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Regional themes > Poverty reduction frameworks and critiques Last update: 2020-11-27  

Social capital and poverty reduction in Nigeria

Okunmadewa, F.Y., Yusuf, S.A. and Omonona, B.T.

September 2005

SARPN acknowledges the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) as the source of this document:
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The poverty situation in Nigeria is quite disturbing. Both the quantitative and qualitative measurements attest to the growing incidence and depth of poverty in the country. This situation however, presents a paradox considering the vast human and physical resources that the country is endowed with. It is even more disturbing that despite the huge human and material resources that have been devoted to poverty reduction by successive governments, no noticeable success has been achieved in this direction. The Human Development Report (HDR, 1999) reveals that Nigeria is one of the poorest among the poor countries of the world. Nigeria ranks 54th with respect to the human poverty index (HPI) - making it the 20th poorest country in the world. It is also ranked 30th in gender related development index (GDI) while occupying 40th position from below in its human development index (HD1).

In line with the above, the quantitative poverty assessment by the Federal Office of Statistics (FOS, 1999), based on the analysis of a series of national consumer surveys over a 16 year period (1980-1996), shows that the incidence of poverty rose drastically between 1980 and 1985 on one hand and between 1992 and 1996 on the other, but decreased in between 1985 and 1992. The 28.1 percent poverty incidence of 1980 translated to 17.7 million poor people in the country, whereas there were 34.7 million poor people in 1985 with an incidence of poverty of 46.3 percent. Despite the drop in the poverty incidence in 1992 to 42.7 percent, the population of the poor was 39.2 million, about 5 million more than 1985 figures. By 1996, 67.1 million people were in poverty with an incidence of poverty of 65.5 percent. The situation of poverty as at 2001 would have worsened, as there has not been any significant improvement in the quality of life (welfare) of the majority of the people. The bitter reality of the Nigerian poverty situation according to Okunmadewa (2001) is that more than 40 percent of Nigerians live in conditions of extreme poverty spending less than N320 per capita per month. This expenditure would barely provide a quarter of the nutritional requirements for healthy living.

Other indicators of poverty also showed a very deplorable situation for Nigeria, Infant and under-5 mortality were 217 and 147 per 1000 live births respectively while maternal mortality was 9 per 1000 live births in 1996. All these were critically above the average for developing countries and even for Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, the preliminary health profile figures for 1999 as prepared by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) indicate the major causes of morbidity to include malaria which is 919 for 100,000; dysentery with 386 per 100,000; pneumonia with 146 per 100,000 and measles with 89 per 100,000. Gross primary school enrolment averaged 85.2 percent while adult literacy rate was 51 percent. Life expectancy, which was 54 years in 1990 and 52 in 1995, has dropped to less than 50 years since 1998. The foregoing indicates that poverty remains a development concern in Nigeria that requires urgent attention by all stakeholders.

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