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FG Keeps Mum As Nigeria Overtakes India As The Country With Highest Number Of Poor People In The World

nigeria highest number poor people in the world

By Tunde Adegboyega,

In 2017, World Poverty Clock predicted that this year, Nigeria would overtake India as the country with the highest number of poor people in the world. True to that prediction, the country has overtaken India (which was at the bottom of the ladder until last year), and is now wearing the cap of the world’s poverty capital. A report by the Brookings Institution, quoting data from the World Poverty Clock, shows that Nigeria now has over 87 million people living in poverty. If this is frightening, then, wait for the bombshell: six Nigerians become poor every minute. “According to our projections, Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extreme poor in early 2018, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo could soon take over the number two. 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. In fact, by the end of 2018 in Africa as a whole, there will probably be about 3.2 million more people living in extreme poverty than there are today.”

So that we can better appreciate what we are talking about, what is poverty in this context? It is defined as living on less than $1.90 a day at 2011 purchasing power parity prices. Even at today’s exchange rate in Nigeria, that is about N720. A lot of money, isn’t it? When you get to the market you’ll know how little it is.

One good thing is that so far, I have not seen any negative reaction from the Federal Government, unlike in previous assessments. This is uncharacteristically Nigerian. Nigerians may not be in the position to say categorically that their country is home to the world’s poorest poor; but they know that millions of their fellow citizens live below the poverty line. As a matter of fact, the figure of the poor given by World Poverty Clock would appear too small when we consider the ever-increasing army of ‘executive beggars’ that dot the landscape in recent years. At any rate, what is there to dispute when even our own National Bureau of Statistics had painted a grimmer picture in 2016 when it reported that about 112 million Nigerians live below the poverty line?

When, as reported in Ekiti State a few years back, someone had to keep vigil until a neighbour who was preparing ‘amala’ left the kitchen to fetch something from the room and then carried the pot of ‘amala’ on the fire and took it to her apartment before the owner returned and began to eat it without soup with her children, then you know that really, poverty is based here. The other time somewhere in the north, a man had to use his son as collateral when he bought a bag of rice without having any money on him. He pretended as if he forgot the money at home and told the rice seller to hold his son while he took the bag of rice home, from where he hoped to bring the money for the rice. He never returned with the money and when traced to his home, it was discovered that he actually had no money to pay. We have had instances where some parents sold one of their children in order to be able to feed the remaining children. There are many cases of mothers whose newborn babies were seized in hospitals because the parents could not settle hospital bills. There are countless such mind-boggling stories.

Yes, mind-boggling because that is not God’s wish for this country. If God had wanted Nigeria to be the Wretched of the Earth that she is now, He would not have endowed us with the human and natural resources that the country is blessed with. It may be an exaggeration to say Nigeria has the highest number of churches and mosques in the world. But we have quite a surfeit of both; that this is not reflecting in the way we live is the jigsaw puzzle. We are so close to our churches and mosques; yet so far from God. Unfortunately, we also lack the capacity to tame corruption, which is the real cankerworm that is stunting the country’s growth. Until very recently, the country has been dancing in circles with graft cases involving especially the politically exposed persons in our midst, otherwise referred to as the big or untouchable thieves.

The World Poverty Clock, created by the Vienna-based NGO, World Data Lab, in 2017, is a tool to monitor progress against poverty globally and regionally. Funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, it provides real-time poverty data across countries. Although it is relatively young, by virtue of its coming into existence only last year, it has set criteria on which it based its assessment. What the body does is to update its data every April and October, to take into account new household surveys and new projections on country economic growth from the International Monetary Funds’ World Economic Outlook. These then form the basic building blocks for poverty trajectories computed for 188 countries and territories, across the world.

A major factor that has put Nigeria in this hall of shame is the lack of social safety nets in the country. For instance, if we had these, the state would naturally have a funding arrangement for indigent expectant mothers such that they would not be ‘detained’ in hospitals with their babies on account of inability to pay bills. Similarly, people would not be keeping vigil in expectation of the time their neighbour would briefly step out of the kitchen before stealing their pot of ‘amala’ or soup on fire if stipends are handed out to people without jobs.

So, what do we do to get out of this mess? Simple. It is the same prescriptions that have been made several times that, sadly, one must repeat here, in the expectation that, perhaps, when we keep harping on them, the governments would see the urgency in accelerating the pace of development. Infrastructural development is key to any meaningful attempt to get out of this poverty conundrum. Yet, we have a huge infrastructural deficit, and one in which our National Assembly legislators do not seem to appreciate its enormity. If they do, they would not be slashing budgets for roads, etc. while raising their own budget. Improved power supply must be taken beyond rhetoric.

