Having grown up in Rivers State, Nigeria, I have long been aware of the poverty that engulfs my nation. When I was in secondary school, I used to look for menial jobs to support my school expenses. Most of the time, my friend and I would seek for a farmland owned by some wealthy families in our village, which we can clear for a living. It got to the point that my friend and I had to skip classes so that we could cut a farmland for one woman in our community. When the said woman would see us coming to work during school hours, she would ask us if our situation was caused by the increases in school fees. We would both respond “No.” I tried to explain to her that our absence from school during that particular time had nothing to do with an increase in school fees and that we had to work because we needed funds for some school materials. My friend and I both hailed from families whose parents are just peasant workers. The money that our parents earned was not enough to meet our needs. The woman, having known our families, offered to pay us immediately to enable us to return to school the next day. She said: “I have often wondered how the two of you are coping with your studies in such a situation.” Despite our state, however, we never had enough time to think about being poor.
With this background, I entered the search for “Poverty” as a significant issue in Nigeria. I have recognized that most of the affluent in society took advantage of the poor by paying them wages that were not commensurate with the task assigned to them. I wanted to look more deeply into this complicated social issue and economic dilemma. I have set this question for myself: “What is the best way that Nigeria can handle its problem with poverty?”
My exploration of this issue begins with an article by Henry Bayo that I read in the Vanguard newspaper titled “Can Buhari Reduce Poverty?” In that article, Henry Bayo questioned the morality of the previous administration regarding their treatment of the nation’s poverty issue. He pointed out that policymakers have subjected the nation to poverty despite its abundant natural resources. He asserted that over 100 million Nigerians live on two dollars per day. He also quoted the social scientist who suggested that the poverty level of the country can be reduced if the government provides the youth with more jobs. Furthermore, he argued that debt can diminish if the government subsidizes education costs and the health expenses of the masses. He admonished the former administration for not being able to fulfill their promises.
I found Henry Bayo’s article to be persuasive. His article has set the tone for the government to identify the critical administrative deficiencies of the previous administration. I like his argument that if the rate of the dollar continues to increase, the current government, which is led by Muhammadu Buhari, will also be unsuccessful in its search for a lasting solution to the country’s poverty issue. However, Henry Bayo only mentioned oil as the country’s primary source of income in his article. I disagree with him in this aspect. I firmly believe that Nigeria’s great reliance on oil has contributed to its current poverty level. Indeed, our country needs to change its mentality and accept the changing ideology regarding the diversification of the economy.
What Causes Poverty?
One of the early clues to the country’s poverty is its unemployment rate. Unemployment gives birth to poverty (Nwagwu 2014). A person is poor when he/she cannot satisfy his/her basic needs. Aiyedogbon and Ohwofasa (2012) define unemployment rate as the number of people who have the ability to work and are in search of a job but are unable to find employment. They further established a relationship between poverty and unemployment. “From 2007 to 2011, the poverty level in Nigeria averaged 60.0%, while unemployment increased to 18.5% respectively” (Aiyedogbon and Ohwofasa (2012). Thus, when people are not earning, the possibility of getting money to satisfy their needs is insignificant.
Another cause of poverty in Nigeria is the lack of proper education. Education is key to development (Ucha 2010). The system of education in Nigeria does not prepare students for the labor market. There is a gap between theory and practice. According to Dewey (1907), schools should be a miniature of the society. This means school curriculum should reflect the needs of students, their parents, and the community. For instance, a typical first-school leaving certificate holder does not know what he/she can do after graduating. Likewise, senior certificate holders also do not see job opportunities for them in society. As a result, they seek for jobs in the private sector. The government should strengthen the country’s education department to create an enabling environment for all the graduates of the nation.
