; and the subjective poverty measure puts it at 93.9 per cent. The report, which provides details of poverty and income distribution across the country, put the 2004 poverty measurement rate at 54.4 per cent. It also shows that income inequality had risen from 0.429 in 2004 to 0.447 in 2010.
The highlight of the report shows that the North-West and the North-East had the highest poverty rates in the country in 2010 with 77.7 per cent and 76.3 per cent respectively. However, the South-West geo-political zone recorded the lowest at 59.1 per cent.
Of all the 36 states of the federation, Sokoto had the highest poverty rate (86.4 per cent), while Niger had the lowest at (43.6 per cent). The 2004 poverty rate showed that Jigawa State had the highest rate of 95 per cent while Anambra, with a poverty rate of 22 per cent, was the least poverty-stricken state.
We deplore the increasing poverty level in the country as shown by the survey. It is a pity that many Nigerians are living below poverty line in an oil-rich country. The paradox is that while a privileged few Nigerians are living in opulence, majority are wallowing in abject poverty.
The Federal Government should do something drastically to redistribute the national wealth in such a way that it will benefit a greater number of Nigerians. The extant scenario where only a few Nigerians are enjoying from the collective patrimony while majority are excluded is unacceptable and may likely breed social discontent if not well and quickly addressed.
The government should embark on job creation drive to ensure that majority of the citizens are gainfully employed. We believe that the high rate of poverty in the land is as a result of massive unemployment. There is a growing army of unemployed school leavers at almost all levels of our education system, especially the tertiary. Graduate unemployment in Nigeria has reached an alarming rate that something needs be done urgently to curb it. Perhaps, more attention should be paid to vocational and technical education that can make its graduates to be self-employed instead of searching for elusive jobs. The agricultural sector offers brighter hope for massive job creation. But, the snag here is that the sector is not yet mechanized enough to unleash such potential.
Governments in the North-West and the North-East, the most affected geo-political zones, should wake up and come up with pragmatic measures to halt the unacceptable level of poverty in their region. The affected states should curb the festering almajiri culture and philosophy and ensure that their citizens are given access to education and job opportunities.
A system that encourages some class of people to solely depend on other peoples' wealth and generousity for their livelihood as practiced in some northern states will always breed high level of poverty. It is regrettable that some wealthy people in the North encourage and support this ideology of over-dependence. There is no doubt that things can be better if this orientation of dependence is changed. Job creation in this wise should not be limited to paid employment. Let governments at all levels work in concert to reduce to the rising rate of unemployment in the country by embarking on practicable job creation drives.