Poverty con­sti­tutes big­gest se­cu­rity threat to Nige­ri­ans

Business Day (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE - ODINAKA ANUDU

Charles Dekini grad­u­ated from one of the pre­mium uni­ver­si­ties in south­west Nige­ria 10 years ago. After search­ing for a job for two years, he fi­nally got one as an ex­ec­u­tive mar­keter in an in­sur­ance com­pany in La­gos. He got mar­ried im­me­di­ately, pro­duc­ing three chil­dren seven years after.

The three chil­dren at­tended an av­er­age school, where

the pro­pri­etor charged N60,000 each term as fees. Dekini’s salary was N47,000 monthly, but his wife Nana who worked as a teacher in La­gos Main­land earned N35,000 monthly. Last year, one of Dekini’s chil­dren fell sick and re­quired N800,000 for treat­ment. The com­bined sav­ings of Dekini and his wife were less than the amount the doc­tors asked for. While scram­bling for the money, the child died. Hope­less and bitter, Dekini left Nige­ria for Sene­gal by road early in 2020.

Be­fore leav­ing, Dekini had com­plained that he and his fam­ily were not se­cure in Nige­ria, de­spite ob­tain­ing a first­class de­gree in Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion. And he was not talk­ing about be­ing se­cured by the po­lice or the army, but hav­ing ac­cess to things that made life worth liv­ing such as a good job, qual­ity and af­ford­able health­care, and good ed­u­ca­tion.

His story mir­rors the plight of half of Nige­ria’s pop­u­la­tion who are ex­tremely poor with­out ac­cess to good jobs, health­care, and qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion.

“Se­cu­rity should not be seen in phys­i­cal terms, but it is about liv­ing well and liv­ing long,” a Uk-based pro­fes­sor of lead­er­ship, peace and con­flict, who does not want her name in print, said.

Poverty is as­tro­nom­i­cally ris­ing in Africa’s most pop­u­lous na­tion, con­sti­tut­ing the big­gest se­cu­rity threat in the coun­try. Oil-rich Nige­ria has 87 mil­lion ex­tremely poor peo­ple, with six peo­ple jump­ing into the poverty train ev­ery minute, ac­cord­ing to the Brook­ings In­sti­tute’s World Poverty Clock re­leased in 2018.

About 82.9 mil­lion Nige­ri­ans are ex­tremely poor, con­sti­tut­ing 40.1 per­cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion with real per capita ex­pen­di­tures be­low N137,430 in 2019, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Bureau of Statis­tics’ (NBS) Poverty and In­equal­ity re­port in May 2020. The World Bank pre­dicted that there would be 95.7 mil­lion Nige­ri­ans liv­ing be­low the poverty line by 2022.

“With real per capita GDP growth fore­cast to be neg­a­tive in all sec­tors in 2020, poverty will deepen for the current poor, while those house­holds that were just above the poverty line prior to the COVID-19 crisis will fall into poverty,” the World Bank said about Nige­ria in June 2020.

Poverty and unemployme­nt are close cousins. Unemployme­nt rate in Nige­ria hit 27 per­cent in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2020, from 23 per­cent in the third quar­ter of 2018. Nige­ria now ranks 7th on World Mis­ery Index. Inflation is nearly 13 per­cent with mon­e­tary pol­icy rate at 12.5 per­cent, mak­ing ac­cess to funds for ex­pan­sion nearly im­pos­si­ble for mi­cro, small and medium busi­nesses.

Steve Hanke, pro­fes­sor of Eco­nom­ics at John Hop­kins Univer­sity, US, posted on his Twit­ter han­dle on Septem­ber 14 that the man­age­ment of Nige­ria’s econ­omy is poor, with mul­ti­ple increases in things that make life worth­while.

Nige­ria’s GDP slumped by 6 per­cent in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2020 and there are in­di­ca­tions that the econ­omy will be in re­ces­sion sooner than later.

The for­eign ex­change is hitting hard on the im­port-de­pen­dent econ­omy where oil con­trib­utes 8-10 per­cent to the GDP but con­sti­tutes over 70 per­cent of FX earn­ings. Liq­uid­ity is now a big chal­lenge for the econ­omy, with ac­cess to fi­nance dif­fi­cult due to high in­ter­est rate and Covid-19 in­duced crisis.

