Data from the National Bureau of Statistics show that 82.9 million Nigerians lived below its poverty line of ₦137,430 ($381.75) per year. The figure represents 40.09% of the total population and excludes Borno which has been ravaged by Boko Haram insurgents. The last poverty data released by the NBS was in 2010 when 62.6 percent of the population at 102.2 million was living in poverty. According to the 2019 Poverty & Inequality in Nigeria report released Monday, 52.10 percent of rural dwellers are living in poverty while the poverty rate in urban centres is 18.04 percent. The report said that Sokoto and Taraba states at 87.3 percent and 87.72 percent respectively, lead in terms of percentage of people living in poverty, while Lagos and Delta have the lowest numbers at 4.5 and six percent respectively. The NBS, alongside the World Bank, used the Nigerian Living Standards Survey to measure poverty and living standards between September of 2018 and October of 2019. The NBS changed its methodology by measuring poverty using consumption expenditure rather than income, so the latest figures could not be compared with previous reports on the same subject covering 2003-2004 and 2009-2010. The Brookings Institution in June 2018 had said Nigeria has overtaken India as the poverty capital of the world after it estimated that the number of Nigerians in extreme poverty increases by six people every minute.

The FG has denounced widespread non-compliance with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19’s guidelines for the gradual reopening of the economy. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, warned that the lockdown could be restored if the guidelines were not observed and there was a surge in coronavirus cases. President Buhari had, on 30 March, imposed a two-week lockdown on the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states, but at the expiration of the first lockdown on 13 April, he extended it by another 14 days. In his broadcast on 27 April, Buhari said phased, and a gradual easing of the lockdown would begin on 4 May (yesterday), and he also imposed a dusk to dawn curfew on the nation. Besides banning interstate movements, the President imposed a total lockdown on Kano State, which had witnessed a spike in COVID-19 cases. Guidelines on the gradual reopening of the economy issued by the PTF a few days after the presidential address mandate anyone in public spaces to use non-medical face masks. But on Monday, many people did not observe the PTF guidelines, including social distancing. Although banks limited the number of people that entered their premises, customers ignored social distancing as they crowded at bank gates. Pedestrians and motorists from Ogun State crossed over to Lagos in violation of the ban on interstate movements. The NCDC boss complained that many banks limited the number of their branches that opened, adding that there would be a spike in infections due to the way people mingled. He asked organisations to support the implementation of the preventive measures, help manage the risk and focus on a risk-based approach.

The Senate has moved for the decentralisation of the Nigeria Police Force into 13 zonal commands, each with “operational and budgetary powers.” As part of the recommendations of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Nigeria’s Security Challenges which was considered and adopted during plenary on Tuesday, the lawmakers also urged state assemblies to make necessary laws to legalise community policing to be established at the local government level. It urged state governors to fund community policing from grants appropriated to each local government. The Senate had on 29 January 29 set up the 17-man committee headed by the Senate Leader, Abdullahi Yahaya, to investigate the rising cases of insecurity across Nigeria. The lawmakers had also called for the sack of service chiefs due to unfavourable reports of insecurity across the country. The recommendations made by the committee and approved by the Senate is urging the executive to direct the Ministry of Police Affairs and the Inspector-General of Police to “decentralize the police command structure with operational and budgetary powers” vested in the following zonal commands as follows: Adamawa/Taraba/Gombe, Anambra/Enugu/Ebonyi, Bauchi/Yobe/Borno, Benue/Plateau/Nasarawa, Edo/Delta/Bayelsa, Ekiti/Kwara/Kogi, Imo/Abia, Kaduna/Niger/FCT, Kano/Jigawa/Katsina, Lagos/Ogun, Oyo/Osun/Ondo, Rivers/Akwa-Ibom/Cross Rivers, and Sokoto/Zamfara/Kebbi.

