Are Nigerians poorer today than they were in 2015? Yes, if we go by data and economic indicators. In June 2018, a report by the World Poverty Clock revealed that Nigeria had overtaken India as the top-tier country with a cosmic community of poor people on the planet.
Also, the report evinced that every minute six Nigerians become extremely poor. And that in fact 88 million Nigerians now live in extreme poverty, and with 1.1 million citizens slipping into extreme poverty between June and October, 2018.
In July, a report by the UNDP said that 98 million Nigerians were “multi-dimensionally poor”. This implies that most citizens are deprived comprehensively; they lack access to good healthcare, live in squalid conditions, endure poor jobs, and are substantially disempowered. And the poverty meter has remained up-sloping since 2007.
Although the report also said only 46 per cent of Nigerians are poor when poverty is sized by income, more than 50 per cent of citizens are tooling poverty in other dimensions.
In fact, Nigeria, today, contributes 15.7 per cent to the global poverty rate; it suffers from serious infrastructure denudation and its debt profile is perilously high. And the inducer of this poverty is the lack of access to basic infrastructure. Fairly over 50 per cent of citizens can breathe, but with intermittent gasps, on their income, but most of them are deprived of existential utilities; hence poor in other spheres.
The assertion of President Muhammadu Buhari that his administration has heaved five million Nigerians out of the pits of poverty may not be incorrect. But the basis of this claim is what appears inscrutable.
Speaking through Boss Mustapha (SGF), the President said the social investment programme has created two million direct and indirect jobs. He said: “One of the key components of the NSIP is the N-Power programme and its sub-components have led to the creation of job opportunities in different sectors of the economy for young people. For example, in the past three years, the programme has yielded over two million direct and indirect employment opportunities and has lifted over five million Nigerians out of extreme poverty.”
But how sustainable are these jobs? How was the impact measured? Do the jobs offer only temporary ease, after which there is a return to the status quo?
Really, this is an inchoate premise to hold out as an attestation to the claim of lifting five million Nigerians out poverty. The government is only incubating misery with the social investment programme. A few days ago, the government announced the sack of 2,500 N-Power beneficiaries over absenteeism. And there have been allegations of “misapplication or misdirection” of funds hypothecated for NSIP, which Aisha Buhari, the First Lady, corroborated.
Largely, the programme has not been successful as expected because of the “Nigerian factor”, which the government ought to have envisaged. There you have 2,500 and even more young people on the N-Power scheme, some of whom may not be unemployed, but saw an opportunity to take a bite from the proverbial “national cake” and then you have hustlers drilling the till; in the end, resources are not funnelled into the deprived places.
But was the programme primed for success? I have my doubts.
Populist programmes are not a viable mechanism for tackling multidimensional poverty because deprivation is not only in earnings or income, but in other spheres of existence.
Addressing “multidimensional poverty” will take a methodical, planned and sustained approach to accelerate infrastructure development (power and transportation essentially), incentivise and enable business; eliminate asphyxiating tax system and other economic strictures, and make “real” investment in healthcare and education.
However, all the administrations since Nigeria’s independence share varying degrees of culpability in the parlous state of things, and not just Buhari’s. The extent of Buhari’s culpability will be well metered at the end of his term.
. Nwabufo tweets at: @FredrickNwabufo.