Railway must be developed. The disaster that happened in Lagos on Thursday on Otedola Bridge, which claimed several lives and property, including vehicles would have been averted if we had a functional railway. We do not have to be transporting fuel by road. We need to do more on agriculture. We need to do more functionally by way of diversification of the economy. It is when we do all these and more that we can stimulate the economy, job creation and the increased spending would reflect in reduced social tension and crimes.

I know our brethren would say “I reject it in Jesus’ name” when told that Nigeria is the world’s poverty capital. They will add, to boot, that “it is not our portion.” But, beyond rejecting it, we have to take practical steps to snatch our fate from those who have sworn to mess up our lives and the lives of our children. We have to do something about this National Assembly. We have to device a means of making governments at all levels more responsive and responsible. The other time, we were adjudged the happiest people on earth. Today, they say we are the world’s poorest capital. While the former is sarcastic, the latter is real. But none, at the end of the day, is complimentary.



  1. Josephine

    July 1, 2018 at 6:05 AM

    shame of a nation.

  2. Jilo

    July 1, 2018 at 6:17 AM

    Thanks Mr. Adegboyega for this nice piece. The problem of Nigeria which is my Country of birth is a big concern to me and i’m sure to some patriots. There is no passing each day that I never thought about this Country and how we can upgrade ourselves back to our old glorious days. We have a big problem in this Country and some of our so called leaders never felt it is a problem. They are going by their daily lives without thinking they will be leaving some people behind in abject poverty when they die.

    The way our white counterpart look at us is, we are unintelligent and low class people. Is this not true where we cannot even feed ourselves?. We are starving in the midst of plenty? why is this happening to us as a nation? We don’t have good leaderships and we citizens are not helping ourselves to live a better lives. We indulge in smiling and suffering. We love procrastination and always love to postpone our problems instead of solving them. Our youths are not left out in compounding our problems. They preferred to be used by the politicians instead of coming out to detest corruptions.

    In order to solve our problem, we must do it together collectively. It is a wrong assumption thinking that only one person in person of Mr. president can solve all our problems. We must be able to play our own part too. If we see something, we need to say something. By doing this we are helping ourselves as well as those in bureaucracy to permanently solve our problems.

  3. Danti

    July 1, 2018 at 5:44 PM

    Nonsense! This is nothing,but indefatigable ignorance. How is a nation of 180 million people be poorer than a nation of 1.2billion people when both are called Third World countries? Folks, India’s population is 8 times ours, so, how can that be? These quack foreign organizations enjoy labeling Africa nations with mind boggling tag. Take America for instance, 66million are reported to be taking Government and private assistance(out of 322million) just to remove them from abject poverty. India do not have such programs, so, where did they get such a low number of 73million. Fake data are intentionally fabricated to achieve certain goals. No Nigerian with common sense will be believe that 87 million Nigeria live on less than 720 Naira daily; that is almost the half of our population. We are poor, but not to the point of overtaking a country of 1.2billion “slummy”people.Google it, go to YouTube; type poverty in India, or Indian slums, have you seen their hellishly crowded train lately? Folks, refuse this evil tag because I know 87million people are not living in abject poverty and in fact, folks, that is even the population of Yorubas and Ibos combined: it is trashy! Why are Indians in every country in large numbers?

    • DB

      July 2, 2018 at 9:31 AM

      Have you ever seen the kind of poverty in norther Nigeria coupled with their poulation? Now start counting from the north then gradually to the south and make your conclusion again. I hope you are not using the life in Lagos, Abuja or portharcourt to think people living below $1 per day cannot be up to 80million, but believe me it is veeeery possible. Just start with your village

    • Sho

      July 2, 2018 at 9:40 AM

      Why are you giving excuses. Assuming Nigeria is not the poorest as you claim perhaps she should wait until she does become the poorest b4 it becomes a concern. Excuses ans blame shifting. Exactly whats pushing Nigeria into deeper hole.
      Who cares about how many people are in India?

      If false data is given in this sort of situation perhaps it’ll be to help enforce our “lazy youths” to get up. I wont be surprised if more than half of Nigeria lives below even 100 naira weekly. 720 naira weekly is even toi much.
      Considering that children are included in the figures. Poor parent means poor children.

      This is not time to try and be looking good in the eyes of our international counterparts, its time to admit Naija has serious issues that needs immediate attention.
      As a Nigeria in Diaspora its painful. I want to come back home! Im tired of this journey. Its sad our people are throwing away children here! Children growing up without knowing where they are from.

