Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has extremely high levels of economic inequality. The country’s economy is growing, it has significant human capital and has the capacity to economically lift millions of people out of poverty.
The extreme poverty rate in Nigeria was valued be 88.4 million people in 2022. About 40% of Nigerians live in absolute poverty, which is defined as having an income of less than $1.90 a day, with no social safety net.
The country holds 37 billion barrels of proven oil reserves in 2016, ranking 10th in the world and accounting for around 2.2% of the world’s total oil reserves. But by the end of this year, more than 5 million more people in Nigeria will fall into poverty, according to the World Bank. report.
Nigeria has about 20 million school-aged children who do not attend school. Widespread and extreme poverty is a fact of life in Nigeria. It is a reality that shows a lack of basic necessities including food, clothing and education. People who live in extreme poverty often deprive themselves of even the most basic needs, which leaves one wondering how they manage to exist.
Poverty and inequality in Nigeria are not due to a lack of resources; on the contrary, these resources are misused, misallocated and diverted.
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At the heart of the problem is a political elite disconnected from the daily challenges of ordinary Nigerians and a culture of corruption. Instability, banditry, terrorist attacks, poor infrastructure and climate change have all worsened supply shortages. Another example is the migration of farmers to metropolitan areas in pursuit of elusive prospects.
The world Bank says that rising food prices are one of the contributing factors to the poverty that many Nigerians are currently experiencing. The over 55% share of food costs in Nigeria’s 20% inflation rate is significant. In Nigeria, the average family spends more than half of its income on food.
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Many Nigerians also lack access to basic amenities like electricity, clean water and adequate sanitation, especially in the north of the country. 90 million of the country’s 210 million citizens do not have access to electricity. Nigeria has approximately 20 million school-aged children who are out of school.
Rising food prices aggravate poverty by reducing the real purchasing power of households and diverting money from necessities such as housing, health care and education.
Second, the country’s food supply may not keep up with demand due to Nigeria’s rapidly increasing population. Nigeria’s population has grown faster than its agricultural production. In other words, agricultural productivity only follows consumption.
According to Tara Vishwanath, co-author of the report and chief economist for the World Bank, “Conflict is spreading and intensifying across Nigeria, so it is important to implement simple and flexible programs to support poor and vulnerable Nigerians while limiting the risk of exacerbating fragility and conflict.”
Poverty in Nigeria has a number of consequences and shortcomings. Poor health care is one of the major consequences of poverty, as evidenced by the high infant mortality and low life expectancy in Nigeria. Due to a lack of basic resources, the poor in Nigeria face a number of health challenges.
Less that 20% of employed Nigerians are in the most effective wage employment to lift people out of poverty, despite the fact that most workers are engaged in small household farms and non-farm enterprises.
To take part
Nigeria is not a poor country by default, but millions go hungry every day. To provide immediate food and relief to those in need, the government must work with the international community. However, it cannot stop there.
Millions of people must be lifted out of poverty by creating a realistic and sustainable political and economic system that benefits everyone, not just the privileged few, by fighting corruption, especially in the public sector, by eliminating the oil subsidy which is rapidly becoming a black hole in Nigeria’s budget, and reducing high levels of insecurity.
More industrial production, additional funding in education, domestic and foreign investment, not just financial allocations to the poor often used for political purposes, are what many Nigerians need.