The Causes of High Poverty Rate in Northern Nigeria

The Causes of High Poverty Rate in Northern Nigeria

In 2018, the World Poverty Clock estimated that about 90.8 million Nigerians live below the poverty level. That report earned Nigeria the title, “The Poverty Capital of the World”, that didn’t go down well with many Nigerians. But more light has been thrown into the report of the World Poverty Clock by the World Bank through its recently released report on the poverty rate in Nigeria.

The World Bank report, titled “Advancing Social Protection in a Dynamic Nigeria”, was based on a research conducted in Nigeria from 2011 to 2016, but it was published on 28th January, 2020. This report stated that there is geographical inequality in Nigeria because poverty is mostly concentrated in the North and in rural areas.

The reports states, “Nigeria experiences high inequality along geographical lines, with poverty mostly concentrated in the North and in rural areas.” To buttress its point, this report expresses that, “poverty in the northern region of the country has been increasing, especially in the North-West zone. Almost half of all the poor lived in the North-West and the North accounts for 87% of all the poor in the country in 2016.”

One couldn’t help but wonder why there should be such “inequality” in the poverty stratification in the country when one considers that northern part of the country is duly represented in every arm of government, federal allocations, endowments by natural resources and federal government employments. One thing everybody is sure of in this country is that no northern state is marginalised in any way. So the big question remains, “Why should the North-West be the poverty capital of Nigeria?”

Of course, the report said that northern Nigeria experiences a high rate of poverty, so North-West is not the only affected zone.

In its bid to identify the causes of poverty in the country, the World Bank reports placed blame on insurgency, conflicts, poor education system, poor infrastructure and social service delivery. To buttress this, the following excerpts are culled from the report:

  • Insurgency and Conflict as Causes

“Disasters and conflict have displaced many Nigerians, especially in the North-East. According to estimates provided by the International Displacement Monitoring Centre, there were more than two million internally displaced persons in Nigeria on 31 December, 2018.”

  • Poor Social Service Delivery as a Cause

“Social protection measures in the country are neither well-suited to respond to conflict, nor well-placed to anticipate and mitigate the risks of natural disasters caused by climate change.”

  • Poor Infrastructure as a Cause

“Poverty remains high in Nigeria due to its dire social service delivery and lack of basic infrastructures.”

  • Poor Education System as a Cause

“Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children of primary school age in the world with nine million children out of school.”

  • Poor Healthcare Delivery as a Cause

“There has been little change in vaccination rates over the last 25 years and Nigeria is set to overtake India as the country with most under-five deaths in the world.”

Note that the above-mentioned factors are given as the causes of poverty in Nigeria. This means that these factors affect every part of the country. But somehow, only the northern part feels the impact the more.

There is something in the report that might truly point to the major culprit. The report states, “Regionally, the North lags far behind the South in every HUMAN CAPITAL outcome.”

It is good that the World Bank realises that despite bad governance, some people from some parts of the country have been able to develop themselves and pull out of poverty. If you ask me, I will say that this is what the Northerners are yet to embrace.

Professionalism and innovations are rare in northern Nigeria. Don’t get me wrong, we have professionals from the North but there are not many. Before, I thought that the overly relaxed attitudes of the northerners towards career pursuits and self development was a result of their religion. But then, I met Yoruba Muslims and found out that religion has nothing to do with this at all. From my experiences with some of the northerners, I think the underlying causes of this include:

A different kind of mindset.

It was in the north that I found people that believe that poverty and wealth come from predestination. The poor are content with their poverty and wouldn’t want it any other way. They don’t struggle to climb even a rung up the ladder of social mobility. To them, they are where they were meant to be. This makes me wonder if the World Bank considered these people’s way of life as they carried out this research.

Talking about mindset also brings up the issue of almajiri in the north. Unless the mindset of these people is reformed, almajiri will not stop in the nearest future.

Information Underload

This might not go down well with the Northern leaders, but they need to hear this. A lot of northerners are deprived of important and life-changing information. The World Bank report talked of Nigeria not capturing a lot of young children through vaccination, but it failed to say that vaccination is hard to administer in the North because the northerners rejected it due to misinformation and information underload.

Information underload is also the reason out-of-school children are more in the north. A lot of them do not see the need to go to school; they will rather go to Islamia schools, which is only there to uplift their spiritual lives and not their social or financial well-being. Some parents believe that regular schools teach Western education and religion, and so keep their children away from them.

Let’s be honest here, most of the people living in rural areas in northern Nigeria are ignorant. Worst is they have no one to ask. Those that are curious may end up asking the wrong people that will pass on worse information to them. By the end of the day, poverty continues to permeate deep into them.

Waiting on the Government for Everything

I think this is something the northerners need to learn from the South-Easterners and South-Westerners. Depending on the government to provide everything, including employment, is also the bane of the North. For instance, an Igbo man knows he has to develop himself, build his house, construct the road that goes into his house, supply his electricity and water, and so on. He waits for no government to give him a source of living; he has to develop himself in order to become employable in the competitive world. He has to make life comfortable and easy for him. This attitude and ideology is quite foreign to Nigerian northerners, who wait for the government to do most of the things for them.

Anyway, as I stated earlier, I don’t think the World Bank considered people’s ways of life before ascertaining which zone is the poverty capital of Nigeria (because ‘poverty’ still remains a relative term). The people that are considered poor in this report may be content with what they have. However, the northern leaders can improve the living standard of their people by working on their mindsets, giving them access to important information and eradicating insurgency.

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