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‘Mismanagement of oil wealth fuelling Nigeria’s inequality’

By Kingsley Jeremiah, Abuja
24 August 2022   |   3:39 am
Stakeholders in Abuja have raised serious concerns over the growing rate of inequality in Nigeria, insisting the mismanagement of natural resource wealth is fuelling the development.

AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

Stakeholders in Abuja have raised serious concerns over the growing rate of inequality in Nigeria, insisting the mismanagement of natural resource wealth is fuelling the development.

They stated that the development is more worrisome as over $20 trillion has been looted from the nation’s treasury between 1960 and 2005.

According to the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Nigeria earned $418.544 billion in oil and gas revenue from 2010 to 2019.

Speaking at a pre-conference on a West African high-level policy conference on inequalities and natural resource management, decried the depleting rate of the country’s Excess Crude Account, which has crumbled to less than $400,000.

The major contention for the expert is that while the wealth held by individuals as of 2017 in Nigeria, exceeded $250 billion as that of Ghana, exceeds $60bn, the large part of the wealth was derived from natural resources.

Insisting that the development remained a critical hindrance to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they noted that the inequities in the distribution of nation’s wealth are stark.

The stakeholders, including Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Global Rights, Natural Resource Governance Institute (NGRI), Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) and others from the West African region were worried that current political, economic and social challenges in Nigeria may worsen.

Country Director at Global Rights Nigeria, Abiodun Baiyewu, who noted that widening income and wealth gaps drive poverty upwards, violate human rights and undermine the ability of governments to fulfill their obligations to citizens, said Nigeria’s social cohesion, economic growth, violence and crime and low levels of trust in the society may worsen if necessary actions are not taking to tackle the problem.

“The inequality is at such a height that the combined wealth of five richest Nigerians is up at $30bn while no less than about five million Nigerians today are way below the poverty line.

“Now, the amount of money the richest man in Nigeria earns yearly is sufficient to lift as many as two million people out of poverty while 91 per cent of our population are poor, extremely poor,” she stated.

Director of CTA, Faith Nwadishi, who stated that the impacts of inequality were more on women, stated that the growing level of the depletion of the excess crude account is unacceptable.

She stated that while the government noted that the fund, meant for future generations, is being spent on insecurity, the level of insecurity in the country is worsening.

Nwadishi, who also raised concerns over the falling rate of the naira said: “Yesterday, we had over $1 billion taken away from our excess crude account to support the fight against descending security. So who’s benefiting?”

A Senior Officer at NGRI, Tengi George-Ikoli also raised concerns over the country’s debt profile, warning that the energy transition may foist more challenges for the country.

According to her, while there’s no visible progress on economic diversification, Nigeria and Africa in general, needs to collectively try to find ways to position itself to engage these emerging issues.

George-Ikoli noted that the issues around inequality are not negotiable, stressing that Nigeria and other African countries must seek urgent leeway to avert looming challenges.