Femi Awoyemi, in a lucid and thoughtful article in the April 5 Leadership (Abuja) highlights that more than ninety percent of Nigeria’s population is poor “and exists largely at the mercy of fate.” In his “Nigeria: Paradox of the Country’s Economic Growth and Poverty Levels,” he highlights the results of the Harmonized Nigeria Living Standards Survey prepared by the National Bureau of Statistics. This survey shows that that 69 percent of the population fits the “Nigeria poverty profile,” and that poverty and inequality have increased since 2003/2004. Yet, ostensibly the country’s economy is growing at the rate of seven percent a year.
If Nigeria is getting richer, how can Nigerians be getting poorer?
Drawing on the statistical data, Awoyemi observes that much of the growth is related to oil, telecoms, finance, the stock market and real estate. And civil servants and corrupt politicians are also doing well. Yet none of these industries are labor intensive and do little to reduce the country’s very high unemployment rate. A consequence is that the distribution of income is getting worse, not better.
Citing Central Bank governor Lamido Sanussi, Awoyemi observes that Nigeria’s macro-economic policies have encouraged import consumption rather than local production. To address increasing poverty, Nigeria needs a “growth inclusive” model that will emphasize domestic production of goods consumed and that will reduce unemployment.