City Voice Newspaper

Halima Imam: Hostages of a one -sided reality


By Halima Imam

Corruption, poverty, hunger and insecurity are just a few of the social problems that Nigeria is faced with. Lower poverty rates were recorded in the southern parts of the country, especially in the South- South and South- western states.

Sokoto and Taraba states had the highest level of people living below the poverty level in the country. The National Bureau of Statistics said in a report that forty percent of Nigerians live below the poverty line.

Nigeria is a top exporter of oil in Africa and the economy leans heavily on crude sales. Failure of the government and other policy makers to diversify the economy has fast tracked the growing wealth of the elite and put the poor at a very strong disadvantage.

Poverty rate is so evident in Nigeria, that a report by Brookings Institute named her the poverty capital of the world in 2019. The irony is that Nigeria has an array of poverty eradication schemes being executed at all levels of government.

The most populous black nation in the world has almost half her population living below the poverty line. The Northern part of Nigeria suffers the third highest level of chronic malnutrition among children globally. There is an alarming level of lack of safe water and improper sanitation, alongside a very poor knowledge of healthy feeding culture for young children. This has made it very hard for children in this region to break out of the cycle of infant mortality and malnutrition.

According to reports, Nigeria has steadily been reducing her global hunger index scores since 1990. But the severity of hunger still obviously remains very high. There is an increased rate of people going from house to house begging for food. Street begging by the youth, “Almajiranci” as it is called in the North, was a menace until it was scrapped early 2020 by the Northern Governors. People are so hungry that some go as far as having to steal foods that haven’t yet been cultivated from farms.

This is a truly devastating reality. One that is hard to watch and even worse, to experience. Covid19 brought a new normal that the whole world never saw coming. This made for a lifestyle change and the world was forced into lockdown from an invincible enemy. Many Nigerians had cried of hunger as businesses closed down, thereby making feeding harder for an already poor lot.

The high level poverty has made basic shelter hard for most. A lot of people live in uncompleted buildings with their families. Others have to rent apartments without restrooms, yet others build their houses and omit the addition of the most important part of every home – the rest room. This has made open defecation widespread in the country. Reports have said that water sanitation and hygiene situation in Nigeria kills around sixty thousand children under the age of five.

WaterAid Nigeria said fifty five million people lack access to clean water and one hundred and sixteen million do not have toilets. One hundred and ten million people do not wash their hands and around forty million defecate in the open. Poor sanitation and open defecation is well on its way to becoming a National catastrophe in Nigeria. It is globally recognized to be the root of fatal contagious diseases.

Insecurity has also become very rampant in the country, so much so that kidnapping, banditry, etcetera have robbed a lot of people of their peace. Banditry in the North Western Nigeria and Boko Haram insurgency in the North East have contributed to an alarming rate of food insecurity. Lives are being taken like its child’s play, and women and children are kidnapped and taken away to God knows where as their husbands are killed and their sons recruited.

Farmers are afraid for their lives, thereby most times leaving their farms without a harvest. As a result, there is a frightening decline in food production from the North. In a region that has a vast arable land around 6.2million people require emergency food assistance and 1.2 million people live in hard to reach places, and are at risk of farming.

The National Bureau of Statistics said that the rate of unemployment in Nigeria has risen to 27.1 per cent in the second quarter of this year. The rate of under- employment, according to the agency, stands at 28.6 per cent in the second quarter.

Both unemployment and underemployment keeps witnessing a steady rise, worsened by the coronavirus.

Nigeria has the largest population of youth in the world. Year in year out, teenagers gain admission into the university. The population of youth with certificates applying for white collar jobs is beyond belief. And it is not as if the young lack initiatives. Youth people are branching out and utilizing their entrepreneurial skills to make ends meet and most times become employers of labour themselves. But even here, there is a lot of challenges.

The fact that a lot of the unemployed do not have the capital to start a business of their own is a big issue. In a country where a large amount of the population is poor, most people cannot get grants from friends and family, and others might not qualify for government or bank loan. This reality is one that millions of Nigeria are forced to live with; some temporarily, others, almost permanently.

The fact that corruption dines on the same table with the elite and people in positions of power is glaring. People mismanage public funds, monies are squandered by a privileged few on a daily basis and most citizens are made to languish in abject poverty.

Now, jobs are sold to unemployed and underemployed job seekers. People are forced to pay bribes, sometimes running into millions of naira, if they want to be employed. The profession that is meant to be a torch bearer of honesty and the very bedrock of every nation, the teaching profession, is also now available only to the highest bidder.

Most of the government jobs are for sale now, and those that cannot afford to pay can remain jobless for as long as it takes. Such an inhuman behaviour displayed by humans, a shameful exhibition of poverty of the mind and conscience. One that will trap the poor majority as hostages of this entire one – sided reality.

Imam is Founder of Climate Action Team
Twitter: @sadee_eemam


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