Minister disputes report Nigeria has world’s largest poor population

CORONAVIRUS: Nigerians on the street going about their daily business. [Photo credit: Quartz]
Nigerians on the street going about their daily business. [Photo credit: Quartz]

The Ministry of Budget and National Planning on Thursday disputed a report that poverty situation is worsening in Nigeria.

The ministry said the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) is the statutory agency of government with responsibility for producing Nigeria’s official statistics, including poverty estimates.

A publication by the World Poverty Clock of the World Data Lab in Vienna, Austria, stated that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty in the world.

According to the World Poverty Clock, 44.2 per cent of Nigeria’s population (about 86.9 million people) live in extreme poverty. This means that over 89 million people in Nigeria live below $2 (N684.95) per day.

India, which used to have about 218 million extremely poor people, now has about 71.4 million people living in extreme poverty (5.3 per cent of its population), it stated.

India was also identified as capable of escaping poverty by 2030 despite having a population about seven times that of Nigeria in 2016.

The clock also showed that instead of being on track towards attaining the United Nation’s first sustainable Development Goal (end poverty), poverty is rising in Nigeria.

The clock identified Africa as the continent with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty.

Aside Nigeria, other countries with high extremely poor persons in Africa include the Democratic Republic of Congo (60.9 million), Madagascar (20.6 million) and South Sudan (11.4 million)

This indicated many countries in Africa may not meet the UN’s target of eradicating poverty by 2030, as poverty continues to rise on the continent, it stated.

But Nigeria’s Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma, dismissed the report as unreliable, saying it was not based on any recent survey on Nigeria’s poverty level.

In a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday by his spokesperson, Akpandem James, the minister said a review of the report showed it could not be relied upon as a factual indication of recent trends in Nigeria.

The authors of the report claimed the Poverty Clock was an online analytical/visualisation tool showing the number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide.

The Clock count(s) “excess” poverty – the gap between the actual number who have escaped poverty since end-December 2015 and the hypothetical number of who should have escaped for the world to be on-track to reach the global target of ending poverty by 2030.

Faulting the methodology adopted by Poverty Clock report, Mr Udoma noted that in deriving its poverty estimates, the clock did not directly rely on household survey data as national statistical offices in most countries do.

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Instead, he said Poverty Clock’s methodology relied on models to estimate poverty rates across countries, using data provided by national governments to international agencies.

“The models make assumptions on expected future changes in income, International Monetary Fund (IMF) medium-term growth forecasts and long-term projections and analysis developed by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), all of which are significantly influenced by uncertainty,” the minister said

Mr Udoma said the clock adopted just a model based on assumptions, which cannot substitute for field work involving actual data collected from households in a consistent and representative way.

The minister argued that in the specific case of Nigeria, the Poverty Clock used as baseline the General Household Survey 2012/13 was not designed to measure poverty indicators accurately and capable of being misleading if relied upon for poverty estimates.

Like several other countries, the minister said Nigeria’s poverty estimates were obtainable from the National Living Standard Survey (NLSS) undertaken every five years, the last of which was conducted in 2010.

He said while several other household surveys were routinely conducted by the NBS, none were as comprehensive as the NLSS, which is the appropriate household survey to determine poverty estimates.

The next round of the NLSS is currently being undertaken by NBS, in collaboration with the World Bank, to be concluded in 2019. No other comprehensive household study is on current poverty trends in Nigeria.

“It is therefore pertinent to note that the World Poverty Clock is a model-based estimation of poverty, relying on projections and assumptions that cannot substitute for actual household survey approach which most countries adopt.

“This implies that it is not possible to conclude Nigerians poverty position until the NBS completes the NLSS, as no comprehensive field work has been done in Nigeria, and among Nigerian households, as is required according to standard international methodology,” Mr Udoma said.

Besides, he said, in line with strategies outlined in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), government remained committed to promoting sustainable economic development through various social investment schemes capable of yielding positive impacts on poverty and unemployment.

Apart from the Social Investment Programme (SIP), which the minister said has engaged youth in entrepreneural and skills training alongside the school feeding programme, government believes the fastest way to reduce poverty level and increase social inclusion is to create jobs.

He noted that in the ERGP, government was committed to create 15 million jobs in four years by 2020 by developing labour intensive sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, housing and construction.

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