Few days back, the popular Civil Rights Campaigner from Kaduna State and erstwhile Senator that represented Central Kaduna Senatorial Zone, Senator Shehu Sani uploaded a tweet in which he stated as follows: “One week from now, your prevailing bondage will expire. You will have the historic opportunity to renew your slavery or subscribe to freedom.”
These few lines are not so complex to understand by Nigerians who have the gift of discernment.
This is so because in the last eight years of the current administration at both the national and sub national levels, the wellbeing, welfare and economic status of millions of Nigerians have degenerated and degraded. Politicians at both the Central and state governments, have spent the better part of the past eight years servicing their personal pecuniary ambitions, building up massive accumulation of inordinate wealth stolen from the public till. Governance has been anything but good in the past eight years since President Muhammadu Buhari came on board. Procurement Corruption, lawlessness, impunity and mindless disrespect for the human rights of citizens have become the new normals of the bulk of persons occupying political offices. Tje anti graft institutions are also polluted from nepotustic appointments of the governing boards and hierarchies.
The statistical and economic indices are not very encouraging for millions of Nigerians.
Only two years or so after the coming into power of the current administration, the majority of Nigerians became too poor to afford three standard square meals. Millions of Nigerians in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy lost their jobs due to the incapacity of the Central government to put the enabling environment in place to motivate gainfully employed and self employed Nigerians to become productive. Rather, only a tiny fractions of persons with connections to the office of President Muhammadu Buhari became stupendously rich and the rest are heavily impoverished.
It was during the first few months into this administration that the Country became the poverty capital of the World. Few months after these shocking indices emerged, the National Bureau of statistics shocked us by stating scientifically that there are 130 million Nigerians who are multidimensionally poor.
Obvioysly, due to poor economic policies of the governments at both the central and state levels, Nigeria has maintained the infamous position as the poverty capital of the world, with 93.9 people in Africa’s most populous country currently living below the poverty line. Managing Director, Financial Derivatives Company (FDC) Limited and a member of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Economic Advisory Council (EAC), Mr. Bismarck Rewane, has stated.
Quoting World Bank data, Rewane, in a presentation at the monthly Lagos Business School’s economic breakfast meeting for September 2021, stated that seven million Nigerians fell into extreme poverty in 2020.
The report was titled: “Re: Growth Spikes (5.01 per cent), But People are Hungry?”
Nigeria, with its 200 million plus population, was first declared world’s poverty capital in 2018 in a report by the Brookings Institution, knocking off India from the position.
The report had then stated that the number of Nigerians in extreme poverty increases by six people every minute.
The Brookings Institution’s report had stated in 2018, “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.”
Rewane pointed out in the latest report that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), which is in the process of being implemented, would have minimal impact on new investments in the downstream sector of the Nigerian oil and gas industry. He based his projection on the fact that petrol subsidy was still in existence, despite the deregulation of the downstream sector by the PIA, coupled with investors’ on-going transition towards investments in renewable and clean energy.
The EAC member said, “Implementation of the PIA to continue but subsidies will remain. Minimal impact on new investments in the downstream sector as investors’ transition towards investments in renewable and clean energy.”
Although, deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector is among the provisions in the PIA, the federal government has ruled out immediate removal of petrol subsidy pending when an alternative to petrol is made available.
In his fiscal policy outlook, the economist stated that the public finance deficit would remain at N5.6 trillion for 2021, adding that oil revenue would be insufficient to meet the country’s expenditure needs. Although not removing petrol subsidy isn’t the issue here but there are lots of corruption practices in the administration of the so called subsidy because those who benefit do so illicitly as rewards for being affiliated to the powers that be. There is really no altruistic application of the subsidy for petrol.
That stayed, the aforementioned economist predicted that tax revenue would be undermined by widespread evasion and a large informal sector, he further said the federal government’s debt burden would intensify as ways and means advances climb.
However, Rewane pointed out some positive developments that could make Nigerians cheer, including the fact that the value of transactions across e-payment channels increased by 46.24 per cent in the second quarter (Q2) of 21 to N72.39 trillion from N49.5 trillion recorded in Q2’20.
They also include the climbing of the Federal Allocation (FAAC) disbursements by 3.76 per cent to N760.7 billion from N733.1 billion in July.
Others are vessels awaiting berth sharply down by 68.75 per cent to five in Lagos ports from 16 in July; as well as the signing of the PIB into law.
Added was that the Medium-Term National Development Plan (2021- 2025) would be unveiled in October, 10 months after the expiration of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) (2017- 2020).
