Nigeria has rightly faulted a so-called World Poverty Clock report that said it has the largest number of people living in extreme poverty in the world. That number was put at 86.9 million as of May 2018. It means that Nigeria has overtaken India whose poor population is put at 73 million. The report is the handiwork of the U.S-based Brookings Institute. According to the report, extreme poverty (defined by the World bank as living on less than $1.90 a day) in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, the highest in the world. India on the other hand, is reported to be seeing a decline.
The World Poverty report said in Africa, DR Congo might soon replace India as number two, while Africa could be home to additional 3.2 million people living in extreme poverty by the end of this year. The implication of this is that the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to end extreme poverty by 2030 might be missed. According to the UN, by 2050, around 2.2 billion people could be added to the global population and more than half of that growth will come from Africa. It predicts that Nigeria will become the world’s third largest country by then.
Ten countries are on the extreme poverty list of the World Poverty Clock, all from Africa. Besides Nigeria and Congo DR, there are Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, South Sudan and Zambia in that order. According to the report, “only Ethiopia is on track to meet the United Nations’ SDG of ending extreme poverty by 2030”. It also says outside the top 10,” only Ghana and Mauritania are on track with the target”.
Nigeria’s displeasure over the report was expressed by its minister of industry, trade and investment, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah Wednesday week. Speaking to journalists after the weekly federal executive council meeting in Abuja, he said the data used by the rating institute was¬ based on “lagging economic indices” when Nigeria was under recession. However, he did acknowledge “an urgency to create employment in ¬Nigeria”. He believed “making huge investments in infrastructure will, ¬in the long run, address the ¬problem of poverty in the country. When you get reports from Brooking institute or all sorts of people, you need to look at the context. Somebody may have written the report when we were in recession. Remember that if you are in a recession, it means that even though¬ your population is growing, people won’t stop procreating. It also means that in the country’s growth fact, depending on how they run those numbers, you would be going the other way. if we complete the things on infrastructure and implement these reports that we are doing, poverty will go down. We need to roll up our sleeves as a people and do the work because, if we don’t do it, the people will continue to bear children, and obviously, they will get poorer.”
The World Poverty Clock is not saying anything strange to Nigerians. Our own National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has consistently told the government that more Nigerians need to be taken out of the poverty bracket. In October 2017, the NBS put the poverty level at 112 million. This means the WPC is even magnanimous in its reporting of Nigeria! What we see as strange is the fixation of the West on profiling Nigeria with negatives. It is either Transparency International saying Nigeria is the world’s most corrupt nation or Amnesty International writing off our military as unprofessional, raping women and killing Boko Haram suspects in detention. Nigeria, another organization says, is the worst place to do business. Yet their business men and women have not stopped flooding Nigeria to do one business or the other.
There is a saying that if you are bent on fault-finding, you will not be disappointed. We need not dignify the negatives of those who do not wish Nigeria well with a response. The more important thing is that our government understands what the problem is and is working at it. Industry minister Enelamah got it smack there: if we are able to reverse the infrastructure deficit, “poverty will go down”. For instance, a substantial expansion of the national grid will make power supply more regular than it is. As a result, the formal and informal sectors of the economy will grow, new jobs will be created and many idle young men and women will be taken out of unemployment. This is the way to go.