The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, said yesterday that over 82.9 million or about 40 per cent of the country’s population were classified as poor in 2019.
The bureau disclosed this yesterday in its 2019 Poverty and Inequality in Nigeria: Executive Summary Report. The NBS report was, however, trailed by mixed reactions.
While the President of Bank Customers Association of Nigeria, BCAN, Dr. Uju Ogubunka, and Coordinator, Campaign Against Impunity, Shina Loremikan, dismissed it as too conservative, Prof Uche Uwaleke, Professor of Finance and Capital Markets at Nasarawa State University and former Commissioner for Finance in Imo State, commended the NBS for a successful conduct of the living standards survey, nearly 10 years after the last one was done.
Similarly, Professor Uche Nwogwugwu of the Department of Economics, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, agreed with the report but averred that far more Nigerians are living below the poverty line than the number stated in the report, adding that the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had exposed the true poverty level in Nigeria.
According to NBS, the national poverty line is calculated by adding food poverty line and cost of non-food basic needs. The NBS said its calculations showed that the value of the national poverty line was equal to N137,430 per person, per year.
It explained that when the consumption expenditure of a Nigerian was below N137,430 per year, such individual is considered poor by national standards.
Report excludes Borno
The report stated: “In Nigeria, 40.1 percent of total population were classified as poor. In other words, on average, four out of 10 individuals in Nigeria has real per capita expenditure below N137,430 per year.
“This translates to over 82.9 million Nigerians who are considered poor by national standards. It is important to note that this number excludes the state of Borno.
“While the Nigerian Living Standards Survey, NLSS, 2018-19 includes households from Borno, that sample was not representative of the whole state since only households from “accessible” (safe-to-visit areas only) were interviewed. Thus, the Borno sample is considered non-random and non-representative.”
The Nigerian Living Standards Survey is the official survey that is the basis for measuring poverty and living standards. Between September 2018 and October, 2019, the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, conducted the latest round of the NLSS after a decade.
“It is representative at the state level with a sample size of 22,110 households, focusing on increasing the understanding of living conditions of the Nigerian population.
“The survey collected data on household and individual demographics (age, gender, marital status, among others), access to education, health and basic services, employment, assets, and income.
“The survey is used to measure prevalence of poverty and to estimate a wide range of socio-economic indicators including benchmarking of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs. Figure too conservative, says BCAN President Commenting on the figures, President, Bank Customers Association of Nigeria, BCAN, Dr. Uju Ogubunka, said it was too conservative, adding that with the incidence of coronavirus, whatever figure in place now would rise by 20 percent this year.”
He stated: “If you look at it from what is happening in the last few months, it means that the statistics will go further against those who have been declared to be poor. In other words, more people will go into that bracket because right now, nothing is going on in the economy.
“There is a lot of dis-empowerment of people. Some small business owners cannot continue with their businesses. Some of those who are employed are owed salaries and there are even some that have been disengaged from service. Some have been suspended from service and so on.
“Companies that were doing well are in a downturn and if they are not making money; there is no way they can hire persons or even sustain those they have. So many people are likely to get into the poverty bracket, given the circumstances we find ourselves.
“The number of poor population in the country will increase by 20 per cent this year. This is a conservative increase, based on the present situation of the country.”
NBS report an understatement, says CAI Co-ordinator
Also reacting, the co-ordinator, Campaign Against Impunity, Shina Loremikan, considered the NBS figures an understatement of the actual state of poverty index in Nigeria.
He stated: “If the survey is liberal, we have recorded more than 58 per cent poor people in Nigeria. Nigerians who have more than N10,000 in their bank accounts are not up to 15 percent of the population.
“Many people are living on what I call RTA rave. They don’t have savings. When you are driving at night, you will see vehicles with one-eyed lamps. They don’t have that disposable income to replace the faulty one.
“I want to believe that the NBS report is not the real representation of the status of poverty in the country. I expect that in the coming year, the poverty level will have gone deeper.
