An Assessment Of Poverty And Inequality Menace In Nigeria


poverty stricken children

Background

Poverty is a global phenomenon, which affects continents, nations and peoples differently. It afflicts people in various depths and levels, at different times and phases of existence. There is no nation that absolutely free from poverty. The main difference is the intensity and prevalence of this malaise. The Central Bank of Nigeria (1999:1) views poverty as “A state where an individual is not able to cater adequately for his or her basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, is unable to meet social and economic obligations, lacks gainful employment, skills, assets and self-esteem; and has limited access to social and economic infrastructure such as education, health, potable water, and sanitation, and consequently, has limited chance of advancing his or her welfare to the limit of his or her capabilities”. The World Bank (2000:10) utilized inductive approaches to uncover various dimensions of poverty such as well-being, psychological, basic infrastructure, illness and assets. Poverty is the lack of multiple resources that leads to hunger and physical deprivation”. The World Bank and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s 2002, Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.461 indicates the deplorable state of the nation’s level of poverty and low human development. This is in spite of the fact that the country is richly endowed with all kinds of water, agricultural and mineral resources. Nigeria’s proportion of the poor has doubled over the last two decades, during which time the country received over $300 billion in oil and gas revenue. However, the above scenario has persisted due to Nigerian Government, be it military or civilian, has not really strived to achieve their various poverty alleviation programmes. Though successive governments have tried to address the issue of poverty as captured above, the effect of the strategies and programmes has been that of mixed feelings.

Introduction

Poverty either as a plague or cause of other species under development ailments afflicts Nigeria as it does other Nations of the world. The high level of prevalence in the country, which has attained an endemic nature, is becoming worrisome. Poverty has made Nigeria to attain an unenviable status such that no government (no matter the level), organization, community, clan or family can survive effectively without introducing one kind of poverty reduction programme or the other. This problem is essentially not that of programme introduction but the effectiveness of such programme and strategies so adopted in poverty reduction efforts. This study is, therefore, an attempt at evaluating the effectiveness of poverty education efforts in Nigeria, especially in relation to the strategy formulation, implementation and utilization of resources (both human and material).

Conceptual and theoretical issues

Based on its multi-dimensional nature different criteria, has been used in attempts to defining poverty. Narayan and Petesch (2002:10) succinctly posit that poverty also may look quite different, seen through the eyes of a poor man or woman. Narayan (2000:03) captured the definition from the point of view of the poor in different countries in the following perspectives:

“Poverty is humiliation, the sense of being dependent and of being forced to accept rudeness, insults, and indifference when we seek help”.

Another of such views of the poor is that expressed by a poor man in Kenya in 1997 thus:

Don’t ask me what poverty is because you have met it outside my house. Look at the house and count the number of holes. Look at my utensils and the clothes that I am wearing. Look at everything and write what you see. What you see is poverty”.

The above reflect just descriptions of a few of the various perception of poverty at least from the poor. Poverty could denote a state of deprivation as was captured by Nigeria’s federal Ministry of Economic co-operation and development (1992:3) as “not having enough to eat, a high rate of infant mortality, a low life expectancy, low educational opportunities, poor water, inadequate health care, unfit housing and a lack of active participation in the decision making process”. It could also denote “absence or lack of basic necessities of life” or “lack of command over basic consumption needs such as food, clothing and shelther”, glaring defects in the economy, etc as stated by Aluko (1975).

World Bank (1999:10) states that “participatory studies have cumulatively shown that the poor also experience and understand their poverty in terms of a qualities such as insecurity, lack of dignity and status or a lack of power or opportunity” These qualities characteristics of poverty differ markedly by social group and by geographical and political economic contexts. Material well being is always relative. While some perceive it in terms of ability to meet basic needs such as the provision of three square meals daily, as in the cases above, few perceive it from ability to educate one’s children, provide clothing for the family and relatively comfortable shelter; yet some perceive it from ability to respond to emergencies by falling back on one’s savings. The lack of these things is ordinarily perceived as ill-being and by extension, poverty. According to OECD (2000:30) “economic capability means the ability to each an income, to consume and to have assets, which are all key to food security, material well being and social status. These aspects are often raised by poor people, along with secure access to productive financial and physical resources: land, implements and animals forests and fishing, waters, credit and decent employment”.

