Inequality and poverty are major issues facing the African continent, which many of its countries have grappled with since the 1960s. According to OXFAM, the stark differences in lifestyles between the rich and the poor are as a result of ill-use, misallocation and misappropriation of resources (OXFAM Report 2017). In addition to this, a culture of corruption has further contributed in creating the divide between the elite and the suffering masses.
Conditions of inequality in developed countries also present a distasteful reality albeit in a different context. In the United States for instance, extreme inequality is depicted in various acts of human rights violations threatening the economic as well as social rights of those subjected to inequality. Increased incarceration rates, rise in number of police killings, increase in arrest-related deaths, and heightened concerns over the militarisation of the police force are some of the acts targeted at a particular class of people marginalised by inequality.
The Case of Nigeria
According to Oxfam International, in a report published in 2017, Nigeria is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and the largest economy in Africa. The World Bank Nigeria Bi-annual Economic Update released in May 2018 also confirmed the growth of Nigeria’s GDP to 0.8% after emerging from recession in 2017. Yet, the growth has not been able to address the concerns of economic inequality in the country.
Poverty and inequality in Nigeria dates as far back as the Nation’s independence and since then, the gap between the rich and poor has risen to extreme levels. From the Oxfam report conducted in 2017, it was observed that between 1960 and 2005, about $20tn (Twenty trillion dollars) was looted by public office holders from the nation’s treasury. Statistics also show that between 2004 and 2010, the number of poor Nigerians living below the poverty line had grown from 69 million
to 112 million; making about 69% of the population.
On a regional scale, the figures in the North-western part of the country further translates to higher poverty rates with economic gender ineq
uality, discriminatory traditional and socio-cultural practices, insurgency and other issues associated with the region playing its part to reinforce the current realities. Data shows that 75.8% of women in the North are less likely to own land or any other type of property in spite of the fact that the women folk are the most employed in cultivating land. 94% of women are illiterate and excluded from any form of participation in national, economic, social and political issues.
Beyond the facts and figures from reports, closer interactions with the average citizen brings to fore the reality of life for the common man. Instan
ces of social tension within communities, increased crime rates, electoral, religious, inter-tribal and communal violence occur, where a group of people are exploited and utilised by the superior group to satisfy selfish needs, are regular occurrences within the country.
The question then is, how should Nigeria approach actions against inequality if the United Nation’s SDG 10 (reduce inequality within and among coun
- tion to manage the issue of inequality. To achieve this, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) advises that governments should focus more on building a policy making process that can be based on trust. Public concerns over excessive influence of business and political elite with vested interest in policies and decision making has warranted increased demand by the public for more transparency and accountability by the government.
tries) is going to be achieved in the country.
- Of the most glaring aspects of inequality, ge
- nder inequality still ranks high within the country and regions at large. The National Gender Policy and the Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act are two provisions that have been proposed to sensitise and re-orient people about stereotypes and gender perceptions, promote and protect human rights, empower women, encourage feminine inclusion in political and economic participation as well as prohibit all forms of violence against women among other things. These policies as well as others will serve the cause against inequality if they are given the chance to thrive in different regions. According to The Global Gender Gap Report 2017, Iceland ranks number one on the Global Gender Gap Index because the country has successfully closed more than 87% of its overall gender gap. Some of the ways Iceland was able to achieve this were by leveraging on pay equity assessments as a key process for compensation. They identified a
- ny pay gaps between employees performing similar tasks and ensured fair and equitable compensation packages. Iceland has also been judicious in encouraging political participation for more women as well as increasing the number of women on boards and in CEO and executive positions.
- The cost of governance in Nigeria is astronomically high compared to that of other countries and economies by reason of the various agencies, retinue of ministers, SAs, SSAs and the long list of government aids, National Assembly members, etc. in the country. Considerations to reduce the cost of governance by introducing measures for safeguarding policy-making processes to suit the elite with vested interest in these policies may be another step in the right direc
- Allocating public resources to cater to public
goods and services like health, education, social services, energy, clean water, infrastructure, etc. will all go a long way in ensuring active citizenship and inclusive development in the country.
The current drive by the public for transparency and accountability from public leaders, signifies a positive step in the right direction. This is also a good opportunity for the private sector to advocate for more support especially in areas of encouraging and supporting the drive for small-scale agricultural development wi
thin communities and acting as a check to review government policies and incentives on some of these micro-scale sectors to eliminate bottlenecks and corrupt practices within the government agencies responsible for each sector.