The third cause that I want to talk about is corruption. Nigeria is one of the world’s developing countries, and according to Oviawe and Iwuamadi (2010), its levels of social and economic problems are high. Transparency International defines corruption “as the abuse of power for private advantage” (Ajisafe 2016). As a result, many private business owners are in control of the country’s wealth, preventing the proper distribution of wealth. The misappropriation of scarce resources will affect the national economy, which, in turn, will give birth to poverty. The money of the nation continues to be in the hands of the rich, while the poor continue to be poor.
Way Out of Poverty
Values education is an essential concept in the curriculum of schools. Because lack of knowledge is one of the causes of the country’s poverty, the government can prevent poverty with the right values by allowing the integration of values in our schools. The benefits should be concepts that transcend the walls of the schools. If the students gain the proper knowledge, costs, and skills that the society needs, our country’s rate of poverty will reduce.
When students learn the values of respect, honesty, perseverance, and accountability, they will grow with it. In turn, this will minimize the rate of corruption in the country. The Bible says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Thus, the future of Nigeria relies on producing children who can integrate values in their activities to improve the society.
In addition, the government should create job opportunities for the youth. Most of our teenagers do not have jobs; hence, they go about doing inappropriate activities. In a bid to eradicate poverty, the government should create job opportunities for the youth. “At 5.3%, the rate of urbanization in Nigeria is among the highest in the world. Since manufacturing is stagnant, there are few jobs for the growing urban population, and urban unemployment is estimated at 10.8%” (Obadan 2001).
The concept of poverty has caught the attention of many researchers who are in search of the solution to it. An awareness of the factors that influence poverty is imperative. The government has a substantial responsibility to ensure the eradication of poverty. To achieve this, the values of education should occupy a significant position in the curriculum of schools. All government agencies must work hard to fight corruption by assisting corruption victims.
Transparency and accountability are essential in times like these. All citizens who occupy a position of trust must work with integrity. The Bible says: “A good name is better than riches” (Proverbs 22:1). The country belongs to all of us, and we must all work hard to fight poverty. Therefore, Nigeria should not allow poverty to thrive; instead, it should apply the aforementioned principles when planning and formulating policies.
Awogbenle, A.C., and Iwuamadi, K.C. (2010). Youth Unemployment: Entrepreneurship Development Programme as an Intervention Mechanism. African Journal of Business Management, 4(6), 831–835.
Bayo, Henry (2015). Can Buhari Reduce Poverty? Retrieved September 3, 2017, from
Nwagwu, E. J. (2014). Unemployment and Poverty in Nigeria: A Link to National Insecurity. Global Journal of Politics and Law Research, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 19–35.
Aiyedogbon, J. O., and Ohwofasa, B. O. (2012). Poverty and Youth Unemployment in Nigeria. International Journal of Business and Social Science, Vol. 3, No. 20.
Ajisafe, R. A. (2016). Corruption and Poverty in Nigeria: Evidence from Ardl Bound Test and Error Correction Model. Journal of Emerging Trends in Economics and Management Sciences, 7(3), 156–163.
Obadan, M. I. (2001). Poverty Reduction in Nigeria: The Way Forward. CBN Economic and Financial Review, 39(4), 159–188.
Ucha, C. (2010). Poverty in Nigeria: Some Dimensions and Contributing Factors. Global Majority E-Journal, 1(1), 46–56.
Edu Nnamdi (author) on November 02, 2017:
Thank you for your comment.
Dennis Thorgesen from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S. on November 02, 2017:
In countries where value based education is used the poverty level is low. People are often retrained as the economy shifts.
Teaching values at school does no good if the same values are not expected in the home. This is one area where every country needs to concentrate their work. In America it has been hard because there are so many homes where both parents work. There are a few areas like farming where the children still see the parents values on an almost daily level.
Disparity in income is an issue beyond borders as well. When both parents in many families have to work to feed and clothe their families, others seem to earn without working.
In reality your article states problems that are part of every economy. Those with big money don't want it to trickle down, although some always does. Most of the worlds wealth is controlled by the heads of mega corporations. None of them truly pay their employees what they are worth.