By Afolabi Aribigbola
That a significant proportion of the huge population of Nigeria is poor is no longer news and that the country has been referred to as the world poverty capital is also not news. What is however news is the tacit acceptance and release of data on the high proportion of Nigerian classified as multi-dimensionally poor by an Agency of the government of the country documenting the precarious living conditions ad situations into which the country and her citizens have descended in recent times. Of course this dangerous and poor living conditions to which majority of Nigerans have been through started a long time ago from the 1960s when the country attained political independence. Unfortunately instead of finding ways to improve and better the lots of the citizens of the country the elites have been busy amassing wealth and institutionalizing themselves in government.
Their overriding concerns have been to continue to maintain themselves families and friends in government. That was why one of the leaders can confidently unashamedly say that whom will he enrich if he failed to enrich his friends. These are the tendencies and poor reasoning that have contributed to the escalating problems of the country including high level of poverty. Since the National Bureau of Statistics disclosed to the public that 133 million Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor, I have been ruminating over the scary figure and debilitating effects of extreme poverty on the standard of living of majority of Nigerians. Also saddening is the realization that our leaders seem unconcerned about the unfortunate development.
Sad commentary because realistic decisive sincere actions and programmes have not been introduced to counter or confront the cankerworm of poverty as obtained in more prosperous societies. Also, the profligacy and wasteful spendings is still going on in virtually all sectors and parts of the country as if the country is very buoyant. This is against the background that some few years ago the country could not decipher what to do with money and the revelation that the country was throwing money around importing all manners of foreign goods. Of course,in the early 1970s the country was so rich that she had to lend money to some countries and organisations including IMF.
Many discerning and forthright Nigerians may begin to ask the questions on why is the country so poor as recently espoused by the National Bureau of statistics . Why is poverty so high in the midst of plenty resources in the country? It common knowledge that the country is richly endowed with natural resources that are not properly harnessed and utilized for its development .In the light of the unwholesome situations of majority of Nigerians, questions may be asked about what we can do as a people to exterminate the cankerworm of extreme poverty that is visible in all parts of the country before it destroys the entire nation. It should be emphasized that no community or section of the country is immuned from the malady or evil of poverty and it is widespread in all sections of the country. Indeed, poverty is one of the serious problems that is confronting all societies the world over especially developing societies of Sub-Saharan Africa that seems to be drifting backward in term of development. Poverty has always been part and parcel of human society from time immemorial and even from the biblical period there has always been poor people. Of course, while the developed societies have devise means to address the hydra-headed problem, the same cannot be said of Nigeria. Infact available records indicate a growing poverty level in the country. Recently Nigeria was ranked number one of the poorest countries in the world as the standard of living of most Nigerians are said to be below the poverty level.
The prevalence and high incidence of poverty in Nigeria has been traced to profligacy and wasteful spending by leaders in all facet of national life of the country. The leaders of the country over the years have indulged in opulence and consumption of good and services that do not add to the development of the local Nigerian economy. The lifestyle of relying on foreign goods and services by the leaders has been exacerbated by poor investment on industries and creative ventures that can produce goods and services for the growing population of the country. Instead, the concern has been with importation of virtually all commodities required in the country. This has resulted in the destruction of the industries that were established in the 60s, 70s and 80s in the country and some of them because of excruciating cost of doing business have relocated to neighbouringcountries. Corruption that has been the bane of development has contributed immensely to the growing poverty in the country. The leaders and their cohorts in government establishment over the years have stolen the resources that would have been available for the development of the country, The exponential growth in the population of the country is another issue of importance contributing to growing poverty of Nigerians. In a nutshell factor responsible to the high poverty level in the country are many and widespread with virtually all Nigerians contributing to the unimpressive, unacceptable and retrogressive poverty level that has been referred to as multi-dimensional in nature. The effects of poverty in Nigeria is visible everywhere and in every sector of the country. The standard of living of many Nigerians have been lowered to a dismal level and the society cannot provide the basic facilities and services that support and make for good living. Schools are not enough to cater for the growing population of the county. Health facilities and services are inadequate and not of the right standard, while essential infrastructure and services such as power, transportation, water and many others are either not available or poorly provided. Also, many cannot afford food and other necessities of life as they are living below $1 a day.
To stem the tide of multi-dimensional poverty that is bedeviling the country and reverse the dangerous trend as well as associated evils the starting point should be to exterminate and drastically reduce corruption. This is because poverty thrives in the society due to inordinate quest and actions of a few Nigerians to corner the resources of the country and deprive majority access to the resources. Unfortunately the stollen resources are often wasted on mundane things that do not promote development or add to the country in any way. This calls for moral regeneration by all Nigerians. Sincere efforts not those coloured with politics or politicking or sectional primordial sentiments must be made to stop consumption of unnecessary foreign products including education, medical tourism and other very expensive products consuming the scarce foreign earnings of the country. The country must embark on industrialiastion and the production of goods and services they will consume instead of overwhelming reliance of imported products. There is the need for pro-poor policies to assist and support the poor and vulnerable members of Nigerian society. Such effort must embrace redistribution of the resources of the country. A situation where a disproportionately small percentage of the population enjoy a significant portion of the country resources will continue to widen the gap between the rich and the poor as well as escalate and promote multi-dimensional poverty in the country. In addition, since the cost of mounting poverty to society, the issue must be urgent addressed to forestall future crisis including civil disorder.