Oxfam International a confederation of charitable organisations focused on alleviating global poverty has released a worrying report on Nigeria’s economy.
The report titled “Inequality in Nigeria” revealed that the combined wealth of five richest Nigerians put at $29.9 billion, could end extreme poverty in Nigeria where 112 million are said to be abjectly poor according to Oxfam.
The report which was released in Abuja on Wednesday, highlighted the worrying gap between the rich and the poor as few wealthy elites are beneficiaries of Nigeria’s economic growth. Oxfam made reference to the net worth of top five richest Nigerians, Aliko Dangote, with a net worth $14.4 billion; Mike Adenuga with a net worth $9.9 billion; Femi Otedola, $1.85 billion; Folorunsho Alakija, $1.55 billion; and Abdul Samad Rabiu, $1.1 billion.
According to the report, the economic inequality is a key factor in the conflict in the North-Eastern states of the country, stating that “Nigeria’s richest man earned 8,000 times more in one day than a poor Nigerian would spend on basic needs in a year.”
“More than 112 million people were living in poverty in Nigeria, yet the country’s richest man spent one million dollars a day for 42 years to exhaust his fortune.”
Despite, Nigeria’s growing economy, the country is still among the few countries where the number of people living in poverty is on the increase despite the growth of the economy.
“69 per cent of people now live below the poverty line in North-Eastern states, compared to the 49 per cent in the South-West.”
The report also stated that women are engaged in low-skilled, low-paid informal jobs.
“Women represent between 60 per cent and 79 per cent of Nigeria’s rural labour force but are five times less likely to own their own land than men.”
The report said that poor people did not benefit from Nigeria’s wealth because of the high level of corruption and the excessive influence big business and some wealthy elite had over government and policy making.
According to the report, public office holders steal estimated 20 trillion dollars from the treasury between 1960 and 2005, while multinational companies receive tax incentives estimated at 2.9 billion dollars a year.
This development it said was three times more than Nigeria’s entire health budget.
It further revealed that small and medium size businesses and workers in the informal sector, however, faced multiple taxes.
“Despite being Africa’s biggest economy, the share of the national budget allocated to education, health, and social protection is one of the lowest in the region.
“In 2012, Nigeria spent just 6.5 per cent of its national budget on education and just 3.5 per cent on health.
“By comparison, Ghana spent 18.5 per cent and 12.8 per cent, respectively in 2015.
‘’As a result, 57 million Nigerians lack safe water, over 130 million lack adequate sanitation and the country has more than 10 million children out of school.“ it stated.
Mr. Celestine Odo, Good Governance Programme Coordinator for Oxfam in Nigeria, said extreme inequality was undermining the economy and fermenting social unrest.
He advised Nigerian leaders to be more determined in tackling this terrible problem.
Mr. Odo said that it was an irony that Nigerians were living in poverty despite the country’s abundant wealth.
“The government can make a start by tackling corruption, ensuring big business and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax, investing in vital public services, and protecting the rights of women,” he said.