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Published On: Sun, Sep 28th, 2014

Why we’re mired in poverty

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Okonjo-Iweala-and-JonathanBy Ochiaka Ugwu

There is no doubt that over 60 percent of Nigerians are currently swimming in poverty with most of them living below one dollar a day which is the standard used by the United Nations in measuring poverty index in the globe.

It has been reported that Nigerians are caught up in poverty due to faulty statistics, $60 billion foreign and domestic debt, dilapidated infrastructure and more than 40 percent work force being unemployed. More so, the oil has made the system sluggish since almost all our consumer goods and foods are imported making us a consuming economy instead of a producing one.

Amidst the persistent economic growth mantra broadcasted by Minister of Finance and coordinating Minister of the Economy by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, majority of the population remain wracked by poverty, with one in every five African lacking food, clean water, Medicare, as shown by a current survey of the African continent with two in five Africans as Nigerians. This report shows that the much touted growth is not trickling down the ladder to the down trodden or the actual growth fathomed by the government is baseless.

According to the largest survey of African citizens, it suggests the over much publicized growth is not trickling down to the poorest citizens or that actual growth rates are inflated, said Carolyn Logan, assistant professor of political science at Michigan State University and deputy director of the survey, called the Afrobarometer.

“The survey results show there is disconnect between reported growth and the persistence – in both frequency and severity – of poverty among ordinary citizens,” Logan said. “It’s evident that African governments need to focus as much attention on poverty reduction efforts as they are on growing their economies.”

The fifth round of the Afrobarometer, which comes out every several years, was released in Johannesburg. Thirty-four countries were surveyed – up from 20 countries during the last round of surveys in 2011-12 – making it the most comprehensive look at life in Africa since the Afrobarometer was started in 1999.

The release of findings on poverty and economic conditions is the first of seven release events in African cities up through Dec. 12. Future topics include democracy, corruption and Internet usage.

According to the current findings, 17 percent of Africans say they frequently go without food, 22 percent lack clean water on a regular basis, and 20 percent often go without medical care. About 50 percent do without these necessities at least occasionally. The problem is particularly striking in West Africa and East Africa, and less so in the northern and southern regions of the continent.

In addition, 53 percent of Africans rated their national economy negatively. And 38 percent said their national economy has gotten worse in the past year.

Moreover, Africans give their governments failing marks for economic management. Fifty-six percent say they are doing a bad job of managing the economy and even higher numbers rate them poorly for improving the living standards of the poor (69 percent), creating jobs (71 percent) and narrowing income gaps (76 percent).

Economic experts have warned that the level of poverty in Nigeria will continue to rise unless there is a deliberate effort to create other sources of revenue, cautioning against excessive borrowing from developed countries by Nigeria and its counterparts in the African continent.

They stressed the need for the country to put in place measures to develop their resources to be able to compete favourably in the international arena. The country presently, has a dysfunctional economy, they emphasized there is an urgent need for a clear understanding of economic direction and structural adjustment that would create other avenues for further revenue. It was said to be abnormal situation for the economy to grow without impact on the average Nigerian, especially when viewed in the light of the recent report of the Nigeria Bureau of Statistic, NBS, where over 90 million Nigerians are said to be living below poverty level.

Rural poverty is also wide spread owing to the fact that rural infrastructure has long been neglected, thereby encouraging rural urban migration. As a result, the number of men migrating from rural areas in search of employment has increased, and the number of households headed solely by women has grown substantially. Investments in health, education and water supply have been focused largely on the cities. As a result, the rural population has extremely limited access to services such as schools and health centres, and about half of the population lacks access to safe drinking water.

Neglect of rural infrastructure affects the profitability of agricultural production. The lack of rural roads impedes the marketing of agricultural commodities, prevents farmers from selling their produce at reasonable prices, and leads to spoilage. Limited accessibility cuts small-scale farmers off from sources of inputs, equipment and new technology, and this keeps yields low.

As the population swells and puts pressure on diminishing resources, escalating environmental problems further threaten food production. Land degradation as a result of extensive agriculture, deforestation and overgrazing are already severe in many parts of the country. Drought has become common in the north, and erosion caused by heavy rains, floods and oil pollution is a major problem in the south south and south-east.

Poverty and violence are often closely interconnected. Both religious and ethnic tensions continue to brew in different parts of Nigeria, erupting into outbreaks of violence and leading in turn to a situation of escalating poverty and malnutrition. The move towards political liberalization has allowed militants from religious and ethnic groups to express their frustrations more freely, and with increasing violence. Thousands have died over the past years in clashes between different ethnic and religious groups and separatist bids for independence. Since 1999, violence between interest groups has become increasingly common.

Government at all levels as their part of social contract and contribution to the development of the economy, should build a new economic system that would play a catalyst role in the productive sector of the economy apart from the recent economic policies.

They should concentrate in building a new economic model, the type that will contribute meaningfully to the economy to make it job creating.

Nigerians are optimistic the economy would recover fully with the right policies in place and with the political will to prosecute it. The agricultural sector of the economy that contributes 42 per cent to the Gross Domestic, GDP that is being neglected today should be revived to provide jobs to our teeming youth.

It was even affirmed by the former Central Bank Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi that Nigeria was a poor oil producing country, and he stated that statistics have shown that in Nigeria, it is one barrel of oil to 80 Nigerians, whereas in Saudi Arabia it is one barrel to three persons.

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