Poverty can be categorized as either relative or absolute on one hand, while on another, it can be classified as permanent or transient. Aliyu (2003:2) explained absolute poverty to be “the condition where an individual or group of people are unable to satisfy their basic requirement for human survival in terms of education, health, housing, feeding, employment, transportation, etc.” corroborating the above meaning of absolute poverty, Aboyade (1987:7) defined it thus: “the insufficient or total lack of necessities and facilities like food, housing, medical care, education, social and environmental service, consumer goods, recreational opportunities, neighbourhood amenities and transport facilities”. It is a basic fact that what is considered poverty level in one country or community may well be the height of well-being in another. This therefore, infers that poverty may be seen in relative terms. Relative poverty, according to Aliyu (2003:2) “is a situation where an individual or group of people can be said to have access to his or her basic needs, but is comparatively poor among persons or the generality of the community”. Lending credence to the fact that poverty may be more of a relative concept, Aboyaded (1987:7) stated vividly that relative poverty occurs when “people are poverty-sticken when their income, even if adequate for survival, fall radically behind that of the community average, they cannot have what the larger community regard as the minimum necessary for decency, and they cannot wholly escape therefore the judgment of the larger community that they are indecent. They are degraded, for in the literal sense, they live outside the grades or categories, which the community regards as acceptable.

Poverty may be viewed from the dimension of permanency or transience. This dimension differentiates poverty based on time or duration on one hand and distribution as to widespread, individual or concentrated on the other hand. According to Aliyu (2003:2-3) several types of poverty may be distinguished depending on such factors as time or duration (long or short-term or cyclical) if the poverty is widespread throughout a population, but the occurrence itself is of limited duration and distribution (widespread, concentrated permanent insufficiency of means of secure basic needs. The condition may be so general as to describe the average level of life in a society or it may be concentrated in relatively large groups in an otherwise prosperous society.

Table 0.1 Poverty incidence by states including the Federal Capital Territory (1983-2006)

STATE

1983

1985

1996

2006

Abia

14.4

33.1

49.9

56.2

Adamawa

33.4

47.2

44.1

65.5

Akwa ibom

10.2

41.9

45.5

66.9

Anambra

12.8

37.7

32.3

51.0

Bauchi

46.0

68.9

68.8

83.5

Bayalsa

7.2

44.4

43.4

44.3

Benue

23.6

42.9

40.8

64.2

Borno

26.4

50.1

49.7

66.9

Cross River

10.2

41.9

45.5

66.9

Delta

19.8

52.4

33.9

56.1

Ebonyi

12.8

37.7

32.3

51.0

Edo

19.8

52.4

33.9

56.1

Ekiti

24.9

47.3

46.6

71.6

Enugu

12.8

37.7

32.3

51.0

Gombe

46.0

68.9

68.8

83.5

Imo

14.4

33.1

49.9

56.2

Jigawa

37.5

54.0

38.7

71.0

Kaduna

44.7

58.5

32.0

67.7

Kano

37.5

55.0

38.7

71.0

Katsina

44.7

58.7

32.0

67.7

Kebbi

25.4

45.8

37.9

83.6

Kogi

33.3

39.3

60.8

75.5

Kwara

33.3

39.3

60.8

75.5

Lagos

26.4

43.6

48.1

83.0

Nassarawa

49.5

49.5

50.2

62.7

Niger

34.0

61.4

29.9

52.9

Ogun

20.0

56.0

36.3

69.9

Ondo

24.9

47.3

46.6

71.8

Osun

7.8

28.3

40.7

58.7

Oyo

7.8

28.3

40.7

58.7

Pleateau

49.5

64.2

50.2

62.7

Rivers

7.2

44.4

43.4

77.3

Sokoto

25.4

45.8

37.9

83.6

Taraba

33.4

47.2

44.1

65.5

Yobe

26.4

50.1

49.7

66.9

Zamfara

33.4

45.8

37.9

83.6

F.C.T

27.6

53.0

All Nigeria

28.1

46.3

42.7

65.6

Source: Federal Bureau of Statistics (2007)

Table 0.1 above shows the eradication of absolute poverty is one of the central objectives of contemporary development policy. The international community’s been highlighted by the sustainable activities of the international development donors such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the International monetary fund etc. The eradication of absolute poverty is also overriding goal of the democratic government of Nigeria.

