Isaac Anumihe, Abuja
Since June 25, 2018 when Brooking Institute declared Nigeria the World Poverty Capital, the Federal Government has initiated a number of moves to discountenance the ugly narrative.
The institute’s report, had said that India used to be the World Poverty Capital with a population of 1.324 billion people as against Nigeria’s 200 million. But now the number of Nigerians in extreme poverty increases by six people every minute.
So, the projection is that Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extreme poor in early 2018, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo could soon take over the number two spot (which used to be Nigeria’s position).
“At the end of May 2018, our trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall.
“In fact, by the end of 2018 in Africa as a whole, there will probably be about 3.2 million more people living in extreme poverty than today.
“Africans account for about two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor and that if the current trends persist, Africa will account for nine-tenths by 2030.
“Fourteen out of 18 countries in the world—where the number of extreme poor is rising—are in Africa.” the report, said.
Recall also that last March, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had reported that Nigerians were getting poorer, saying there was a need for coherent and comprehensive economic reforms.
Rather than addressing the issue, the Federal Government reviled the report, arguing that it lacked empirical evidence and that the report of such degree should not be based on forecast or mere opinion.
The Statistician General of the Federation, Dr Yemi Kale, who rubbished the report on behalf of the Federal Government also said that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) was partnering with the World Bank to conduct a living standard survey (a report that will show the actual poverty situation in Nigeria).
According to the statistician, the report will give the appropriate methodology for poverty computation.
“Nigeria via NBS and World Bank are currently doing the living standard survey which is the appropriate methodology for poverty computation.
“So the Poverty World is at best nothing more than an opinion/forecast that may be true or false or worse once the proper poverty study is done.
“Poverty can be computed using annual expenditure of households. So, you have to collect data on how much households spend on food and non-food items every week for a year. Then you compare each household to a poverty line depending on which of the four poverty methodologies you prefer:
“Dollar a day takes $1.9 as its poverty line. Absolute poverty uses 2000/3000 calories intake so the market value of what is needed to consume the said calories is the line.
“Relative poverty relies on income inequality so your poverty is relative to others”, he said.
Also reacting to the report, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma said in a statement that the report cannot be relied on as a representation of recent trends in the country.
“National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) remains the statutory agency of government with responsibility for producing Nigeria’s official statistics, including poverty estimates. Like several other countries, Nigeria’s poverty estimates are obtained from the National Living Standard Survey (NLSS) undertaken every five years.
“The next round of the NLSS is currently being undertaken by NBS, in collaboration with the World Bank, and this will be concluded in 2019. There is currently no other comprehensive household study on current poverty trends in Nigeria.” the statement read
True to its word, on September 20, 2018, at the Stakeholders’ Sensitisation Workshop on the Nigerian Living Standard Survey (NLSS) in Keffi, Nasarawa State, NBS gave the indication to collect data on the living condition of over 20,000 households, an exercise that would cost it over $3.5 million.
Kale said that the exercise would be spread over 12 months and the field officers would visit the selected households monthly to obtain data from them.
“Starting from next week, trained field officers will be deployed to selected households in Enumerated Areas across the country over the next 12 months, to collect information on consumption, expenditure, assets and general living conditions.
Over 22,000 thousand selected households spread over the next 12 months starting from next week will be visited monthly by our field officers. As you can imagine, this is expected to be a very long and tedious process, requiring the cooperation of households and communities” he pleaded.
According to him, the purpose is to generate good living standard estimates for the country with a view to correcting certain figures being thrown around.
To this effect, he said that NBS has adjusted daily calorie threshold used in computing the poverty rate.
“If we ever needed to generate reliable and good quality information, that time is now.
We have also adjusted the daily calorie threshold used in computing the poverty rate. In previous rounds we had used 3,000 calories per day as the minimum food intake for an individual, however in this round, 2,500 calories will be adopted as the minimum daily calorie intake.