Also included as part of the positives was the increasing of dollar supply to commercial banks by 200 per cent by the CBN.
However, on the negative side, the FDC boss listed some developments that should worry Nigerians, including the falling of total capital importation to $875.62 million in Q2’21, from $1.91 billion in Q1’21, and the crashing of the parallel market rate to N526/$ on Foreign Exchange (FX) supply shortages.
Commenting on inflation, he said, “While we expect inflation for August to fall again to 16.8 per cent, the impact of insecurity, exchange rate pass through and higher energy costs could exacerbate inflationary pressures.” Sadly, as I write, inflation rate as at Januaty 2023 was 21.82%.
To add salt to injury, the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS few days bavk said that 133 million (63 per cent) Nigerians are suffering from multidimensional poverty, with children constituting more than half of poor people in the country.
This means that two (2) out of every three (3) Nigerians are poor and experience just over one-quarter of all possible deprivations in terms of health, education, living standards, and work and shocks.
The NBS disclosed this in the 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index, MPI, Report launched on Thursday in Abuja.
The MPI is the result of the 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) Survey carried out by NBS and development partners.
The survey was a collaborative effort between the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the National Social Safety-Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI).
A breakdown of the dimensions of poverty used for the MPI includes: Nutrition, Food insecurity, Time to healthcare, School attendance, Years of schooling and School lag.
Others are Water, Water reliability, Sanitation, Housing materials, Cooking fuel, Assets, Unemployment, Underemployment, Security shock
Among other things the report showed that 65% of poor people—86 million—live in the North, while 35%—nearly 47 million— live in the South.
According to the report, “multidimensional poverty is higher in rural areas, where 72% of people are poor, compared to 42% of people in urban areas.
“Approximately 70% of Nigeria’s population live in rural areas, yet these areas are home to 80% of poor people; their intensity of poverty is also higher, at 42% in rural areas compared to 37% in urban areas.
“Two-thirds (67.5%) of children aged 0–17 are poor according to the National MPI, and half (51%) of all poor people are children.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari who for eight years has kept making promises he never intended to fulfil, has again with barely 3 months to his exit restated his unwavering commitment to eradicating poverty in the country, adding that the MPI results will be used to influence the allocation of resources going forward, particularly to target sectors where most citizens suffer deprivations.
He added that the MPI results will also serve as both a measurement and policy tool to monitor the Federal Government’s progress at achieving these goal of lifting 100 million people out of poverty within 10 years, in line with the objectives of the SDGs and the Africa Agenda 2063
Speaking at the launch of the MPI report in Abuja, President Buhari who was represented by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, said, “This government recognises the importance of the data and the need to deploy it in sharing your story to a broad spectrum of stakeholders, both domestically and internationally.
“Internally, we have now deployed a comprehensive Data Demand and Use (DDU) strategy to embed the use of evidence-based and data driven poverty reduction mechanisms. To begin this deployment of the data, let me share seven reasons why Nigeria’s multidimensional poverty index is a powerful tool to galvanise the kind of action that will push us forward to achieving the Presidential mandate of lifting 100 million out of poverty, within the next decade:
“First, the building blocks of Nigeria’s MPI are a set of deprivations that a person experiences at the same time. They relate to dimensions like health, education, living standards, work, and security. And so, the MPI brings under one roof different Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) indicators and forms of poverty, so we can break silos and address them together.
“Secondly, Nigeria is a large and diverse country. Using the disaggregation to show the vast range in the levels of poverty, we can see the precise needs for each State or senatorial district, which will allow policymakers at that level take appropriate action.
Economists said as follows: “As a post-pandemic data, it will be integrated within the National Social Register- the government’s largest databank on the poor and vulnerable. This integration will facilitate better targeting and coordinated response for social interventions; leaving no one behind.
Besides, “The MPI is embedded within the Medium-Term National Development Plans (2021-2026 & 2026-2030) as a measurement and policy tool for poverty reduction. Likewise, this year, the Federal Executive Council approved the 2022-2025 National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy (NPRGS) under which the MPI project is being implemented.
“The MPI analysis uncovers differences by gender and children. Children are a strategic population in Nigeria. They are deeply affected by poverty, yet they are our future. So, we are building a young child MPI. It includes the national MPI and adds in extra information about early childhood development, which is information we require to improve their lives and life chances.
Lastly, the economists say that “At the Federal level, these results will be used to influence the allocation of resources going forward, particularly to target sectors where most citizens suffer deprivations.
