Undoubtedly, Nigeria today is a country of many paradoxes and these are at play in all facets of the nation’s development. The country is said to be experiencing phenomenal growth leading to significant rise in the Gross Domestic Product, GDP. But on the other hand, the mass of the population are getting poorer and poorer by the day.
This is a sad commentary, however and as revealed by a survey of poverty index instituted by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, Nigeria posted a growth rate of 7.87 percent in 2010 and 7.69 percent in 2011, which put the country in the same enviable league with China.
Ironically, Nigeria is losing the fight against poverty at home, as more and more of her citizens are slipping into poverty, some even living far below the poverty dictum line.
For instance, the 2009-2010 survey which was based on the sampling of 24million households and over 100million people revealed that while relative poverty index stood at 54.4 percent in 2004, six years later, in 2010, it had jumped to 69 percent. When translated into numbers, then 112.5million Nigerians are being adjudged to be poor. The total number of Nigerians living in absolute poverty, measured by minimum requirements necessary for them to afford minimal standards of food, shelter, healthcare, and clothing jumped from 54.7 percent of the population in 2004 to 60.9 percent or about 99.2million people in 2010.
Invariably, this means that majority of Nigerians are not only poor, but living in abject conditions and finding it hard to meet some basic needs of life. For such Nigerians, it is hell on earth and oftentimes ends in short life spans.
Again, it looks as if poverty in the country has a geopolitical dimension. Statistics show that Sokoto state is said to be the poorest at 86.4 percent poverty rate, while Niger state has the lowest poverty rate in the country. On the whole therefore, the two poorest geopolitical zones are the North-East with 76.3 percent and the North-West with 77.2 percent. The reasons are among others, lagging behind in education and lately the insurgency in the zones. While the South-West and South-East, however have the lowest poverty rates.
It is also assumed by most economic theoreticians that economic growth ordinarily should move the population away from poverty to prosperity, but this is proving to be wrong in the context of daily Nigerian experiences. This growth has not led to development at the societal level and in the improvement in the living standard of the mass of the population. This anomaly can be attributed to the fact that our growth is not creating job opportunities for the millions of Nigerians searching for means of livelihood, as well as earning a decent living. Thus, there is a glaring lack of correlation between growth and improved living standard, which is caused by an increasing unemployment rate.
Sadly also, as the nation continues to witness boom in major sectors of the economy, including telecommunications, oil and gas, agriculture, etc, which contributes to the GDP growth, more and more of the citizens cannot find jobs as most of these sectors are not creating jobs, at least enough jobs.
The worrisome situation is leaving millions of Nigerians jobless and in a painful struggle with poverty and the inequality gap between the rich and the poor, or the haves and the haves-not continues to widen.
It is therefore difficult to rationalise our growing level of poverty, vis-a-vis our rich human capital and natural resources, which include vast oil and gas resources, solid minerals and fertile agricultural lands. Unquestionably, enough has not been done over the years to fight poverty in our land and the conditions that will give Nigerians the opportunity to earn decent and honest living remain a tall dream.
We therefore call on governments at all levels to step up the template for true development by re-energising all the poverty alleviation programmes geared towards improving the standard of living of the less vulnerable in the society like the National Poverty Eradication Programme, NAPEP, National Directorate of Employment, NDE, the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, to move Nigerians out of poverty and wanton lack, and to a more productive engagement in which all the basic necessities of life are met.
So, government must form a workable development template in which economic growth will lead to the creation of jobs, and put the millions who are out of work into more decent jobs, rather than the growth mode which looks beautiful on paper, but short on job and wealth creation.


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