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Inequality hinders inclusive growth in Nigeria: Here are possible solutions

Economic crisis: Triple blow for Nigerian families

In Nigeria, the gap between the rich and the poor has continued to grow very wide. The height of economic and gender inequalities has reached extreme levels; it shows in the daily struggles of the majority of Nigerians. The disadvantaged majority, who are poor due to economic and gender inequality in Nigeria, can hardly contribute to growth and development.

Inequality is the gap in social status, wealth, or opportunity between people or groups which makes them produce different results. Inequality is in two perspectives; gender inequality and economic inequality. Gender inequality means differences in the roles or activities considered appropriate for men and women.

Economic inequality denotes a gap in wealth and income holding of men and women. Wealth is the net personal material possession, and income is the amount of money received, especially regularly, for work done or investments undertaken.

Inequality has hindered inclusive growth and development in Nigeria. It concentrates wealth in the hands of the few at the disadvantage of the majority. Over 90 million Nigerians are poor; they live below the poverty line of $1.90 per day. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) confirmed that in 2020, 40 percent or 83 million Nigerians were poor.

The data released by the NBS suggested that the number of poor Nigerians exceeded the total populations of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Mauritius, and Eswatini. The poor contribute very little or nothing to national growth in every economy.

The level of poverty in Nigeria shows that economic growth is not inclusive. The World Bank (WB) report further stated that about 7 million Nigerians would fall into poverty in 2021. By these reports, about 90 million Nigerians were below the poverty line in 2021.

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Inequality in Nigeria is not a result of a lack of resources, but the misappropriation of resources and corruption among the political elites who are out of touch with the daily struggles of Nigerians.

One of the causes of inequality in Nigeria is the high cost of governance. According to Oxfam International, Nigerian lawmakers are the best paid globally; their average annual salary is the highest. The cost of maintaining the machinery of government in Nigeria is also the highest. The high cost of governance aggravates inequality because few resources will be left to provide basic essential services for the growing Nigerian population.

The opportunities available to the children and relatives of the political class are unmatched. They attend the best schools overseas, eat the best food, and subsequently get the best jobs in the Nigerian Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs).

The vulnerable do not get jobs in public and private organisations after struggling to graduate from Nigerian universities because the political class has deliberately neglected the education system in Nigeria. The NBS report showed that 42.5 percent of Nigerian youth were unemployed by the end of 2020. This shows the height of inequality in Nigeria.

Inequality causes social tensions, violence, and increased crime rates in Nigeria. Inequality also perpetuates corruption because the average new entrant into politics; holds that politics is the quickest means of making wealth in Nigeria. Inequality contributes to the low growth rate in Nigeria.

The unemployed youth could have been engaged in economic activities to contribute to national growth. The rising level of inequality in Nigeria poses threats to Nigeria’s unity and stability and its ability to eradicate poverty. Youth emigration has recently increased due to economic inequality in Nigeria. The migrated youth would have joined forces to boost growth in Nigeria.

It is high time the Nigerian government embarked on policies and laws to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor in Nigeria. A fight against inequality will help to reduce the crime rate, social tension, youth emigration, youth unemployment, poverty, and strengthen national unity.

The Nigerian government should create a Nigeria where the sons and daughters of nobody can get jobs in the MDAs with apparent ease. The government should allocate adequate funds to the education, health, industrial and agricultural sectors annually to revive the ailing economy.

The degree of economic and gender inequalities has reached extreme levels. Many Nigerians are poor; they can hardly contribute to economic growth and development. No doubt, Nigeria stands to post impressive growth rates by eliminating inequality in the system.

Felix Ashakah is an economics lecturer at Western Delta University, Oghara