133m poor Nigerians: The facts, the fictions – Part 2
The Federal Government has now with the deployment of the MPI measurement tool and these findings are placed in the hands of State Governors, LGA Councilors, the Legislature, the Private sector, and other key stakeholders, a policy tool to help address the overlapping, multi-sectoral deprivations that people face.
It is only when the sub-national government collaborates with the Federal and adopts this data-driven and evidence-based approach to governance that we can truly and positively change the trajectory of poverty in our country.
President Muhammadu Buhari remains unwavering in his commitment to eradicating extreme poverty in all its forms; hence, beyond the deployment of the MPI survey, the Federal government has begun using the results as a policy tool.
The 2023 budgeting process aligned resource allocations with the findings of the Nigeria MPI (2022) results. Dimensions with the highest contribution to deprivations were prioritised in the 2023 budget: security, education, health, infrastructure and related social development and poverty-reduction activities. These sectors identified as “dimensions” in the MPI, are the top five priority sectors in the 2023 national budget, accounting for N8.074 trillion of the total N20.5 trillion national budget.
The MPI is not just a measurement tool, but one that helps with behavioural and perception change. Nigerians need to understand that because an individual earns a daily income above $1.90, that is, NGN850, this does not automatically mean the individual is not poor. This is the crux of the perception change that the MPI brings to the fore and seeks to change.
For example, in Bayelsa- currently, the second poorest State after Sokoto, the proportion of multidimensionally poor children under 5 is above 50% in all States but greater than 95% in Bayelsa. This means that even though, a household may earn above the daily income of NGN850 or NGN135,415 per annum per capita, if a child within this household is deprived in child indicators such as nutrition, school attendance, child engagement and across the 15 MPI indicators, such family and child are identified as multidimensionally poor.
This new understanding of poverty beckons ordinary Nigerians to demand for accountability in government, especially at sub-national levels where poverty is most prevalent. This kind of attitudinal change also requires changes in the choice architecture of who we vote into elective positions.
When social and economic investment decisions are not based on data evidence such as the MPI provides, we will continue to perpetuate the circle of poverty, given the current approach where State Governors continue to invest and compete in borrowings to build monuments like airports and flyovers even when data provide evidence to the contrary.
Rather, resources should be channelled towards lowering the deprivations in the health sector, for instance, by investing in the State Health Insurance Scheme to enable inclusive health coverage or investing in the efficiency and effectiveness of primary health care centres (PHCs) of which barely 20% of the 30,000 in the country was functional.
The results are pretty revealing, and it reiterates the call for judgment in choosing the right leadership especially when one considers the poverty dynamics between the current ruling party’s (APC) States versus those of the major opposition party (PDP). It is significant to highlight that, for instance, Kano and Kogi- northern APC governed States, are the least poor in the North.
Recall that 65%, that is 86 million of the 133 million Nigerians that are MPI poor, are from the North. Meanwhile, even though the South-West contributes the lowest number of MPI poor, that is, 16.27 million persons, Oyo State- a PDP-ruled State is one of the poorest in the region. The two States with the lowest deprivations across all the dimensions are Lagos (29.4%) and Ondo (the least poor nationally; 27.2%), which are APC-governed States. In Oyo State, about half of its 7.8 million (48.7%) population are MPI-poor.
In terms of the interlinkages between poverty and natural resources, it is troubling to note that in spite of being an oil producing State and one of the top 5 States with the highest FAAC allocations, Bayelsa, a PDP State with less than 3 million people is the second poorest State in the Federation; much worse off than Kano (21st in poverty ranking), which has a population of approximately 16 million persons.
Poverty in Nigeria traditionally has been measured using the monetary approach. This approach analyses the consumption and expenditure of a household to estimate their living standards. The last Monetary Poverty estimate as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics, was 40.1 per cent for 2019, pre-COVID-19. The 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index Survey results as published by the same agency use a completely different method in assessing the Poverty status of an individual or household.
Unlike the monetary measurement, it uses deprivations in basic amenities to assess poverty. Globally, where both measures have been used, the multidimensional measure more often records a higher level since it considers a range of issues in arriving at a conclusion about a person’s living standard.
As clearly stated in the 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index Survey report published by the National Bureau of Statistics, this survey is the first standalone MPI Survey to be conducted in Nigeria with this level of disaggregation. It also indicates that poverty is predominantly a rural phenomenon, particularly when considering the dimensions driving Poverty in each State, which vary from State to State. This survey exercise was commissioned with the intent of using it as a diagnostic and policy-making tool to address issues of poverty, as it clearly spells out the areas, in which governments at all levels can work on to improve the living standards of citizens.
An intrinsic value of multidimensional poverty measurement is the localisation of the incidence and intensity of poverty. The 2022 Nigeria MPI survey findings are a direct reflection of the failure of local and State governments to provide opportunities for citizens to participate in economic activities and basic social amenities that are within the remits of State and Local governments.
Given the above, the idea, therefore, that the Federal government has thrown 133m people into poverty after committing to lift 100m people out of poverty in 10 years, is false and misleading. Nonetheless, the Federal Government remains unflinching in its efforts to address the root causes of the multiple deprivations Nigerians face especially at sub-national levels and will continue to expand its social protection and poverty reduction strategies into States, to deliver on its commitment to lift millions out of extreme poverty.
Prince Agba is minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning and supervises the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).