Poverty in Nigeria

Statistical data from the federal office of statistics (FOS) indicates that by 1960 poverty covered about 15% of the population of Nigeria and by 1983, it grew to 28%. By 1985 the extent of poverty was about 46% then dropped to 43% by 1992. by 2006, poverty incidence in Nigeria was estimated to be about 66% in a total population of about 110 million, (table 2.2). According to the United Nations Reports (1999), Nigeria’s Human Index (HIP) was only 41.6%, which places the country among the 28 poorest nation in the world.

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Based on the data also from the FOS, the state by state poverty incidence in Nigeria between 1983 and 2006 is shown in table 2.33.0. The data clearly indicate high and varying poverty levels among the states of the federation. The data further shows that poverty in Nigeria increased sharply both 1983 and 1985 and between 1996 and 2006. Furthermore, by 1996 only 10 states have more than half of their population in poverty but by 2006 all states except Bayelsa have more than half of their population in poverty.

Causes of poverty

There are basic factors that enable the prevalence of poverty. These basic factors, including macro-economic distortions, effects of globalization, governance, corruption, debt burden, low productivity, unemployment, high population growth rate and poor human resources development etc, may differ from country to country depending on the level of economic development. While the CBN (1999:12) group causes of poverty into two categories namely low economic growth and market imperfections, on the other hand, federal office of Statistics in its publication; socio-economic profile of Nigeria (1996:106) was definite in categorizing the causes of poverty in Nigeria into problems of access and endowment. Aliyu (2002:30) in his own contribution cited other factors as effects of globalization, governance, corruption, dept burden, low productivity, etc as causes of poverty.

CBN (1999:13) suggested a summary of the causative factors of poverty, which tried to capture all the pertinent issues raised as: the stage of economic and social development, low productivity, market imperfection, physical or environmental Degradation, structural shift in the Economy, Inadequate commitment to programme implementation, Corruption. Abdullahi Aliyu, permanent secretary in charge of the National poverty Eradication programme (NAPEP) in Nigeria linked political instability in Africa, illegal take over of government through military coup, embezzlement, nepotism, looting, bribery, vote buying and abuse of office are very common. In fact, Nigeria has, in the recent times, assumed an unenviable position of the most corrupt country in the world. Corruption has not only been institutionalized but also assumed a national admission. This has eaten deep into the fabrics of the society and accounts for the reason why efforts so far made for alleviating or reducing poverty has made for yielded much results as through it, the bulk of the nation’s wealth have been distributed inb favour of the few privileged who continually wallow in abject poverty.

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Indicators of poverty

Economic performance as well as the standard of living of the population is usually the general factors used as indicators of poverty. These factors combine measures of purchasing power or income or consumption with other social indices which show availability and access to education, healthcare delivery, basic infrastructure and other intensity or severity and the distribution of poverty within a population. Poverty lines according to CBN (2000:10) represents the value of basic (food and non food) needs considered essential for meeting the minimum socially acceptable standard of living within a given society. Thus, any individual whose income or consumption falls below the poverty line is regarded as poor. This ordinary means that there is a minimum acceptable poverty line at which an individual’s income or consumption falls below to be classified as poor. The above reasoning thrives only when there is a generally accepted minimum standard of living or income, which is derived from a concrete and stable statistical analysis. Lending credence to this assertion, the OECD (2000:34) asserts the necessity of this when it states this is necessary for monitoring the numbers as well as the proportion of poor people over time and among countries, and the depth and severity of poverty. It went further to state levels of lines for varying categories of income thus: The most common poverty lines for international comparisons are US $1 a day for low income countries, US $2 for middle income, and US $4 for transition economies.