This is so because evidence shows that 3,000 calories is high, certainly one of the highest in the world, and given the changes in our diet and food consumption pattern, 2,500 calories is more in line with present realities, not just in our African environment but world over.
The purpose of all these quality assurance measures and methodological improvements is to ensure that we collect the best possible information from the field, and in turn generate good living standard estimates for the country. If we ever needed to generate reliable and good quality information, that time is now” he noted.
Kale explained that the survey is necessary because of the challenges Nigeria is facing now.
Such challenges he said, include, security, socio-economic, unemployment and environmental.
“There is a lot going on right now in the country, with all the visible socio-economic challenges being experienced– from the security challenges, to unemployment and environmental challenges– government and partners at various levels require this kind of information to help them understand what is going on, particularly how these challenges are affecting households and communities in the country.
It will further assist them in designing policies and programmes and assist them in monitoring and evaluating existing programmes for the maximum benefit of the citizens. Also, gone are the days when agencies of government publish poor figures and get away without questions being asked” he said.
The NBS deputy director in charge of the survey, Adebayo Tunde Adebisi, put the total cost of the survey at $3.5 million, saying that about 320 surveyors, including the trainers, monitors and World Bank workers, would be deployed to various communities across the country.
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“We have what is called the monitors, trainers, as well as World Bank staff. Overall, we have a total of 320 staff.
Regarding the cost of the project, you know it is World Bank-sponsored and it is in dollars. We are to expend $3.5 million for this project” he revealed.
However, economy experts have posited that unless the government takes stringent measures to assuage the trend, Nigeria may be heading for the precipice.
A development economist, Mr Odilim Enwegbara, posited that for Nigeria to get it right, it must drop N1 trillion into the various micro-economies. In addition to this, the government should pay every unemployed Nigerian N20,000 a month and also ensure that the basic minimum wage is N50,000. He said that India did the same thing and escaped poverty. So, Nigeria should adopt the same measure.
“The monetary policy is in a mess because there is nobody who is coming up with a monetary policy philosophy that will grow the economy, increase investment and create jobs.
“The fiscal policy is in a mess because they brought in a lady who is not even an economist and does not have what it takes to handle a complex and big economy like ours,” he said.
On where the poverty situation will lead Nigeria, he made some suggestions which are very controversial but critical.
“There is a conspiracy against Nigeria by the elite who don’t care what happens to the masses as long as they have their way. They are ready to raise pump price of fuel out of the reach of the poor as long as their wishes are met. China dropped a lot of money in the grassroots economy.
If every month Nigerian Government would drop N1trillion on various micro-economies of the country and make sure the money goes to about 50 million Nigerians giving each person N20,000 to buy the basic things of life—-bread, palm oil, beef—-the farmers will now find consumers for their products.
As they find consumers for their products, the producers will produce more. If you give them N20,000 every month, the basic minimum wage should be N50,000 every month. It will be on condition that young men should get a job within two years or they will be dropped.
That was what India did to escape poverty. But some people don’t want to hear this. This is because they don’t want the problem to be solved. How can the whole north be happy that after 58 years of ruling Nigeria, the north remains the poorest section of the country.
What is the justification to continue to rule? Something must be wrong with the leaders of this country. How can those you are ruling be more prosperous than you?” he queried.
Also, a don in Bayero University, Kano and an economy expert who is also a consultant to various governments of the world, Professor Sani Badayi, suggested a sustained effort to encourage foreign investment, otherwise they (investors) would be tempted to relocate to other countries where they would find demands for their products.
“The poverty report implies that Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and one of the most populous countries in the world.
The implication of that to Nigerian economy is that the government has to redouble its efforts to sustain the inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country.
“If a country is so poor, it means that the purchasing power of that country is weak. That will discourage investment and encourage capital outflow. If domestic investors don’t find demand for their goods and services, they would move their capital to other countries where demands exist,” he said.