An Inequality report released by Oxfam International on Wednesday has revealed that the combined wealth of five richest Nigerians, put at $29.9 billion, could end extreme poverty in the country and stop about five million citizens living in the North-east from going through looming scorching hunger.
The report, entitled ‘’Inequality in Nigeria, Exploring the Drivers” exposed the large and growing gap between the rich and poor in Nigeria, pointing out that the benefits of the nation’s economic growth had been captured by a few wealthy elite at the expense of the ordinary Nigerians.
According to the report, the economic inequality is a key factor in the conflict in the North-Eastern states of the country. It quoted the United Nations to have estimated that up to five million people in the region will suffer from severe food shortages this year.
The Oxfam International report, however, disclosed that the wealth of five richest Nigerians can salvage the country’s situation.
Quoting Forbes, the report lists the five richest Nigerians as Aliko Dangote, with a net worth $14.4bn; Mike Adenuga, $9.9bn; Femi Otedola, $1.85bn; Folorunsho Alakija, $1.55bn; and Abdulsamad Rabiu, $1.1bn.
Adding that these Nigerians earned 8,000 times more in one day than a poor Nigerian would spend on basic needs in a year.
The report also listed Nigeria as one of the few countries where the number of people living in poverty was on the increase despite the growth of the economy, adding that 69 per cent of citizens in the North-East states were living below the poverty line, compared to 49 per cent in the South-West.
“Nigeria’s richest man earns 8,000 times more in one day than a poor Nigerian will spend on basic needs in a year. More than 112 million people are living in poverty in Nigeria, yet the country’s richest man would have to spend $1 million a day for 42 years to exhaust his fortune.
“Despite a rapidly growing economy, Nigeria is one of the few countries where the number of people living in poverty increased from 69 million in 2004 to 112 million in 2010 – a rise of 69 per cent.”
The report reveals that women represent 79 per cent of Nigeria’s rural labour force and are least able to capture the benefits of economic growth because they tend to be employed in low-skilled, low-paid informal jobs.
“Women are also less likely to have had a decent education; for example, over three-quarters of the poorest women in Nigeria have never been to school,” the report said.
Oxfam report further explained that poor people in the country are unable to benefit from Nigeria’s wealth because of high levels of corruption and the excessive influence that big businesses and a wealthy elite have over government policy making.
“For example, public office holders stole an estimated $20 trillion from the treasury between 1960 and 2005. And while multinational companies receive tax incentives worth an estimated $2.9 billion a year – three times more than Nigeria’s entire health budget.
“Despite being Africa’s biggest economy, the share of the national budget allocated to education, health, and social protection is one of the lowest in the region.
“In 2012, Nigeria spent just 6.5 per cent of its national budget on education and just 3.5 per cent on health. By comparison, Ghana spent 18.5 per cent and 12.8 per cent respectively in 2015.”
Reacting to the report, Good Governance Programme Coordinator for Oxfam in Nigeria, Mr. Celestine Odo, said extreme inequality was undermining the economy and fermenting social unrest.
Odo said that it was an irony that Nigerians were living in poverty in spite the abundance of wealth in the country.
He added it was important to free millions of Nigerians from poverty by building a new political and economic system that would work for everyone and not just a fortunate few.