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Table 0.2 Living Index Indicators in Nigeria (#)

Years

Real per Capital Income (000)

Real per Capital Private Consumption

1991

13029

8.79

1992

13628

8.17

1993

14820

8.80

1994

11353

7.73

1995

11223

7.78

1996

9753

7.07

1997

7189

5.42

1998

7561

5.65

1999

7061

5.43

2000

7248

6.65

2001

7248

5.94

2002

8832

5.45

2003

9245

5.19

2004

9882

6.78

2005

11253

8.27

2006

11580

11.32

Source: FOS, Socio-Economic profile of Nigeria 2007.

In order to permit the identification and statistical analysis of those households falling under an absolute poverty line, a narrow approach of measuring poverty based on consumption and income perhaps seems appropriate. A comprehensive approach of measuring poverty at different aggregation levels as suggested by the World Bank (2000:34) presents a comprehensive or holistic of poverty and gives clear direction as to better approaches toward poverty reduction. Such classification suggests measuring poverty at the following different levels:

  • Single indicator: consumption

  • Composite Indexes: Human development Index, Human poverty Index and Gender Related index.

  • Discrete indicators: Economic, Human, Soco-cultural, political and protective.

There is a more recent approach to measuring poverty pioneered by the United Nations development programme (UNDP) to provide a composite quantitative measure of both the economic and the social indicators of human development. It is known as Human Development Index (HDI). This combines a measure of purchasing power with measures of physical health and educational attainment to indicate progress or retrogression in human life. This approach gives comprehensive and more reliable information as the critical components of indicators of poverty are taken into consideration.

Poverty and economic development

It is apparent that poverty is an outcome of economic, social and political processes that interact with and reinforce each other in ways that can worsen or ease the deprivation poor people face every day. While national economic development process is pivoted to effective poverty reduction, poverty is an outcome more than economic process. Nigeria’s level of revenue and endowment are in opposite direction with her poverty level. While revenue profile of Nigeria rose from #4billion in 1975 to #26billion in 1884, and GNP per capita rose from #360 to more than $100 in the same period, the percentage of the population that was poor grew from 15% in 1960 to about its present 70%. Furthermore, according to World Bank and UNDP 2001 statistics, Nigeria which impressively ranked 6th and 7th in petroleum export and petroleum production respectively, is ranked 194th in GND per capita and is unenviably classified as the 25th poorest nation in the world.

Although it is pertinent to note here that level of revenue earned or resources available is quite different from economic development. The cruix is the positive utilization of the said revenue or resources in an economic development process capable of impacting positively on the citizenry by improving on their standard of living and creating employment. These resources available in Nigeria include human, agricultural, petroleum, gas and solid minerals. Most developed countries are not as endowed as Nigeria, yet the leadership of this country has not been able to harness the abundant resources for the benefit of her citizenry. The statistical information contained in the table below depicts some aspects of the Nigerian economy.

A further analysis of the economy as depicted in table 2.5 reveals that capital utilization decreased from 70.1% in 1983 to an abysmal level of 32.0% in the year 2000, the GDP followed the same pattern by falling from 9.4% in 1985 to 3.8% in 2000 while inflation rate oscillated over the corresponding period. Under the above scenario, it will be extremely difficult to have meaningful poverty reduction in Nigeria. The economic development of the nation and poverty could be viewed as two different sides of the same coin. An improvement in the economy, no doubt, will reduce the rate of poverty. On the other hand, the high incidence of poverty translates to denial of the much required contributions to move the economy forward. Collapsing and uncompetitive industrial activities, rapid growth in unemployment, unstable interest rate, high inflation rate, are just the few features of the Nigerian environment that ought to be solved before poverty alleviation strategies can effectively work. A proper understanding of the policies and institutions that lead to sustained and sustainable economic growth is a first step in developing strategies to improve the lot of poor people. The World bank in her report on attacking poverty 200/2001 (2001:49) brought an entirety different approach to economic development and poverty by hinging growth on education in general and female literacy and girls education in particular when it holds that there is evidence that growth depends on education and life expectancy, particularly at lower incomes. For example, it has been shown that female literacy and girls education are good for overall economic growth. The relationship between poverty and economic growth is aptly put thus: the general relationship between economic growth and poverty reduction is clear. But there are also significant differences across countries and overtime in how much poverty reduction occurs at a given rate of economic growth, World bank (2001:52), according to the CBN (1999:7), “it has been generally accepted that although economic growth is a perequiste for poverty alleviation, it is not by itself a significant condition, especially where growth is accompanied by inequity in income distribution”. All these points to the fact that with different levels of economic globally, there exist differently categories of poverty and therefore require different approaches. Economic growth iof nations occurs in different ways that can reduce poverty, promote gender equality and enhance viable development to either a greater or less degrees. This creates a link between economic growth and poverty reduction, which is usually significant. The depth and incidence of poverty tend to fall with economic growth and therefore create opportunities for poor people based on the availability of favourable condition for them to take advantage of those opportunities.

