Poverty on the rise in Nigeria | Africa | DW | 15.02.2012
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Poverty on the rise in Nigeria

Poverty is on the rise in Nigeria, according to a new report by the West African nation's National Statistics Bureau. DW has been finding out about the facts behind the figures.

Workers at a Nigerian oil platform

Nigeria's southern states profit most from the oil resources

Nigeria's National Bureau of Statistics says the poverty level rose from 54 percent of the population in 2004 to 69 percent in 2010. That means some 112 million Nigerians are now under the poverty line. Northern parts of the country, where Islamist insurgents are active, recorded the highest poverty rates, with some 75 percent of people falling into this category. To find out the reasons for this, DW turned to Nigerian financial analyst Bismarck Rewane.

DW: How do you explain the rise in the level of poverty in Nigeria?

Bismarck Rewane: What has happened is that the spike in population growth from 150 million to 165 million in a period of four years has distorted the level of income. There has been an increase in the inequality between rich and poor as well as in regional inequality. In general, the northern states are poorer than the southern states. This is because Nigeria is an oil-dependent and natural wealth economy and not a produced-wealth economy. So what has happened is that the income is dependent on how much natural wealth is under the ground rather than how much is being produced. What this data shows is the symptoms of that economy and if that is not addressed in terms of investment, employment and output, this could be a timebomb that is just ticking away.

The report shows that northern Nigeria, where Islamist militant group Boko Haram originates, is the poorest part. Why is that? Is there a link between Boko Haram and poverty?

It is not unrelated but it is not a one-on-one relationship. As I said, Nigeria has a natural wealth economy. The oil in the ground is in the southern states. The infrastructure is probably equal across the whole country, but because the north is arid and does not necessarily have the mineral resources which bring in the revenues, the states there are probably getting less income and that itself becomes a source of the problem. But more important is that even the resources that are being deployed in these areas are being mismanaged. Across the country there is a high level of mismanagement and inefficiency. If the oil revenues were not there, then the level of sub-optimality would have been equal across the country.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Goodluck Jonathan during a visit by Merkel in July 2011

Energy ties were discussed during a visit to Nigeria by German Chancellor Merkel in 2011

What role does corruption play?

Corruption is part of the picture. There's inefficiency and corruption, and if you have the two, then you have a problem.

Some people say that northern Nigeria has been economically marginalized. What do you say to that?

I don't think that is true. I think that northern Nigeria has not had the natural resources that the oil region has. Added to that is the fact that the limited resources that are there are not being optimally managed.

What should the government be doing?

Basically, you need a private sector-driven economic policy. In other words, what the government should do is to invite investors to come into those areas and give them incentives to invest.

Interview: Asumpta Lattas
Editor: Mark Caldwell / rm

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