Poverty statistics and crisis in Nigeria

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IF there ever was a need to remind about the connection between grinding poverty, social injustice and hopelessness and the Boko Haram insurgency in Northern Nigeria, former American president, Bill Clinton, effectively did that the other day. But a more authoritative presentation on the matter came from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), last week Monday. Its 2010 report showed that 112, 519 million Nigerians live in relative poverty conditions, out of an estimated population of 163 million people.

Furthermore, the absolute poverty measure puts the country’s poverty rate at 99.284 million or 60.9percent; the dollar per day measure puts poverty rate at 61.2percent and subjective poverty level at 93.9percent.

Significantly, the North-West and North-East recorded the highest poverty rates in the country in 2010, with 77.7percent and 76.3percent respectively. NBS Statistician-General, Dr. Yemi Kale added that “using the absolute poverty measure, 54.7percent of Nigerians were living in poverty in 2004 but this increased to 60.9percent 0r 99.284 million Nigerians in 2010”.

There are many who refuse to see the direct linkage between these troubling figures and the breakdown in the social order in Northern Nigeria. Our Region is in ferment, because the young people, who make up the overwhelming majority of the population, live without hope. There is deficiency in education; they have no skills and cannot find jobs.

Modernity is not working and the various factions of the elite: traditional, religious, political, bureaucratic and economic, are mainly corrupt and disconnected from an increasingly urbanised young population. They are attracted to radicalising Salafist Islamic groups, like Boko Haram.

Last weekend, Kashim Shettima, the Borno state governor, told an audience of media commentators that Muhammed Yusuf, the slain leader of Boko Haram, had instituted a welfare package for members of his group, ranging from daily meals; soft loans for businesses and even assistance for marriage. He provided succor, in the context of the hopelessness and the uncaring society, which SAP and neoliberalism, had foisted on our country.

Our corrupt ruling elite turned crony capitalism into a license to steal society blind; so the chickens came home to roost in the fury unleashed by militant Islamists. Those who interpret the insurgency as a Northern conspiracy against the Jonathan administration miss the whole point. For as long as basic issues of social injustice are not addressed, we will lurch from one crisis to others!

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