Poverty reduction programmes in Nigeria

Although analyzing each of the poverty reduction strategies in Nigeria looks idea, such exercise has been done by several studies and they seem to agree substaintially on the reasons for the failure of the numerous poverty intervention measure. Jega (2003:6) was unequivocal in his agreement with problems identified by Ajakaiye (2003) as the bane of poverty alleviation or eradication programmes in Nigeria. He stated that professor Ajakaiye has identified the following problems associated with the successive poverty reduction programmes, which I wholly agree with:

  • Policy inconsistency and poor governance

  • Ineffective targeting of the poor (leading to leakage of benefits to unintended beneficiaries).

  • Unwieldy scope of the programmes resulting in resources being thinly spread among projects.

  • Overlapping of functions which ultimately led to institutional rivary and conflicts.

  • Lack of complementarities from beneficiaries

  • Uncoordinated sectoral policyinitiatives.

  • Lack of involvement of social partners and other stakeholders in planning, implementation and education and

  • Poor human capital development and inadequate funding.

The presidential panel on streamlining and rationalization of poverty alleviation institutes and agencies in its main report of 1999. p.10 listed some reasons it considered most relevant that account for the failure of the wide array of Nigeria’s poverty intervention measures. The reason accord substantially to those above with the following additions:

(i) Gross mismanagement and lack of financial discipline.

(ii) Poor and inconsistent funding

(iii) Policy inconsistencies occasioned by frequent changes in Government and absence of in-built sustainability mechanism and Absence of a co-coordinating body necessary for effective implementation, co-ordination, planning, monitoring and evaluation of achievements and constraints.

Perhaps worst of all, is the administrative nightmare in terms of bureaucracies in the provision of some service such as rural credit, rural electrification, education and health.

Even the recently established poverty reduction monitoring institution, National poverty Eradication programme (NAPEP) is fraught with problems associated with the implementation as has been identified by Aliyu (2002:59). They include:

(i) Weak response and commitment of the federal ministries on the roles of members of the state coordination committee (SCC) and contributions to the SCC.

(ii) Weak capacities of the state and LGA offices of the ministries in generating and processing the required data in their field operation.

(iii) Weak facilities and logistical support for NAPEP to effectively monitor all poverty related operations in the LGAs and

(iv) Lack of a compendium of information on all operational NGOs sorted out by states and Local Government Areas.

Measures towards enhancing poverty reduction programmes in Nigeria

The would Bank’s opinion on sustainable poverty reduction programmes becomes most relevant for effective poverty alleviation programmes in Nigeria: Countries should invest in basic social services, promotion of efficient and sustainable distortion that prejudice the poor’s interest. To lend credence to the world Back’s opinion, the FOS (1996:124) proffers, sustainable poverty reduction anchored on three approaches:

(i) Policies that promote efficient growth and which make use of the poor’s most abundant asset, labour.

(ii) Public expenditure on institutions that provide equitable access to education, health care, and social-safety not for the most vulnerable groups in the society e.g old age, disable and chronically poor rural dwellers and

(iii) Stable macroeconomic policy environment is also considered very imperative and vital.

From various studies, mostly those conducted by the world Bank, it is clearly revealed that poverty reduction problems are not based on the correct identification of the poor. Worse still is that the poor hardly benefit from the programmes meant to reduce their poverty? Therefore, the poor should be involved in the design and most importantly in the implementation of any programme meant for them.