“More persons will be in the poverty circle in the sense that the rate of inflation is fast increasing, while the purchasing power of the people and their disposable income is rapidly reducing.
“If you look at what it is today, the prices of common items like sugar, soft drinks, rice, corn, bread have gone up. I don’t want to mention medications because the poor already don’t access hospitals, they go to traditional healers.
“More people cannot find time to be on the farm land. Hunger is increasing. The richest among us are buying more acres of land and they are not dedicating those land to agricultural production. To get food to the table of an average Nigerian will cost more.
“The few that are doing okada business have been prohibited nationwide. The few who are entrepreneurs like tailors, hairdressers can hardly get electricity for production.
“The good news that Nigerians will be given free electricity distribution for two months has become a myth. To rent a house in Lagos, you must be very rich because no landlord will ask you to pay six months rent. Many marriages and families are disconnected because of house rent and we are talking of poverty.”
However, Loremikan gave some solutions for containing the scourge of poverty in Nigeria. “We have to make good move to industrialise the nation; we have to increase power generation and distribution. We need to increase productivity. We are suffering from what we call underemployment in Nigeria,’’ he said.
University don thumbs-up for NBS
However, Prof Uche Uwaleke, Professor of Finance and Capital Markets at Nasarawa State University and former Commissioner for Finance, Imo State, commended the NBS for a successful conduct of the Living Standards Survey, nearly 10 years after the last one was done.
He said: “This particular survey, conducted with support from the World Bank, witnessed a clear departure from the previous exercises, especially in the area of methodology.
“Of note is the use of consumption expenditure approach rather than income measure which the NBS justified as being in line with best practice. If the new National Poverty Line is N137,430 or $361 per person, per annum, which translates to $ 0.98 per day and captures about 40% of the total population, it tells of considerable improvement over the years. “The same conclusion can be drawn regarding the Gini index, a measure of economic inequality, which has seemingly improved from over 50 to 35.
‘Be that as it may, given the country’s average growth rate in the last ten years vis-a-vis population growth rate, it stands to reason that more people may have dropped below the poverty line than this survey result suggests.
“By the same token, income inequality may have widened in the light of the jobless nature of GDP growth rates, even in periods of high crude oil prices. So, to say that in today’s Nigeria, only 4 out of 10 persons are poor — by whatever yardstick — and that economic inequality is low as suggested by the low Gini index leaves much to be investigated.
“Future surveys should consider increasing the sample size of households from the current 22,110 to make it more representative in a country of nearly 200 million people.
“The government is advised to see what use it can make of these survey results while seizing the opportunity of COVID’19 to pursue pro-poor policies. “Given the critical place of accurate data in this regard, adequate funds should be made available to National Bureau of Statistics to be able to deliver on its mandate.”
‘More Nigerians’re below poverty line’
Also reacting, Professor Uche Nwogwugwu, of the Department of Economics, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, disclosed that far more Nigerians are living below the poverty line than the number stated in the report, adding that the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had exposed the true poverty level in Nigeria.
He said: “The number is an under-estimation of the poverty level in this country. Previously, they used the official status of urban residence, now, even this issue of COVID-19 pandemic has actually exposed the fact that we are in deep trouble with respect to poverty alleviation in this country.
“The rural dwellers cannot just complain, they are just managing to survive, to keep life going. Most of us have the opportunities of going to see what is happening in the rural areas.
Those people are just managing. It is a sign that government has to do more, as well as all the people concerned. The agencies responsible for alleviating poverty and those responsible for empowering the poor; they also have a lot of work to do.
He noted that though successive governments claimed to have alleviated poverty, the major lacking ingredient is the issue of sustainability. “It is a matter of sustainability, which is key. If you give somebody who is hungry some money and he finishes it and becomes hungry again, that is not sustainable.
Government has actually spent some money on this issue of poverty. But for the fact that the poor still remain poor; there is no visible evidence to show those who have exited poverty; that means there is need to re-examine the methods used. “Even those that they claim they have alleviated their poverty, there is no evidence to show that is the case; instead we have poverty increasing.”