Poverty has become a household name in Nigeria. Majority of the country's population, according to the statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics are poor.
The report said Nigeria's poverty rate stood at 69 per cent in 2010, while 93.9 per cent of Nigerians considered themselves to be poor in 2010 against 75.5 per cent recorded in 2004.
These startling figures are a stark reality of the true situation of the enterprise called Nigeria and an example of how not to run a country.
Nigeria's woes started effectively in the 1980s, when government officials and public servants developed a penchant for ineffectiveness, corruption, mismanagement, disrespect for the rule of law and brazen looting of the country's treasury.
Analysts are of the view that the figures portend a great mismatch, especially when viewed against the vast human and natural resources in the country.
In terms of natural resources, the country has a minimum of 20 mineral resources; is blessed with good conditions suitable for agriculture; food and cash crops and is strategically located.
The country has also produced a individuals with skills and knowledge that have excelled in every area of the global economy.
It is alarming that despite these positives, the country still ranks among the poorest in the world, while a vast majority of the population is considered poor.
The report said Nigerians who had minimal standards of foods, clothing, healthcare and shelter stood at 60.9 per cent in 2010 as against 54.7 per cent recorded in 2004.
Corruption is endemic in Nigeria and for decades public office holders have focused on milking cash from the country's crude oil exports, instead of focusing on developing infrastructure and creating jobs for the populace.
According to analysts, despite holding the world's seventh largest gas reserves, which could be used to generate power, Nigeria only produces enough electricity to power a medium-sized European city.
They are of the opinion that more than half of the country's 160 million inhabitants live without electricity, while the rest have to rely on expensive generators run on diesel supplies controlled by a small and powerful cartel of importers.
Poverty has many causes, ranging from lack of basic services, such as clean water, education, and health care. Another cause of poverty is lack of assets, such as land, tools, credit, and supportive networks of friends and family. A third is lack of income, including food, shelter, clothing, and empowerment -- political power, confidence and dignity.
Some of these factors directly affect poverty. Others contribute indirectly, by producing inequality--by stifling the political power of certain sectors of the population, for example, or denying them their dignity or human rights. All of these factors are affected by the environment in which people live.
Mr. Chuks Benson, a sociologist and business man, said that he will not describe himself as poor going by the World Bank's estimate of who a poor man in today's Nigeria.
He said he and his family spend not less than N3,000 on a daily basis in feeding, accommodation, transportation, shelter and other miscellaneous expenses.
He explained that coping with the harsh economic condition such as we have in Nigeria has not been easy for him. According to him, there are lots of uncertainties that one needs to grapple with in living in this country.
He cited those uncertainties to include sudden changes in prices of commodities as well as unexpected hike in transport fare by commuters.
"This country is such that you might go to a nearby shop to buy the same item you bought a night before and you will be amazed that the price has suddenly changed. I once bought a roll of tissue paper for N50.00, after two, I went back to buy the same tissue paper and was told that the price has been increased to N60.00.
"Transportation is very epileptic. You actually cannot predict what the price will be each day. The transporters can just wake up one morning and depending on the number of passengers available on the bus station decide to increase the fare."
He maintained that such sudden changes in pricing showed that the nation operates a hyper-inflationary economy, arguing that any country where this happens, the masses are always impoverished.
On what he thinks about the level of poverty in the country, Benson said, "To say that the economic situation in this country is biting is an understatement. The poverty level is quite high considering the wide gap between the have and have not. Benson further stressed that a situation where a family either stays in shanty or uncompleted building shows government's insensitivity to the suffering of the masses.
He believes that the government can alleviate the poverty level by simply provision of some basic amenities such as water, electricity, housing, good road network, transportation, medical facilities among others. He noted that there would be automatic transformation in the nation that would reduce the level of poverty if these basic amenities are provided.
He said, "With the provision of these basic amenities, there will be drastic reduction in level of poverty because jobs will be created, people will no longer spend money providing these amenities for themselves. For example, an average Nigerian provides electricity for his household, water and electricity. All this money would have been saved from the person earns.
"Government should take decisive steps to tackle this problem. As a matter of fact, government should be responsive in this regard. Nigeria runs an oil- driven economy and we have the kind of oil that is on high demand all over the world. Government generates a lot of revenues from this. It is just unfair that government, both past and present, has not been able to rise up to their responsibility to the populace," he averred.
Also speaking, Mr. Ndubuisi Onwutuebi, a Building Engineer who specializes in Plumbing, also said that going by his daily expenditure, he will not be said to be poor. Just like the other respondent, he puts his daily expenses to about N2000/N2500. On what he earns annually, he told Saturday Vanguard that as a contractor, it is difficult to have the right figure since what he makes varies on yearly basis.
He described the country as a place where only those who have 'god fathers' in the corridors of power excel. For him, survival in Nigeria is only for the fittest. "There is no help from the government, so each person is left to sort himself out and face his fate alone," he lamented.
Onwutuebi noted that high level of poverty in Nigeria is as a result of government's insensitivity to the plight of the masses and her failure to tackle infrastructural decay head long.
He believes that government's intervention is needed in the area of agricultural development, arguing that investment in that sector will go a long way in reducing the level of joblessness in the country. "I think we have what it takes to feed ourselves in this country, only that the government has failed to do the right thing. The youths need mobilization. Everybody is searching for white collar job and it is not leading us anywhere. If only the government will assist in opening up this sector, a lot of youths who are roaming the streets today will be gainfully employed.
"Look at the Japanese, what made the country was technical jobs. The government should also try and invest in infrastructure. All these will help in bringing down the level of poverty in the land," he counseled.
Managing Director of FBN Life Assurance Limited, Mr. Val Ojumah, said that with the high unemployment rate in the country, so many people that ordinarily should buy insurance ignore it.
He said "So many people that should actually be buying our insurance products don't have jobs. Where will they find money to pay our premium? So we have a large population of poor people who can't buy insurance because having an insurance cover presupposes that you have an income."
Ojumah said that the fact that the economy is growing at an average of 6.5 to 7 per cent does not in itself mean that the population is growing because unemployment rate is growing at an average of 23.9 per cent.
For Adeshina Samson, an insurance practitioner, the Nigerian economy is not growing like the South African economy which has impacted positively on insurance penetration in South Africa. "If you want to do a comparison between Nigeria and South Africa, for example, you also know that their economy is way ahead of ours. We still have a long way to go here in Nigeria".
For Andrew Greenwood, Chief Operating Officer of FBN Life, there is poverty in Nigeria as well as a big difference between the rich and the poor. However, the average amount of money that people take home in Nigeria is no worse than other African country, he said.According to him, the average take home pay in Nigeria is probably slightly better than most African countries.
He said "But what I can assure you is that the growth in this market is going to be considerably higher than the growth in South African market over the next ten years because the opportunity is here. Nigeria has 1/5th of the African population living here and I reckon that in fifteen years time a quarter of the African population will be in Nigeria."
Greenwood said that one of the fundamental thing that is different between the South African insurance market is that it is a lot more sophisticated, stating "Insurance market in South Africa can be classified as first world in terms of the products, systems, technology as ell as awareness and is equivalent to what you can see in countries like the US, Australia, and most of Europe. That is why the penetration is about 50 per cent of GDP in South Africa compared to the five per cent of our market penetration here.