Reports in several print and social media have cited the African Development Bank (AfDB) in its 2013 African Economic Outlook as rating Nigeria’s poverty reduction drive “low”. We believe it is necessary to dispel the bogus claims and disingenuous innuendos contained in the report, and instead invite attention to the steady progress the country is making in creating wealth and reducing the ranks of the poor.
2. In the first place, the Nigerian economy is doing much better than any other of its size on the continent, and the poverty statistics which were rehashed by the media from the 1996–2010 figures on which the AfDB report is based have been overtaken by the various interventions by President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in the last two to three years.
3. The facts even in today’s newspapers (Monday12 August 2013) including Businessday and the Nation Newspaper Editorial, speak of a Nigerian economy that is witnessing impressive growth and improvement in performances in our schools.
4. It is pertinent to point out that we are growing the Nigerian economy faster than any other country’s economy on the continent, with this year’s GDP growth put at 6.7%.
5. Nigeria remains the highest destination for Foreign Direct Investment inflows into Africa over and above South Africa and Egypt. This is the direct result of the fundamental reforms being implemented under President Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda.
6. The Nigerian Capital Market has fully recovered, recording impressive performance as reported in the front page lead story of Businessday today (Monday, 12 August 2013).
7. Our public schools are gradually recovering from decades of decline as WAEC performances have risen to 64.2% from 39.57% of students who pass with minimum of five credits (The Nation’s Editorial Monday, 12 August 2013).
8. The Trains are back on our railways from Lagos to Kano, while we fix the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri line in readiness for use by 2014. New standard gauge Rail-Lines are in the works from (Lagos-Ibadan; Abuja-Kaduna; Warri-Ajaokuta-Itakpe; Abuja City Light Rail; etc).
9. Our Airports terminals now look like modern airports with space and beauty.
10. Reforms in the Power Sector and the new power projects being completed will stabilise power from next year.
11. Our Gas Master Plan has attracted huge investments by Chevron, Shell, Dangote Group and other investors who are now transforming our gas into major income earner for the country.
12. New Industrial City at Ogindingben in Delta State is unfolding with the construction of a petro-chemical industries complex. About 100,000 workers will be employed for the construction phase, which has begun.
13. New Gas Pipelines are on the way from the South-South to the North and South-West to utilise gas for power generation and for the domestic economy.
14. These and many more are the reasons why the opposition is desperate to highlight negative stories taken from outdated statistics which ignore current efforts and results, just to give the opposition opportunity to mislead Nigerians.
15. As earlier stated, it is important to point out that the AfDB report is a dated report considering that the data being referred to cover between 1996 and 2010. Over the past 2—3 years, the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has done a lot to fight poverty, create jobs, and reduce inequality. This government has undertaken significant policy reforms targeted at addressing the challenges identified in the report. These policy interventions have contributed positively to turning things around beyond the picture painted in the report.
16. Poverty is a national challenge that transcends the whole country cutting across party divides. In reality, the responsibility of fighting poverty does not rest solely with the Federal Government. States and Local Governments share in this responsibility too. State governments hold the key to fighting poverty in their states. Dealing with poverty as a partisan phenomenon would be trivializing the problem. All hands need to be on deck to fight poverty. Federal Government efforts are mainly at the policy level, while actual projects/programmes are carried out by the states. In spite of this, Federal interventions to reduce poverty have taken place in Agriculture; Health; Education; Housing; Communication Technology; Works; Transportation and other sectors of the economy.
17. The AfDB report presents poverty, inequality, and unemployment in Nigeria without the appropriate and illuminating global context. Yet, these three challenges have increasingly become global issues, which policymakers around the world are grappling with everyday. For example, South Africa’s unemployment rate and Gini Coefficient, which measures the dispersion in income and wealth amongst individuals, is 26% and 0.63, respectively, compared to Nigeria’s 24% and 0.45. The Gini Coefficient for other comparator countries like Brazil, China, and Singapore are 0.52, 0.47, and 0.48, respectively. Despite our favourable comparisons, these numbers trouble us. And that is why the Administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has been working very hard to address them.