“Coun­tries that get their na­tional strate­gies right first think about cre­at­ing liq­uid­ity. Be­cause once you have liq­uid­ity, it cre­ates employment. It does not mat­ter how many gov­ern­ment poli­cies you an­nounce, be­cause with­out liq­uid­ity, ex­ist­ing jobs will be de­stroyed,” Ayo Teriba, CEO of Eco­nomic As­so­ciates, told Busi­ness­day on the phone re­cently.

Econ­o­mists want Nige­ria to strengthen the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor and lib­er­alise the mar­ket to al­le­vi­ate poverty.

A Labour Mar­ket re­port by Chapel Hill Den­ham sug­gests ex­pand­ing Nige­ria’s eco­nomic growth fron­tier be­yond ser­vices, to in­dus­try and agri­cul­ture, through ease of do­ing busi­ness re­forms and eco­nomic lib­er­al­i­sa­tion poli­cies.

Health­care is also a chal­lenge in Africa’s big­gest econ­omy. Nige­ria has one doc­tor to 6,000 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates, as against World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s (WHO) rec­om­men­da­tion of one to 600 peo­ple. Life ex­pectancy is 54 years in Nige­ria as against 64 years in South Africa; 72 years in Egypt; 66 years in Ethiopia, and 66 years in Kenya.

With per capita in­come of $2,250, Nige­ria’s out-of­pocket ex­pen­di­ture as a share of health ex­pen­di­ture was 75.2 per­cent in 2016 and 77.2 per­cent in 2017, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial data.

Due to poor in­fra­struc­ture in Nige­ria’s health­care in­dus­try, the rich travel abroad for med­i­cal treat­ment and aban­don the poor to de­crepit health­care sys­tem. An­nual med­i­cal tourism is es­ti­mated by Nige­ria at $1 bil­lion.

A poll cit­ing the Med­i­cal and Den­tal Coun­cil of Nige­ria (MDCN) re­ported that there are about 72,000 na­tion­al­lyreg­is­tered Nige­rian doc­tors, with only 35,000 prac­tis­ing in-coun­try. Es­ti­mates say there is a deficit of over 260,000 doc­tors in Nige­ria and a min­i­mum of 10,605 new doc­tors need to be re­cruited an­nu­ally to meet global tar­gets.

On­wu­for Uche, di­rec­tor of the Gy­nae Care Re­search and Can­cer Foun­da­tion in Abuja, told Al Jazeera re­cently that more than half of those seek­ing visas to In­dia were go­ing for med­i­cal care not avail­able here in Nige­ria, stress­ing that poor Nige­ri­ans would be at the mercy of the di­lap­i­dated de­crepit health in­fra­struc­ture.

“The health­care ecosys­tem is not at­trac­tive. The bar­rier to en­try is rel­a­tively low. Most of the pur­chases are made out-of-pocket be­cause of the lack of uni­ver­sal cov­er­age. Health­care from the qual­ity point of view is not pro­tected,” Richard Ajayi, board chair­man, La­gos State Univer­sity Teach­ing Hos­pi­tal (LASUTH), told Busi­ness­day re­cently.

More­over, poor Nige­ri­ans strug­gle to send their chil­dren to school. The num­ber of out- of-school chil­dren who are aged 5-14 years in Africa’s most pop­u­lous na­tion is 10.5 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to UNICEF. Ed­u­ca­tion is not tai­lored to skills but the­o­ries, lead­ing to higher rates of unemployme­nt and town-gown di­chotomy.

L-R: Adel­eye Olu­sola Oye­bade, deputy in­spec­tor-gen­eral of Po­lice in charge of re­search and plan­ning; Mo­hammed Adamu, in­spec­tor­gen­eral of Po­lice; Mah­mood Yakubu, chair­man, In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (INEC), and John­son Sinikien, res­i­dent elec­toral com­mis­sioner for Edo, dur­ing the 2020 Edo Gover­nor­ship Elec­tion Stake­hold­ers’ Meet­ing in Benin City, yes­ter­day.

Tukur Bu­ratai (l), chief of Army Staff, with Seyi Makinde, gov­er­nor, Oyo State, dur­ing Bu­ratai’s cour­tesy visit to the Gov­ern­ment House, Agodi in Ibadan, yes­ter­day. NAN

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.