Nigeria has maintained the infamous title of ‘World Poverty Capital’ according to the World Bank since 2016. The World Bank data had shown that four in every ten Nigerians live below the poverty line of $1.9 per day.
In the words of Irene Khan, former secretary general of Amnesty International, “poverty is not only about income poverty, but it is also about the deprivation of economic and social rights, insecurity, discrimination, exclusion, and powerlessness. That is why human rights must not be ignored but given even greater prominence in times of economic crisis.” Moreover, rising poverty is directly related to a surge in insecurity. Unfortunately, efforts by the present administration to address the rising challenges of poverty through the National Social Investment Programme meant to improve the standard of living of the average Nigerian has yielded no result for a project that gulps N500 billion annually.
The current inflation rate of 18.6 percent is believed would push more Nigerians below the poverty line by the end of 2022. Globally, economies are devising measures and approaches to cushion the devastating effect of rising prices on the disposable income of their citizens. However, the present administration has failed to assist impoverished and vulnerable Nigerians. Germany, Austria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, Ghana, and a few other economies are giving out financial incentives to households, cost of living allowance, unemployment benefits, an adjustment in wages and salaries, and roll-out of public transport measures to reduce the impact of inflation. However, the government in Nigeria has been insensitive to the plight of Nigerians, with much attention channelled towards the 2023 general election.
The insecurity in the northern part of Nigeria has displaced thousands of households who are primarily farmers and affected their means of livelihood. Families find it difficult to fend for their large family sizes. Food prices have soared as a vast chunk of food items are cultivated in the northern part of the country. In addition, there have been incessant cases of attacks by unknown gunmen in the south easterner part of Nigeria.
Furthermore, the declaration of Monday sit-at-home by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the south-eastern part of the country has affected businesses and their revenue. These activities negatively impact household income and could push more Nigerians into poverty.
The spate of kidnapping for ransom in nearly all states of the federation is creating a crisis economy. A crisis economy is when certain individuals exploit security challenges to their economic advantage or to enrich themselves. These unchecked activities by the government would fuel more insecurity, as more Nigerians are losing their means of survival and would engage in activities associated with insecurity to cushion their loss and meet their financial obligations.
Security of lives and property cannot be guaranteed in an atmosphere of poverty, hunger, and low quality of life, especially in the midst of plenty. Moreover, the level of mismanagement of public funds, waste, and corruption, is evident to even the blind to see.
Citizens who have been neglected and abandoned by the government’s ineptitude could engage in a fierce attack against the state and exploit the economic power of the middle class and the rich as a form of income redirection from the rich to the poor. The government’s nonchalant attitude would amount to citizens resorting to self-defence, as already suggested by some Nigerians. Rising cases of poverty in Nigeria are ultimately fueling insecurity.
Addressing the challenges of poverty as quickly as possible must be the first step in addressing the overwhelming insecurity issues. Nelson Mandela states, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” With nearly half of Nigerians below the poverty line, youth unemployment at 42.5 percent, a high inflation rate, ASUU strike, disinvestment in the economy, and other surmountable challenges, the security of Nigeria would remain wishful thinking and a mirage.
Alikor Victor is a development economist & policy analyst at The Nextier group