IN 2018, reports indicated that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to end extreme poverty by 2030 is unlikely to be met because of Nigeria. According to the World Poverty Clock, Nigeria overtook India as the country with the most extremely poor people in the world. India, with a population seven times larger than Nigeria’s, was able to make significant progress in poverty alleviation. Nigeria did not. According to the World Poverty Clock, 91, 885, 874 Nigerians lived in extreme poverty, as of June this year. It is indeeed is so unfortunate that people living in a land flowing with milk and honey are drowning in famine. The milk and honey they never get to taste. Struggle, abject poverty and famine are the things that the world tags Nigerians with. Nigeria is a country often termed the richest in Africa but rated as having the highest poverty rate in the world. What a contradiction. When we gained independence from the British government, songs of victory and freedom were sung by our mothers and fathers.
Over the years, however, Nigeria has been battling with poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment. Sadly, it seems that we are really losing the battle. Politicians and aspirants who promised to put an end to suffering merely wanted to get into public office, nothing more. Yes, we were cajoled into the net, but now we cry out for freedom. We were promised change which we’ve been expecting but it is yet to come. The longer we wait, the worse the situation becomes. Poverty now spreads like a disease. Yes, a disease. Poverty is now a contagious disease in Nigeria, transferred from parents to their offspring. The mouths that shouted for change and joy now lament their plight. Hunger, frustration and fear are the new songs in people’s mouths. The people’s lips dance to the rhymes of lack.
According to President Muhammadu Buhari during the opening of the global youth empowerment forum of the International Labour Organization ( ILO) in Abuja, “The Federal Governments introduced the National Social Investment Programme (NSNP). The Federal Government has, in three years, lifted not less than five million Nigerians out of extreme poverty.” The president’s statement was indeed impressive but it could have been much better if it was embedded with facts. My question to Mr President is this, who are those people and how were they brought out of extreme poverty? It is so disheartening that our president made a public pronouncement without being grounded in facts. How did he come up with such an absurd conclusion in a country that lack credible census, statistics and reliable data? Mr President sir, you cannot tell us what is not grounded with proofs and facts.
According to the World Bank, a person can be said to be living in abject poverty if they live below the percentage line of $1.90, which translates to about N688 per day. Nigeria is the biggest oil producer in Africa but it is tainted by acts of corruption. A report by SaharaReporters shows that 46.5 per cent of Nigeria’s population which is sometimes rounded up to 200 million live on less than a dollar (360/N362 naira) a day. Can we imagine how a civil servant who has not been paid his monthly salary for months feeds his family and settle his bills? We are in a country where the citizens work very hard but what they earn is not enough to put good food on their tables. Worse still, the government gives no encouragement to investors. How then can jobs be created?
The unpleasant thing about the state of poverty in Nigeria is that poverty is continuously increasing, not decreasing. Between 2004 and 2010 alone, the percentage poor Nigerians increased from 54.7 per cent to 60.9 per cent. What a shame. Although the government claims that the Nigerian economy is growing, the proportion of Nigerians living in poverty is increasing every year. Besides, how will people invest in a country where there is pervasive insecurity? Some people’s sources of income have been destroyed due to insecurity, especially in the northern part of the country. In this age, some ethnic groups still believe that females do not need to be educated. So why won’t poverty increase? We beseech our government by the tears of the hungry to wake up and face the reality, to match words with action so as to bring positive changes that will be visible for all to see. Let us see the change: we are tired of promises. We need them to see real change in people’s lives.
Let us always remember the fact that in June 2018, Nigeria overtook India in terms of poverty, a country with seven times its population. Let us use what we have to get what we want. We have enough land; let’s practise agriculture using state-of-the-art technology. Israel is currently making waves with soil-less agriculture. The key is a responsible and visionary leadership. We have minerals and crude oil, let’s do real business. We have young and intelligent Nigerians, let them be given the chance to prove their worth. Nigerian youths, contrary to President Buhari’s averment, are not lazy. Yes, the voice of the poor is crying for change. Nigerians are tired of poverty. The time to sweep out poverty from Nigeria is now.
- Akinde, a student of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, writes in via firstname.lastname@example.org