In June, Nigeria overtook India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, being half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.90 (about 700 Naira) a day. This report was taken to mean that Nigerians are the poorest in the World whereas it actually means Nigeria has the largest population of poor people. This seemingly small difference is huge in reality.
The Brooklyn Institute research shows that 643 million people across the world live in extreme poverty and 2-third of this number are in Africa. This means 1 in every 12 persons in the world is extremely poor. It also means almost half a billion Africans live in extreme poverty as Africa is about 1.2 billion in population.
Missing the Point
While attention was on the general fact that Nigeria has become the country with the most people living in extreme poverty, not much was said of the growth of extreme poverty in Nigeria, which was the main issue for a number of reasons.
The presence of more poor people in Nigeria can be explained as a consequence of population as Nigeria is the most populous African Nation with almost twice the population of the second most populous African Nation. It is also the only African Nation on the top ten most populated countries in the Wolrd, claiming the 7th position.
Extreme poverty has largely been an African issue. Apart from 2-third of people who live in it being from Africa, the research shows that while non-African Nations may have extreme poverty, it is dropping, but 14 out of 18 countries where poverty is rising are in Africa. If current rates persist, 90% of the World’s poorest people will be living in Africa by 2030 when extreme poverty is planned to be stamped out.
While alarm bells sounded on Nigeria’s first position and its overtaking India, more alarming is that the 71.5 million extremely poor people in India represent about 5.3% of that Nation’s population. Whereas the 87 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty represents a giant 48%. And it gets worse.
Every minute, the research shows, the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty increases by 6 persons. For India however, this figure continues to decrease.
In 2010, 64% of the world’s poorest people in the world were in 5 countries, including Nigeria. Then, India accounted for 33% while Nigeria accounted for 7%. But 8 years later, Nigeria almost doubled the poor people it contributes to the world at 13.5%, while India, with 7 times Nigeria’s population, drops it’s by a whopping 22%.
Population as Scapegoat
Nigeria’s 180 million strong population has been blamed for the existence of millions of extremely poor people. In 2017, Venture Africa reported a projection that Nigeria will become the country with the most extremely poor people,
For Nigeria, its problem is its population. Nigeria’s population is growing faster than its economy. Between 1990 and 2013, Nigeria’s population increased by 81 percent. By 2050, going by the speed of its present population growth rate, Nigeria will be the third most populous country in the world. By passing the 400 million mark, it will be taking over from the U.S.A. and be only behind China and India.
Yet, in 2050 Nigeria’s population will still be behind India whose extreme poverty figure is dropping. It will also be behind China, which is not even in the infamous list. The report later agreed that it is more of the Nation’s growth and wealth distribution not being in tandem with its population. This is best reflected in the fact that Nigeria’s mean household income per capita is $1168, as compared to India’s $1759.
Nigeria’s rising extreme poverty numbers isn’t unexpected. Instead, it’s a direct result of years of negligent and ineffective government policies. It’s dependence on oil for years and an inability to generate non-oil revenue has led it to this. Even now, Nigeria’s 2018 record budget is running on a deficit and will be funded by much borrowing with government debts also on the rise.” VA Posited.
While Nigeria is not in the list of the poorest countries in the world, countries with populations less the size of 1 out of the 36 Nigerian States top the least of the poorest nations in the world. The poorest country in the world, Central African Republic, has the same population as Bauchi State. China has 32 highly populated provinces, just two of which has more people than Nigeria.
Concerns over accuracy
Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma, dismissed the report as unreliable, saying it was not based on any recent survey on Nigeria’s poverty level.
“The models make assumptions on expected future changes in income, International Monetary Fund (IMF) medium-term growth forecasts and long-term projections and analysis developed by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), all of which are significantly influenced by uncertainty,” the Minister said
Udoma said the report used General Household Survey 2012/13 as baseline and claimed that this is capable of misleading the public. The General Household Survey is different from the National Living Standard Survey (NLSS).
Nigeria’s poverty level is officially documented by the National Living Standard Survey (NLSS) undertaken every five years, the last of which was conducted in 2010. The 2010 report the Minister alluded to puts the population of Nigerians living below 1 dollar at 61.2%. North-West geopolitical zone recorded the highest percentage at 70.4%, while the South-West geo-political zone had the least at 50.1%. Sokoto had the highest rate among States at 81.9%, while Niger had the least at 33.9%.
The NBS is currently carrying out a new survey, working with World Bank.
“It is therefore pertinent to note that the World Poverty Clock is a model-based estimation of poverty, relying on projections and assumptions that cannot substitute for actual household survey approach which most countries adopt.” The Minister adds.
Lending credence to the Ministers assertion that the Clock is solely based on projection is the fact that 8 months ago, Homi Kharas, deputy director of the Brookings Institution in the US, had already predicted exactly what the clock later read. As is customary with Western authorities, Kharas blamed this on the population growth saying,
“Very few countries in Africa are making fast enough progress on ending poverty, and in two large countries, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, their populations are growing faster than their economic growth, so poverty will likely continue to rise,”
Also aligning with the Ministers position is the fact that in November 2017, the World Bank upped the poverty line from $1.90 to $3.20 for lower-income countries. The Clock did not calculate on the basis of this.