Of poverty and inequality in Nigeria

Thu May 12th, 2022 - Abuja (FCT)

THE widening gap of poverty and inequality in Nigeria is becoming unbearable. It needs urgent attention for the nation to meet the sustainable goals of reducing extreme poverty and hunger. Poverty occurs when the citizens lack access to basic needs in life such as shelter, food and clothes. Inequality refers to unequal distribution of resources. It occurs when some states are not meeting up to expectation with other states within the country; in terms of income generation, education, health, nutrition, space politics, social identity and so forth. The rate of poverty in Nigeria is very high, especially in the northern region. The region has a large number of beggars popularly known as almajirin. They comprise both adults and underage children who are roaming around the streets, begging for alms to sustain a living. They look dirty and unkempt. Further more, they don’t even have any formal education. Yet, the government has not been able to take them away from the streets for rehabilitation. They live under harsh condition and exposed to dangers.

However, most people have been marginalised in the society because of identities such as gender, disability, race, ethnicity, caste, religion or language. Apart from the rural areas, women have been badly affected by poverty and inequality after the colonial ruled. Men are opportune to have access to formal education than women. And this has prevented women for contributing to national development. In 2019/2020, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released its report which shows that 82.9 million representing 40.1 percent of Nigerians are poor. Disaggregating this data further unveils how poverty has affected most Nigerians living in the rural areas. Many Nigerians live in rural areas while about 40 percent live in urban centres. The national poverty headcount rate is 40.1 per cent. The rural areas have 52.1 percent, and the urban centres have 18.04 percent.


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The survey further shows that there is a significant geographical inequality in poverty spread. Most people are poor in the northern regions of Nigeria compared to the southern parts. Out of these, the northeastern parts have more poverty indices. For example, Adamawa has 75.4 percent, Yobe has 72.3 per cent, Sokoto has 87.7 per cent, Taraba has 87.7 per cent, Zamfara has 72.3 per cent and Jigawa has 87.2 per cent. All these have percentages of poor people far above national average. The southern parts also have percentages of poor people below the national average. The south west recorded the lowest number of poor people. For instance, Lagos, the commercial hub of the country has 4.5 percent, Ogun has 9.3 per cent, Ondo has 12.5 per cent, Oyo has 9.83 per cent and Ekiti has 28.4 percent. The high level of poverty in Nigeria has instigated many youths to commit crime and other social vices in the country. In the recent times, the entire north has been faced with terrorism, kidnapping, banditry and herders violence. While other parts of the country have their own challenges like army robbery, ritual killings and gang violence.

The causes of poverty and inequality in Nigeria could be attributed to some factors which include: unemployment, low level of education and skills, family size, gender, disability or ill health, minority ethnic group and living in a remote rural area. Unemployment in Nigeria has deprived so many citizens of having access to decent jobs to earn a living. And this has equally cut them off from social networks. There is an adage which says: ‘’an idle mind is the devil’s workshop’’. You will agree with me that in a situation where there are no jobs opportunities for the youths to earn a living, they may end up committing crime in the society. This is why there has been an increase in crime rate. Many youths have decided to engage in kidnapping for ransomed. They have taken it as a productive venture where they can make huge amount of money within the shortest time. There have been reported cases of kidnapping innocent citizens in every part of the country. Many people have been living in fear due to security challenges. Security personnel cannot stem the tide due to lack of modern equipment.

Due to low level of education and skills, many citizens are not gainfully employed. This is because they are not well-equipped with the right skills and knowledge. However, parents who tend to have large family are worse hit by poverty especially when their earnings are very low. They face a lot of responsibilities at home. When they fail to meet up with expectations, it becomes a problem for them. This can cause hardship and untimely death to them. Also, due to culture and religious belief in Nigeria, women are not allowed to lead men in the society. They are restricted to do domestic works at home, while men take charge and responsibilities. This is why women have been marginalized to take up mantle of leadership. Most people with disability or ill health are usually denied of jobs opportunities due to their physical conditions. It is quite unfortunate that some places in Nigeria which have minority ethnic groups have been marginalised due to population size. They live in a worse physical environment and have limited access to essential services. They lack development and well-being in the society.

It is very obvious that those who live in urban centres are privileged of getting jobs opportunities than those who live in remote rural areas. Also, many people living in rural areas do not enjoy social services unlike those who stay in the cities. The government should reduce poverty through job creation. It should ensure the provision of vocational centres across the country. There should be the implementation of laws to control birth rate and promote gender equality, and ensure the provision of infrastructure in rural areas for economic growth and development.

Saliu writes in from Abuja.

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source: Tribune