    • Jilo

      July 2, 2018 at 4:00 PM

      Dante, this is not the right time to dispute this survey because the agency that conducted the survey have their facts and did this without any favor to any particular Country. Technically, Nigeria is overtaking India in poverty based on percentage.

      Let’s try to solve this mathematically, Indian population of 1.2 Billion has poverty rate of 73 percent and Nigeria has 87 percent living on less than $2 a day. They calculated this based on percentage of actual population.

      87% of 180 million people is equall to 156 millions of Nigeria living in abject poverty. Can you dispute this? Unless if you are among the remaining 24 millions and belongs to the group of Dangote, Otedola, Mike Adenuga. On the other hand 73 millions of Indians who are living in poverty based on 1.2 Billion is not the same as 73 millions of 180 Nigeria population. This is a fact. Do the maths 73 millions in just a fractional part of 1.2 Billion. You can only dispute this fact if those who conducted the survey based their studies on the same percentage rate let say 180 millions of Nigerians and 180 millions of Indians. They knew the difference between Billions of Indians and Millions of Nigerians. They are only trying to draw our attention to how our poverty rate is growing exponentially.

      Besides, why are you trying to support this Country by encouraging corrupt people to continue their unscrupulous act till we all die of starvation? I strongly believe in the above studies and this is just a friendly reminder. Don’t be like Umaru Dikko our first republic minister who said, quote “n” quote “Nigerians have not been feeding from dustbin” why crying a foul? Right now we need to apply Malthusian theory to rescue this population from extinction.

      • Danti

        July 3, 2018 at 12:16 AM

        Jilo, read the article again because you have just bunked the entire point. Once again, they don’t know what they are talking about. Remember, these jack legs divided our GDP(putative) by population figures( which is not certain) and they arrived at their bogus conclusions. Please Jilo, don’t try to impress me, because I had two years of statistics in psychology and in mathematics. Today they talk about poverty, tomorrow it is going to be : Nigeria has the largest HIV patients or some other bad shits. Nigerians must stop been obsequious, these idiotic organizations cannot babysit me with this elementary nonsense. One other foreign paper the other time was telling the world that Dangote is not worth what he claimed. Who are these people self? Maybe they should tell us how many bush rats are in our bushes. Maybe you have forgotten what they said during Ebola outbreak, thank God; we surprised them fools!

        • Jilo

          July 3, 2018 at 3:33 PM

          Danti I understand how you feel especially when you have that feeling that your Country has been grouped among the most poorest nations on earth but the fact remains that this will soon happen if we don’t take a strong measure in revamping our economy.

          Things just don’t happen overnight but to be honest with you, don’t you think this nation is gradually going down the drain with our highest rate of unemployment?. The truth is always bitter but this is a fact.

          As a mathematician and statistician, all you need to do is to publish your facts and reference that with mathematical proof to dispute the established figures otherwise we will be left with no option than to accept the conducted survey.

  4. Big Aunty Koks

    July 1, 2018 at 6:42 PM

    I heard on radio that our government said “something” about that assessment……said the assessment is not true now because it was made during the time of recession. It is painfully shameful that instead of finding solutions we hide our heads in denial.
    Now people one cannot imagine being in lack are begging all over the place. When month ends the demands pour in and while you appreciate that these are the people termed”executive beggars”, it is still heartbreaking , because the word “pride ” has disappeared from our dictionary. Our citizens are reduced to uncharacteristic shamelessness while our leaders pretend not to see. We can only say that popular poor man prayer……God dey!

  5. Mon

    July 2, 2018 at 4:16 AM

    Disputing this assessment is just like living in denial about Nigeria, this shows that the people who are stealing the nation dry is not up to 10% of Nigeria population, this 10% have already made the 90% feel comfortable with poverty,mostly people living in Nigeria, they see it as normal way of life, the religious group keep on telling them that their reward is in heaven ( THEY FORGOT THAT ‘”GOD’S WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN”‘) while they keep on collecting from the poor in the name of tithe.

    This administration can not boast of any new project it started, talk less of completing, from now till next year is about election,then whoever will occupy that seat will take another 2 to 3yrs blaming the previous one,mentioning millions and billions recovering without any accountability, the remaining year will be for campaign, so when will they have time to work towards the development of the Nation? Nigeria is not working and can never work if not restructured, let’s go our separate ways if restructuring can not work so that people can stop hoping against hope.

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