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Oxfam’s twisted view on poverty, inequality in Nigeria

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Nigeria has not been able to conduct a reliable population census, international organisations like Oxfam, should be wary in presenting doubtful population statistics.

The latest report by Oxfam International which claims that the combined wealth of five richest Nigerians, put at $29.9 billion, could end poverty is warped and misplaced. The analysis is fundamentally flawed as it is inciting. The report left the key issues that are responsible for mass poverty in Nigeria and strayed off course, even from the cardinal objective of Oxfam, which is “to end the injustices that cause poverty.” What has Oxfam done to address the injustices that plague Nigeria? Dwelling on poverty alone without addressing the root cause is inconsistent.

Nigeria has a basket full of injustices contributing to poverty and inequality. Leaving those injustices to point accusing fingers on individuals who are contributing to poverty eradication in Nigeria, indeed, Africa puts Oxfam in bad light. I have known Oxfam since early 1990s when I worked as consultant for the United Nations in Nairobi, Kenya and had occasions to interact with Oxfam staffers.

As far as I know, Oxfam works in close collaboration and identifies with governments and NGOs working on poverty eradication programmes. It is quite unusual for the organisation to turn around to antagonise governments, individuals or organisations involved in programmes that are in its areas of interest. That is why the Nigeria report represents a deviation from the norm. The prescription of Oxfam as it applies to the supposed five richest Nigerians cannot work. If that be the case, why waste time and resources to prepare a report that makes no meaning as far as the poverty situation in Nigeria is concerned?

Oxfam’s report entitled, “Inequality in Nigeria, Exploring the Drivers,” presented an alarming picture of Nigeria’s economic situation. The report states that 112 million Nigerians are living in abject poverty. That is on the poverty side. But I would like to reiterate that the bogus population figures being bandied about by foreign bodies as representing the true demographic situation in Nigeria is misleading.

So long as Nigeria has not been able to conduct a reliable population census, international organisations like Oxfam, should be wary in presenting doubtful population statistics. I don’t think that the entire Nigeria’s population, if well counted, is up to 112 million, talk less having that number alone representing the poor.

On inequality, the report went on to argue that the combined wealth of the five richest Nigerians, put at $29.9 billion, could end extreme poverty in the country. This proposition is ambiguous, as it failed to say how this could be possible without at the same time shutting the wealth of the five Nigerians. Does Oxfam want to end poverty below by creating poverty above? The five Nigerians in question include Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga, Femi Otedola, Folorunsho Alakija and Abdulsamad Rabiu. These are not the only billionaires in Nigeria, so why single out these ones?

It needs to be stated, categorically, that these Nigerians are not the drivers of poverty and so it is curious why their hard earned wealth should be considered as the only solution to poverty in Nigeria. I read about these Nigerians like any other person.

Talking about inequality, it is pertinent to ask whether there is any country in the world where everybody is equal. There is no country where inequality doesn’t exist. Besides, Nigeria doesn’t have the richest men in the world.

Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, according to Forbes 2017 Billionaire list, has a wealth of $86 billion. Compare this with Nigeria’s/Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote’s $14.4 billion and it is obvious that there is gross inequality even among the billionaires.

Bill Gates’ wealth alone is $56.1 billion bigger than the combined wealth of Nigeria’s five richest persons put at $29.9 billion. What has Oxfam got to say about that? Are there no poor and homeless people in America, the homeland of Bill Gates? Why has Oxfam not thought that Bill Gates’ wealth alone could close the yawning gap between the rich and the poor in America?

I am inclined to think that Oxfam, a West-oriented NGO, is biased against Nigeria’s billionaires. Typically, the West doesn’t like to see anything good happening in Nigeria, indeed, Africa. As far as they are concerned, they would be more comfortable reporting about abject poverty and not billionaires. For them, billionaires are meant for America and Europe and not Nigeria/Africa. They are happy to report about mass poverty in Nigeria while billionaires, over-consumption and good living belong to the West.

I am not surprised that Oxfam, in the spirit of the West, would not see that Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga, Femi Otedola, Folorunsho Alakija and Abdulsamad Rabiu, among others, represent one good thing that has happened to Nigeria. These Nigerians burnish Nigeria’s battered image. They represent light, which brightens Nigeria’s firmament. Others see this light and follow the path to personal emancipation. It is regrettable that Oxfam failed to appreciate the humanitarian activities of Nigeria’s billionaires but only sees them in bad light.

Oxfam derailed completely when it listed gender discrimination as one of the causative factors of inequality. While unfair distribution of resources and the prohibitive cost of governance may be causative factors, Oxfam failed to mention the virulent corruption among the political class as a critical factor. I concur with Oxfam that budget and scale of resources that goes to the treasury cannot be equated with Nigeria’s level of development. Most of the wealth that has accrued to Nigeria has been stolen.

Take oil revenue for example, it is common knowledge that what is stolen is more than what gets into the system. Some argue that as much as 60 per cent is stolen. Then out of the remaining 40 per cent, 60 per cent again is lost to corruption.

The erstwhile chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, once estimated that over $380 billion has been lost to corruption in Nigeria since independence in 1960. He lamented that the amount is enough to replicate Europe with its development six times in Nigeria. Imagine what Nigeria would look like if just one part of this wealth had been plowed into national economic development.

Oxfam should learn to place the blame where it rightly belongs. The government is the custodian of our commonwealth. Government has a constitutional responsibility to care for the people. That responsibility cannot be transferred to a few rich men otherwise the essence of government is diminished. There is no way the wealth of the five billionaires would outweigh the wealth of Nigeria.



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