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Poverty in Nigeria: The true Brunt
By Amilia Jiji Ugboma
Published on 04/16/2013
Nigeria is currently hobbled by macro-economic instability, inadequate infrastructure and vast poverty. This is despite the fact that the country is blessed with a whole lot of natural and human resources, writes Amilia Jiji Ugboma

By Amilia Jiji Ugboma

Nigeria is currently hobbled by macro-economic instability, inadequate infrastructure and vast poverty. This is despite the fact that the country is blessed with a whole lot of natural and human resources- Nigeria makes about $80 billion annually on the sale of oil alone. How do we explain this paradox and why does it exist? Most, if not all of the blame goes to corruption. I am however not here to examine the how or the why, but to throw more light to the insidious consequences of this paradox.

As at 2012, the Nigerian bureau of statistics (NBS) provided data that showed that about 61% of the Nigerian population which is approximately 100million people, are living on less than $1:00 (N160) a day. In other words, most Nigerians live below the poverty line. It has been ranked among the poorest nations in the world. This daunting situation exists despite the fact that the country's Gross Domestic product (GDP) has grown over the past years. It begs to question: how come the GDP is growing and poverty still prevails? This can be attributed to uneven distribution of wealth. This is the driving force of the mangled economic and social systems of the nation. This inequality is in itself an effect.

As a Nigerian myself, I have observed that the vast inequality in income in the country can be attributed mainly to a dysfunctional macro-economic structure. One of the pecks of globalization which is a free market economy doesn't seem to give the desired effect of wealth distribution in our economy. We have failed to realize that simply adopting a model without adopting the tenants and practices that make it work, renders it useless. The lack of attention to detail, nepotism and the practice of crony capitalism have driven us further down our abyss of stagnancy. Income inequality increases as GDP grows. The rich is getting richer and the poor getting poorer - a cliché that continues to hunt our nation.

The Nigerian democratic system is also a complete mockery and tends to possess more characteristics of an oligarchy. The leaders parade that they listen to the voice of the people, but really they are apathetic to their basic needs. Rulers and officials distinguished by their excessive greed and thirst for power are constantly recycled into power and continue to squander the nation's resources on personal pleasures.

The people are beginning to reach the zenith of their tolerance. The debauchery of the Nigerian economy has begun to resonate in other delicate sectors such as security. The people have begun to pay for the mistakes of the leaders literally with their blood. When individuals in a society are unemployed; security is threatened - It's a simple cause and effect logic. The state of poverty has begun to grow to uncontrollable heights and has awoken deep borne resentments that threaten the nation's unity.

People of the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria, for a long time have been victims of constant neglect, being major producers of oil, (which provides up to 95% of Nigeria's income) they've had a front row seat in experiencing uneven distribution of wealth and total neglect by the government. The feeling of anger and helplessness metamorphosed into violence; lives were lost and the image of the country was further tarnished in the international scene. The signs had been there, but being proactive is reserved for a government that actually cares about the people.

Statistical data has shown that some of the areas with the highest concentration of poverty are located in the Northern part of Nigeria. We cannot turn our eyes from the glaring correlation between this poverty and the current insurgency in the North. I do not deny the fact that political agenda, ethnic and religious differences are a major life source to these recent acts of terrorism and killings; however, we must understand that poverty and economic stratification has contributed immensely to the uprising of violence. Neglect, unfairness and austerity have bred anger, envy and hatred among the impoverished. The inherent lack has led the people to express their anger in extreme ethnocentric behavior, xenophobia and constant insurrection against the government.

Each region can confidently state how they have been cheated in the distribution of the nation's wealth, every tribe has a story, and every religious group has a complaint. Who then is the culprit? Nigerians have become too self-absorbed and over zealous to see that in actuality, it's the impoverished crying out and channeling their anger in any and every way they can. The crisis Nigeria is currently experiencing shows so many traits of a class war that has been masked by ethnic and religious differences and misunderstandings.

I in no way condone violence and I do not deny its utter absurdity, but in as much as we try to quench the fires, we must not lay oblivious to a glaring source of this said fire; Poverty. So long as the youth remain unemployed, idle and hungry, the more violence will not want in perpetrators. A quest for survival has ripped majority of their values. With the leaders not setting good examples themselves, Corruption has trickled down to every class and become an acceptable way of life and the bane of our society.

Government officials, well placed individuals and everyone who has the means, create a niche of luxury and live in relative peace, but a puddle of water in hell soon dries up. Constant promises that turn out empty have driven the people further into frustration. We've seen it in Egypt and Libya. The time is coming, and if Nigeria government doesn't stir a different course and take a practical approach to tackling these issues, the damage will become irrevocable.

Amilia Jiji Ugboma is a graduate of economics and a freelance writer, her articles have been featured on other media platforms. She can be followed on twitter at @jiji129