Poverty in Nigeria
Recently, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics recently released a report claiming that about 100 million Nigerians are living below poverty level. This declaration did not raise many eyebrows.
Nigerialike many other developing countries inAfricahas a large portion of its population living in abject poverty. It is a known fact thatNigeriais a poor country compared to other more developed countries with more resources. But is this poverty just a result of a lack of economic resources? Are Nigerians suffering because the country does not have what it takes to improve the living standards of its citizens? I believe the answer is No. This makes the hardships being borne by most Nigerians even more frustrating and difficult to understand.
The problem with many people is that they don’t look behind the figures and statistics to see the individual people who are going through all kind of unbearable difficulties that could so easily have been avoided. It goes way beyond living below $1 a day. Recently, I took part in an exercise which enabled me come in contact with many people belonging to the lower and middle class sectors of society and determine the extent of their spending power. Surprisingly, many people in the apparent lower class of society like market women, mechanics and so on seemed to have more disposable income than civil servants and other Government employees. It hurt deeply to see someone who had been working for so many years complain that he barely had enough to feed his children not to talk of paying house rent or school fees.
Most of them are so salary dependent and I did not need to have much imagination to realize that the salary will fizzle out within a week after it is received. One could argue that these kind of situations can be found anywhere in the world. But what will we say about the fact that hardly anyone in this country has constant electric power. I personally know 2 different people who died because of accidents they had with their generating sets. In the same way, so many sad stories can be told by people who are suffering because of the lack of potable water, bad roads, poor transportation facilities, lack of good educational institutions etc. People have lost their lives because they drank impure water, the bad roads cause fatal accidents every single day, our young people cannot get employed because the institutions they attended did not give them a good education . . . Individual lives being affected negatively by the lack of effectiveness of those who are meant to improve the welfare of the masses. All these factors do not need tons of money in order that they be made available for everyone.
In fact, if all the money that has been stolen by our corrupt politicians over the years were to be refunded and well utilized, we will have all these social amenities in abundance.
It is ironic that people who grow up in the more developed societies seem to be more concerned about the suffering of poor Nigerians than the Nigerians themselves who were raised here. Most Nigerians see poverty as something to be rejected and they do whatever it takes to amass all the wealth they can even if it means creating more poverty around them. On the other hand, each time I take a foreigner around the streets of any Nigerian city, he is struck speechless by the poverty he witnesses and wants to do something about it. Thank God that the social sector is slowly growing in this country. More and more Nigerians are getting directly involved in trying to solve social problems but they are still a minority and they get so little support from Government and society that it is very easy to get frustrated.
There is so much more to be done in this area. There is need to provide food for the hungry, jobs for the jobless, shelter for the homeless. These class of people are more than we can imagine but they tend to find a way of blending and remaining hidden in the crowd. I heard of someone who works hard doing odd jobs all day so he can afford to buy a bit of food and a soft drink in a certain club. After slowly eating and drinking this hard earned meal he curls up in a corner and sleeps off in the midst of the dancing and loud music. He has no other place to sleep. More than once I have been approached by well dressed people on the streets asking for money to eat. Initially, I used to be irritated and wonder why such an able bodied person cannot get himself or herself a job and earn money to feed.
However, on second thought, I realized that however justified my irritation might be, I cannot tell what kind of hardships such a well spoken person could have gone through to make him or her have to overcome their pride and beg.
If we don’t learn to touch the lives of people who feel the bite of our poor economy more directly, we will continue to endure social problems. You want to know why we have corrupt police officials? Go and look at the ‘slums’ where they live and you will realize that for a policeman to be honest, he has to have some inner strength driving him. How many rich men are doing the bombing and killing in the boko haram terrorist drama? It is mostly poor people who are easily manipulated because they lack material means and education who do the dirty work. The same can be said for many other menaces of our society. Poverty inNigeriacan be reduced massively if only everyone learns to get more involved in the lives of those around them. Obviously, if one is chosen or elected into a position where he becomes responsible for the livelihood of others, then it will be a crime if his actions promote suffering and poverty. Such crimes will definitely be punished either here and now or in the future.