The presidency yesterday faulted the declaration by World Bank Country Director, Marie-Francoise Marie-Nelly that 100 million Nigerians were living in destitution or extreme poverty, saying the global apex bank contradicted itself.
“This spurious claim is astonishing on a number of levels. First, it clearly contradicts the position of the World Bank on the level of poverty in Nigeria. During the visit of the bank’s vice president for Africa, Makhtar Diop, in May 2013, he declared that poverty has fallen under this administration from 48 per cent to 46 per cent,” President Goodluck Jonathan’s Chief Economic Adviser, Dr. Nwanze Okidegbe, said.
Okidegbe, who stated this in a statement he issued yesterday argued that with Nigeria’s current population pegged at 170 million people, the image painted by the World Bank’s director of 100 million Nigerian destitutes seems to be based on a much higher poverty rate than that of her boss.
“The question that arises from this absurdity therefore is: who is right?” The presidential aide queried, just as he told the global apex bank to focus its attention on designing programmes and interventions to support the government’s efforts at accelerating poverty reduction in Nigeria, “rather than engage in peddling easily disprovable and inaccurate poverty numbers.”
Okidegbe argued further: “According to the World Bank itself, to live in extreme poverty is to live on less than $1.25 per day, including the cost of accommodation, clothing, feeding, and other incidentals. $1.25 per day translates into N200 per day (or N6, 000 per month). On feeding alone, a loaf of bread costs more than N200 in many parts of Nigeria, while a plate of food, even from a roadside food vendor, costs about the same amount.
“More also, there are about 112 million active GSM lines in Nigeria. Even accounting for those who own more than one phone and netting out nearly 44 per cent of Nigerians who are under 15 years (and mostly do not have phones), this is not a description of a country with 100 million destitutes living in extreme poverty.
“This administration is undertaking critical reforms in all key sectors of the economy to create jobs and reduce poverty. For example, the reforms in the agriculture sector have increased production and created many job opportunities.
In recognition of the fact that growth in the agriculture sector is pro-poor, we are confident that the consistent growth being recorded in agriculture is translating into further poverty reduction.”
Highlighting the achievements of the current administration in this regard, Okidegbe said: “Indeed, Nigeria was recently honoured for meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing people living in absolute hunger by half, well ahead of the 2015 target set by the United Nations.
“On average, about 20 per cent of the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P) is allocated exclusively to protecting the poor through different types of social safety nets. One important area of success is the Conditional Grant Scheme with total conditional cash transfer to almost 40,000 households and recruitment of over 2,000 new health workers working on improving maternal and child health.”