In a chart with a Facebook colleague discussing Nigerian economy and the growth it is said to be achieving, he kept wondering, ‘how could Nigeria be rated as one of the fastest growing countries on the continent while its citizenry are wallowing in abject poverty?’. According to recent statistics the rate of poverty in the country was put at around 70%, ‘but still those in the corridors of power want to cheat the population that they are doing good things to improve their welfare’, he argues. This paradox is not restricted to Nigeria alone; as a matter of fact it is the paradox of the capitalist economy the world over. Growth in the midst of poverty, jobless growth, high inequality, wealth concentrated in the hands of 5% of the population, wastage on the part of the richer echelon of the society while the poor hardly find something to put in their mouth, etc. In the specific case of Nigeria for example, the amount of electricity that is received by the households since the return to democracy in 1999 has consistently declined putting households and the economy at the mercy of generators sellers.
Corruption that bedevil all the sectors in Nigeria make this paradox more apparent, this regime like all the regimes before it has done little to fight the menace, if not encouraging it in some subtle ways. In one of my articles earlier published on this blog, “Of Corruption, Bad Governance, and Economic Development”, I quoted a paper by late famous Nigerian economist Prof. Sam Aluko where he observed that ‘corruption distributes income in favour of the rich’ further widening the gap between the rich and poor. Thus, at the heart of this regime inability to deliver on its campaign promises is it poor record in the fight against corruption. Nigeria might have achieved growth of 7,6 or 5 percents but welfare of the poor have stagnated at the rate of 14, 12 or 10 percents annually. Though, rate of growth as measured by the World Bank might have increased, but measures of welfare as released by such bodies as United Nation Human Development Index shows otherwise. Nigerian schooling system is no better as it churned out half bake graduates into the labour market, further reducing their chance to get job that will ease their hardship. The bulk of the country’s wealth is being circulated between major cities such as Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano, Kaduna, while the majority of the populace in ruralties are left to die of poverty and starvation.
The country’s banking system is a poor measure of financial deepening (the percentage of the population with account in banks), as a matter of fact more than two third of the population are out of the banking system; making it difficult for the poor to access credit. In the whole country there is no any genuine welfare system as you find in Europe or the not distance Middle East. Education is not free, is only partially subsidized at some level, likewise the provision of health care, the poor has to find money to pay for his medical bills. To enjoy a minimum welfare you have to do most things yourself, generate your own light, employ security guards, built roads, dig a borehole, and in some cases contribute to build a community clinic. The government poverty alleviation schemes are not working, instead money means for the welfare of the poor are stolen by crooks government officials who use the proceeds of the loots to send their children abroad for studies and go outside for medical checkup. At the level of state governments, most of them are not doing what is expected of them when it comes to the welfare of their people, assuming state governors using public money to buy private jets when many household do not have access to light.