“The MPI is not our only data on poverty, combining the insights provided by MPI results with data from the income poverty measurement, it provides a holistic picture of poverty, and helps to shape the path towards shared prosperity.
Explaining the structure of the MPI survey, the NBS said: “The National MPI 2022 has four dimensions: health, education, living standards, and work and shocks. The number of indicators, and their ambition, have increased.
“Security shocks were raised in consultations and have been added to the work dimension, which also now includes underemployment. Food security and time to healthcare have been added to the health dimension.
“School lag has been added to the education dimension as a proxy for quality, and water reliability added to living standards. The National MPI 2022 also has a linked Child MPI. This Child MPI extends the National MPI to include appropriate indicators for children aged 0–4, by adding a fifth dimension of child survival and development.
“This additional dimension contains eight vital aspects of early childhood development in physical and cognitive domains—including severe undernutrition, immunisation, intellectually stimulating activities, and preschool. While it does not offer individual-level data, it uncovers additional children who according to the extra dimension should qualify as multidimensionally poor.”
According to the National Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) 2022, 62.9% of people—just under 133 million people— are multidimensionally poor, meaning that they experience deprivations in more than one dimension, or in at least 26% of weighted indicators. The average deprivation score among poor people, which shows the intensity of poverty, is 40.9%. The National MPI is 0.257, showing that poor people in Nigeria experience just over one-quarter of all possible deprivations.
“Multidimensional poverty is higher in rural areas, where 72% of people are poor, compared to 42% of people in urban areas.
“Poverty levels across States vary significantly, with the incidence of multidimensional poverty ranging from a low of 27% in Ondo to a high of 91% in Sokoto.
“Indicator priorities vary quite widely between States with very similar poverty levels, so interventions should be tailored to the deprivation profiles of each State.
“For accurate budgeting and planning, it is vital to consider how many people are poor, alongside their level of poverty.
Poverty among children
Two-thirds (67.5%) of children aged 0–17 are poor according to the National MPI, and half (51%) of all poor people are children.
According to the Child MPI, 83.5% of children under 5 are poor. The incidence of Child MPI is above 50% in all States, and greater than 95% in Bayelsa, Sokoto, Gombe and Kebbi.
“The highest deprivations are in the indicator of child engagement—where over half of poor children lack the intellectual stimulation that is pivotal to early childhood development.
“Child poverty is prevalent in rural areas, with almost 90% of rural children experiencing poverty.
“While 6 out of 10 girls aged 12–17 were poor, among those in child marriages, approximately 8 out of 10 were poor. The MPI among married girls was also higher at 0.338, compared to 0.256 for girls who are not married. While the numbers are small, the differences in poverty are very high, emphasising the need to address child marriage and multidimensional poverty.
“In total, 29% of all school-aged children are not attending school. This is closely linked to multidimensional poverty: 94% of all out-of-school children are poor.
“Thus 27% of all school age children are both poor and out of school (with no significant gender disparities), making this a critical area in need of urgent investment.
“The data profiles how many children live in households where there is inequality, with some children attending school and others not. Overall, 17% of poor school-aged children experience inequalities in their household, compared to 2% of non-poor school-aged children.
“Gender disparities continue to greatly affect the overall population, with 1 in 7 poor people (18.6 million) living in a household in which a man has completed primary school, but no woman has done so.
“Across Nigeria, 4.4 million people, 2.1% of the population, live in households with a pioneer child—a child who has completed six years of schooling and lives in a household where no adult has completed six years of schooling”
In terms of recommendations, the NBS recommended that “The National MPI 2022 as an official monitoring indicator for the initiative lifting 100 million people out of poverty by 2030, to complement the monetary indicators.
“The National MPI 2022 to report and share progress on poverty reduction via both the Global SDG Indicators Database (as 1.2.2) and Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs).
“The National MPI should be regularly updated, using an appropriate survey vehicle. Integration of the National MPI 2022 with the National Monitoring and Evaluation Framework at the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning (MFBNP) is essential.
“Incorporate the National MPI into medium and long-term strategies (such as the National Development Plan) with appropriate targets.
“Prioritise and accelerate the implementation of existing national policies and action plans that have an impact on clusters of deprivations that are particularly high at a national or sub-national level
“Adopt a national strategy to accelerate the sustainable transition to clean cooking fuels and technologies, given that more than half of the population who are multidimensionally poor cook with dung, wood or charcoal
Set child poverty reduction as a top national priority, as more than half of all poor people are children.
