A couple of days ago, Charity Oxfam, a globally renowned aid and development charity comprising an international confederation of 20 NGOs, with 70 years of experience working and campaigning alongside partners in over 90 countries worldwide with the aim of mobilizing the power of people against poverty, did make a declaration. One that is startling and still hard to come to terms with.
Actually, they did reveal that the combined wealth of Nigeria’s five richest men which amounts to $29.9bn (£22.9bn), could end extreme poverty in the country.
In addition, Oxfam’s Good Governance Programme Coordinator for Nigeria, Celestine Okwudili Odo stated:
“It is obscene that the richest Nigerian has amassed more money than he can ever hope to spend in a country where five million people will struggle to feed themselves this year. Extreme inequality is exacerbating poverty, undermining the economy, and fermenting social unrest. Nigerian leaders must be more determined in tackling this terrible problem.”
Oxfam did not stop at that, they went on to tell us the outcome of a research they conducted which is as follows:
–Nigeria’s richest man earns 8,000 times more in one day than a poor Nigerian will spend on basic needs in a year.
-More than 112 million people are living in poverty in Nigeria, yet the country’s richest man would have to spend $1m a day for 42 years to exhaust his fortune.
-Despite a rapidly growing economy, Nigeria is one of the few countries where the number of people living in poverty increased, from 69 million in 2004 to 112 million in 2010 – a rise of 69%.
-The number of millionaires increased by 44% during the same period.
They also cited Forbes magazine, which listed the five richest Nigerians as:
-Aliko Dangote (net worth $14.4bn)
-Mike Adenuga (net worth $9.9 billion)
-Femi Otedola (net worth US$1.85 billion)
-Folorunsho Alakija (net worth $1.55 billion)
-Abdul Samad Rabiu (net worth $1.1 billion)
Few days later, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, reportedly rose in defence of the government and hit back at the charity, saying she was concerned about the “language, tone and style” of their report: “Inequality in Nigeria”.
In her response, Mrs Ahmed said:
“The methodology used in the report also raises some questions: is it for empirical or theoretical purposes? Oxfam needs to tell us in the report what it intends to achieve, what data was gathered, where it was gathered, the sample size and the uses of the data.
“When I looked at the report, I was worried about certain concepts, such as ‘Who are the elites?’”
Now, why is it that our officials tend to be confrontational and on the defensive in situations like this? I wonder what Mrs Ahmed means by “language, tone and style of their report: ‘Inequality in Nigeria’”. Whenever international organizations, for instance, Transparency International, World Health Organization (WHO) among others emerge with a credible ‘negative’ report about the country, you see officials rising up and challenging such despite these organizations’ credibility as against our poor record-keeping and non-nonchalance to matters.
This is something that is crystal clear, nothing but the truth as there is no doubt that there is so much poverty in the country. The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The level of oppression is alarming as well. Sadly, successive governments in Nigeria have done little or nothing in bridging this wide gap. Nigeria belongs to us all and her wealth and resources should be evenly distributed as is the case in developed climes.
What Mrs Ahmed did here is simply “grandstanding” and “eye-service” as well. Apparently, aiming to impress her bosses at the corridors of power and colleagues too and to be seen as loyal and responsible. Nothing more!
Madam, please be pro-active, work silently and let your performance speak for you instead. The message Oxfam is sending here is that these “elites” can afford to do much more than they are doing for citizens/country right now which is true. Simple!
For instance, the feeding of pupils – at public schools – with one square meal per day which the current administration initiated and has been bankrolling across several states of the federation can be taken over by one, two or three of these “big five” thereby lifting the burden off the government and such resources would then be allocated to another area badly in need of attention. Yes! They can afford such gesture in ALL public schools in Nigeria for the rest of their lives and afterwards and they won’t be shaken!!!