Oxfam International on Wednesday in Abuja unveiled its ‘Inequality in Nigeria’ report, which revealed the harsh economic reality in a country where 112 million citizens live in abject poverty, stating that the combined wealth of five of her richest citizens, put at about $29.9bn, could end extreme poverty in the nation.
Quoting Forbes, the agency listed 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.
According to Oxfam, the report exposes the large and growing gap between the country’s rich and poor, adding that it also reveals how the benefits of economic growth are captured by a few wealthy elite at the expense of ordinary Nigerians.
It said the richest man in Nigeria earned 8,000 times more in one day than a poor citizen would spend on basic needs in a year.
The report 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.
The report further stated that poor people were not benefiting from Nigeria’s wealth because of high level of corruption and the excessive influence that big businesses and some wealthy elite had over the government and policymaking.
It alleged that public office holders stole an estimated sum of $20tn from the treasury between 1960 and 2005, while multinational companies received tax incentives estimated at $2.9bn a year.
But rather than react to the issues raised in the report, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, faulted the structure of the report, arguing that it failed to answer key questions that were typical of similar reports.
She also stated that the report failed to provide solutions to some of the problems it identified, adding that the document did not define key concepts such as poverty and who the elite were.
The minister, who was represented by the Director of International Cooperation in the ministry, Mr. Eloho Samuel, further argued that the recommendations in the report were too broad.
She said, “I was worried by the language, tone and style of the report, and this made me to ask what was at the back of the mind of the authors when the report was being written? Oxfam needs to tune the report and put in an element of diplomacy. The methodology used in the report also raises some questions.
“Is it for empirical or theoretical purpose? Oxfam needs to tell us in the report what it intends to achieve, what data was gathered, where it was gathered, the sample size and the uses of the data.”
The minister stated that positive developments and efforts of the Federal Government were not captured in the report and noted that similar reports often identify problems and proffer solutions.
Ahmed said, “When I looked at the report, I was worried about certain concepts such as ‘who are the elite?’ There was no definition of terms, such as elite and poverty. More worrisome is if the report falls into the hands of aggrieved individuals, how would they react?
“To us in Nigeria, when we find problems, we pray for the leaders. Let us think Nigeria, write Nigeria and behave like Nigerians.”