“Early childhood development policies must be strengthened and accelerated. The nutrition of children aged 0–4 must be prioritised as this population cannot wait; policies to increase school enrolment and attendance should also be prioritised, as should policies to end child marriage.
“Alongside previous policy recommendations, prioritise interventions in rural areas, where 80% of all multidimensionally poor people live.
“Adopt a programme aimed at promoting employment and alleviating shocks for households with at least one PLWD.
“Continue to include MPI data in the National Social Register (NSR) to ensure that targeting takes into account people who are multidimensionally poor.
“Promote the poverty dashboard so non-governmental actors can access and use National MPI data to target their programmes.”
So, from these evidences we have generated from institutions concerned withhathering statistics on the economic development of Nigeria, it is self evident that Senator Shehu Sani’s brief post in the opening paragraph of this write up, means that on Saturday February 25th which is the date for the most significant Presidential and legislative elections, millions of Nigerians can either pick the most competent, incorruptible and effective presidential candidate and legislators, so Nigeria can once more begin to witness economic prosperity, security of lives and property, peace and inter ethnic and religious harmony or make their choice based on mundane yardsticks such as religion, ethnicity or based on the enslavement of selling their ballots for peanuts.
However, there is a key issue in all of these circumstances that have unleashed themselves as we head to the Saturday’s poll.
That issue has to do with the heightened state of general insecurity all around the Country.
The major issue associated with the widening spectres of bloody violence, is the incapacity and the lack of political will on the part of both Federal and State governments, and essentially, on the part of the president who commands and control the armed forces of Nigeria to clinically degrade, destroy and demobilize the armed non state actors such as terrorists, bandits, herdsmen including their collaborators within the system.
President Muhammadu Buhari has through incompetency, allowed insecurity to spread and the rate of killings of citizens has escalated.
This is why there is a climate of anxiety that insecurity may be a major factor that will undermine the holding of a free, fair, transparent and peaceful election.
In Lagos, there are intelligence information of plots by thugs loyal to the All Progressives Congress (APC) to attack Igbo should their candidate not win the poll. The Inspector General of Police also alluded to the fact that some dissidents in the South West are amassing weapons to scuttle the election.
But with just few days to the most significant election, the IGP, the DSS or the NSA have not shown Nigerians any verifiable evidence of their commitments to prevent the outbreak of pre and post election. So, if you are reading this by chance and you are a prospective killer at this election or thereafter, I want to tell you that you will gain nothing by killing for politicians who have already inflicted multidimensional poverty and have made it impossible for you and your family to make financial breakthroughs. Don’t kill for politics.
Unfortunately, as i Write, many Nigerians including candidates have been assassinated already but the security forces are not on top of the situation. So how does the Chief of Defence staff want to convince Nigerians that the armed forces are ‘good to go’, to use his language?
The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Lucky Irabor, on Monday declared that the Armed Forces of Nigeria were prepared to ensure a secured general election, starting this Saturday.
He spoke after a meeting with military service chiefs and other security chiefs including the Inspector-General of Police, Director-General of DSS, Director-General of NIA and the Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI) ahead of the elections.
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Irabor reassured Nigerians that the armed forces and other security agencies were ready to provide a safe and secure environment for the elections.
He said the purpose of the meeting was to review security arrangements for the elections and develop action plans to ensure that the exercise was held under a peaceful atmosphere.
“We have just finished the meeting. The service chiefs, the Inspector General of Police, the DSS, represented by the Director of Operations, the DG, NIA and the CDI.
“Looking at the security for the elections and as you know, the police are the lead agency for elections security, we have compared notes and assessed the entire situation and we are good to go.
“The assessment is that we are set on all fronts. We got representation from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who of course, you have interacted with and has also told Nigerians and the world that they are ready for this election.
“By and large, we are good to go and I like to use this opportunity to assure Nigerians that on the security front, we are good to go on all fronts,” he said.
Irabor also gave assurances that the security agencies would cover every part of the country to ensure peaceful elections, so that all eligible Nigerians could exercise their franchise.
While noting that contingency actions were taken to address areas with peculiar security challenges, the defence chief warned those plotting to cause trouble during the elections to have a rethink, because “they will get a bloody nose.”
Millions of Nigerians who watched this military General will ask if this is true given that for eight years, these same military commanders have promised and failed to restore natiknal stability and peace but have allowed armed non state actors to continue to kill at will. Whether Irabor’s promise is realistic or not, only time will tell.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.