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According to a new report by Oxfam International, the combined wealth of five of Nigeria’s richest citizens, could end extreme poverty in the nation.
During the unveiling of it’s report, ‘Inequality in Nigeria’, on Wednesday in Abuja, Oxfam International revealed the harsh economic reality in Nigeria, a country where 112 million citizens live in abject poverty.
According to Oxfam, the report exposes the large and growing gap between the country’s rich and poor, and also how the benefits of economic growth are captured by a few wealthy elite at the expense of ordinary Nigerians.
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, and the combined wealth of these five rich citizens, put at about $29.9bn, could end extreme poverty in the nation.
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 also further states 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 policy making.
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.
Reacting to 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, represented by the Director of International Cooperation in the ministry, Mr. Eloho Samuel, 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.”
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.”