A new policy paper released today by the Institute for Governance and Economic Transformation (IGET), an independent, nonpartisan think tank, has described pervasive poverty as a threat to Nigeria’s future and the most pressing challenge for the country’s next administration after the 2023 elections alongside security.
The report, titled “Nigeria’s Poverty Trap – And How to End It” explains the causes and nature of poverty in general and Nigeria’s poverty crisis in particular, and makes 27 policy proposals to take 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
“A country such as ours, in which one-half of our 216 million people live lives of miserable poverty, merely eking out an existence, and 90 percent of the population generally poor, is a country that is failing to achieve the reason it exists”, said Professor Kingsley Moghalu, the Founder and President of IGET and a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. “If China and Rising Asia can take more than a billion people out of poverty and create the wealth of nations over a period of 40 years, we in Nigeria have no excuse for being in this situation 62 years after independence. We can do better, and we attempt to show how we can in our report”
The IGET policy paper, co-authored by Prof. Moghalu and Dr. Damian Ude, an economist, and Research Fellow at IGET, asserts that the most important structural causes of poverty in Nigeria are the absence of nationhood and good governance, uncontrolled population growth, gender discrimination against women, shocks from over-reliance on crude oil for foreign exchange revenues, and lack serious investment in human capital development, in particular education and healthcare.
IGET recommends that the place to begin a war against poverty is the formation of a political consensus amongst Nigeria’s political and other elites, across partisan and sectarian divides that taking 100 million Nigerians out of poverty should become the concentrated focus of politics and governance at all levels in the country.
“This consensus, and the bargain that leads to it, is important because politicians and policymakers often tend to be influenced more by economic GDP growth numbers, without fully appreciating (as we have seen in Nigeria) that it is possible for an economy to be growing while many people are getting poorer”, the IGET report stated in its recommendations. “Whoever is elected President of Nigeria in the next presidential election in February 2023 must begin the process of building this elite consensus”, the think tank wrote.
The IGET policy paper also recommends the establishment of a robust social security system backed by national law, as opposed to initiatives in social protection that may not be continued by future administrations. The institute recommends the establishment of permanent social security for elderly Nigerians aged 65 and above who do not have a pension.
There are 5 million Nigerians in this age bracket. The paper argued that with appropriate fiscal reforms that create new savings and revenues, and a massive reduction in the cost of governance, the Federal Government of Nigeria can afford to spend N5-7 trillion annually on an effective social protection system that will drastically reduce poverty.
Looking into the future, IGET recalled that estimates by experts are that one-third of all the poorest people in the world will live in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo alone by 2030. The think tank assessed that a rapid rise in the youth population without the required skills, jobs, and other opportunities, is a recipe for social and security implosion.
IGET’s mission is to support African countries to improve the knowledge, design, and implementation of public policy.in the areas of sustainable development and inclusive growth, business and finance, and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of governance. The institute carries out research and policy analysis, advocacy, training, and executive education, and discussion forums. The think tank has a global Advisory Board chaired by Khalifa Muhammadu Sanusi II.
Other members of the IGET Advisory Board are Dr. Andrew Nevin, Partner and Chief Economist of PwC Nigeria, Dr. Franza Baumann, former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for General Assembly Affairs, Dr. Tamela Hultman, CEO of AllAfrica Foundation, Dr. Richard Ikiebe, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Businessday, Dr. Ifeoma Nwakoby, Senior Lecturer in Banking and Finance at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Mr. Tayo Oviosu, Founder and CEO of Paga Tech.