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Conclusion and recommendations

Most government activities are poverty reduction based. For instance, each ministry has elements of poverty reduction embedded in their programmes/projects. Therefore, if these government ministries are empowered and are well focused, there may not have been any need to establish any special agency for poverty reduction. Poverty has various dimensions such as lack of adequate food and shelter, education and health, vulnerability to ill health, natural disasters and economic dislocation as well as lack of voice in matters concerning them. Until the adequate understanding of all the multi-dimensional nature of poverty is put into place and brought into play, all strategies may end up addressing only one dimension or, at best, some dimensions of poverty.

To be able to effectively achieve the objective of reducing poverty to a considerable how level, efforts or strategies formulated and directed towards poverty reduction need to be holistic in nature. Poverty issues cannot effectively be addressed in isolation of social norms, values, and customary practices at different levels of the family, community, state, region or nation. The poverty reduction institutions of the government should be seen as an integral part of agencies responsible for the realization of good governance and provision of basic social amenities, especially enhancing security and providing means of cushioning vulnerability of citizens to external and mostly uncontrollable events such as violence, economic shocks, natural disaster etc.

In view of the reviews, surveys conducted and findings drawn from it, suggestions made by respondents and review panels, above conclusions and the need to move Nigeria forward in its poverty reduction efforts, the following recommendations are put forward.

– Poverty reduction programmes should be given its pride of place through adequate budgeting and prompt releases of funds to them;

– Efforts should be made to effectively target the poor in all consideration and at all levels of articulation, implementation, monitoring and review of the poverty reduction strategies.

– The government’s anti-corruption efforts should be stepped up and seriously upheld in dealing with matters concerning poverty reduction programmes/agencies and even beneficiaries.

– The National Poverty Eradication Programme should be strengthened for its coordination and monitoring mandate;

– Issues concerning inconsistency should be resolved through the approval and faithful implementation of the national policy on poverty reduction;

– Government and its agencies should develop a multi-dimensional approach to poverty reduction strategies and implement along that line;

– No strategies, programmes or projects on poverty reduction should be articulated and implemented without the proper consultation with the stakeholders on a bottom-up approach basis;

– Everything possible and practicable should be done to bring about good governance, sustainability of policies and prohrammes, and good leadership generally and specifically into poverty reduction efforts; and

– A complete re-orientation package in the form of campaigns, publicity, talks and seminars should be embarked upon in order to change the attitudinal disposition of the poor towards government programmes, employment and empowerment drives etc.

References

  • Central Bank of Nigeria, (1999) Nigeria’s development, Prospects: Poverty Assessment and Alleviation Study Central Bank of Nigeria Collaboration with the World
  • Narayan, D. et al , (2000) Voices of the Poor: Can Anyone Hear Us? World Bank.
  • United Nations Development Programme, (2001) Nigeria Human Development Report 2000/2001 Millennium Edition. UNDP Lagos.
  • Ezejule, A.C and Ogwo, O.E. (1990) “Basic Principles in Managing Research projects Africa”. FEP Publisher Ltd, Okigwe.
  • Joe, A.I. (1992) Fundamental Statistics for Education and the Behavioural Sciences Kraft Books Ltd Ibadan.
  • Canagarajah, S. (1999) Poverty and Welfare in Nigeria Federal Office of Statistics and World Bank.
  • Poverty Reduction Plan 2001 to 2004 “A Rrport of Inter-Ministerial Group of Officials, Coordinated b the Economic Policy Coordinating Committee Abija
  • World Bank (1999), “Nigerian Consultation with the Poor”. Report of the Global Synthesis Workshop September 22-23, 1999.
  • Federal Republic of Nigeria (2000), “Main Report by Technical Committee on the Poverty Alleviation Programmes in Nigeria.
  • Ajakaiye, O. (2003) ‘Public Service and the Challenges of Managing Poverty Eradication in Nigeria”. Apaper Presented at the 2003 Retreat for Permanent Secretaries and Directors in the Federal Civil Service of the Federation June 18, 2003.
  • Aliyu, A. (2002) ‘Implementation Progress Report: Background Structure, Achievements and Problems. A paper presented at a one day special Presidential Retreat for Permanent Secretaries.
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