The governors of Nigeria’s northern states have agreed to close disputed Islamic schools that house millions of men and boys across the region due to concerns over the new coronavirus, the group said in a statement. The governors said the risk to children from the virus prompted this week’s decision to close the schools, and children would be evacuated to their parents or states of origin. Orphans would be taken care of by the state government where they are located. Islamic schools, known within Nigeria as almajiris, fill a gap left by state educational institutions. State schools are so overcrowded they cannot accommodate a booming population in northern Nigeria, which is predominately Muslim. Fewer than half of children in the region attend government primary schools, according to the latest official figures, from 2015. Many families live on less than $2 a day and have few other options besides the almajiris. The Islamic schools enrol an estimated 10 million students, according to Nigerian human rights organisation the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC). But the schools have for years been dogged by accusations that some force children to beg on the streets, and late last year, raids at several schools uncovered horrific abuse. Nigeria currently has 782 confirmed cases of the virus.

Commentary

  • The methodology change in the poverty survey makes this study the new baseline, hence there is little utility to be had in comparing it with past studies. It, however, forms a basis for many key inferences. Two perhaps are most important in our view. First, 40.9% population living below the poverty line means that only three African countries – Ethiopia, Egypt and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – have a total population greater than Nigeria’s poor population. We have more poor people than the entire population of France, Italy and the United Kingdom. Globally, only 18 countries outrank Nigeria’s poor. With the current slow down of the economy because of the COVID-19 pandemic, more Nigerians are likely to fall into the poverty bracket as the country is extremely vulnerable, due to structural features of the economy, including the size of informal employment accounting for close to 90% of total employment, the instability of most jobs, the predominance of small and medium-sized enterprises which constitute 90% of businesses and the ineffectiveness of fiscal and monetary stimulus. This speaks to the enormity of the task as well as the urgency of creating prosperity in Nigeria to lift its people out of poverty. This should be the priority of the government, and any proposed policy should be judged primarily by a simple measure – does it make our people poorer? A second inference is income inequality. This is an even bigger problem and is a fundamental source of the social and security challenges that plague the country, as well as how difficult it is for the more prosperous segments of the country to appreciate how desperate the situation is in the poorer parts, many of which are worse hit by poverty than active war zones.
  • Nigeria is between the figurative devil and the deep blue sea regarding COVID-19. The implementation of the month-long lockdown has been patchy at best across states and has depended on the discipline (or lack thereof) of the residents in the affected states. One factor is the economic fragility of residents when you consider the proportion of Nigerians who depend on a daily income. Understandably, this has put the government in a difficult place where a lockdown is necessary but it also risks putting citizens in further economic hardship. The government can neither afford another lengthy lockdown without risking social unrest due to hunger nor does it even have the resources to enforce such a lockdown practically. Easing the lockdown, however, increases the likelihood of the infection rapidly spreading due to the way most Nigerians live – in crowded, clustered tenements, and with sub-optimal hygiene. The health system risks being rapidly overwhelmed and there are already several voices advocating self-medication at home – a recipe for spreading the disease and creating a breeding ground for the virus to mutate. There are no easy answers. While we think that another full lockdown is unlikely, what is crucial now is that Nigeria needs to ramp up, very fast, innovative ways to test many people. Only when this is possible can we even begin to grasp and deal with the magnitude of what is to come.
  • Perhaps the regional agitations such as Amotekun from the South West have finally woken the Senate up to attempting to fulfil a cardinal 2015 promise of the APC government – state policing. While this is a step in the right direction, there is no word on how these regional police commands will coordinate their efforts, with community policing structures and other security agencies, particularly in intelligence gathering to prevent and solve crimes. Another concern is that the proposal creates agglomerations that do not have any constitutional or normative precedence, such as geopolitical groupings. It also does not appear to take into account proper linkages that currently exist in the country. For example, Edo state does not have as many interactions with Bayelsa as it has with Ondo. The same can be said of Bauchi which has more interactions with Kano and Gombe than it does with Borno. Because of the huge trade in goods and services between both, more people move between Aba in Abia and Port Harcourt in Rivers, then between the rest of Abia and Imo. A decentralisation of the police should take into consideration these trading realities as it is more than likely that crime will closely truck such heavily travelled routes. This, of course, speaks to a lack of in-depth data support to drive these decisions. By taking these two concerns into consideration, we believe this will be a good first step towards achieving better policing outcomes in Nigeria.
  • The continued existence of the almajiri system remains one of the most enduring legacies of a conservative, theocratic society in Nigeria’s largely Muslim North that dates to the pre-colonial rule. Ironically, what the mass evacuations of almajiris to their home states show that with the right political will by northern states, it is possible to end the almajiri system. This depressing lack of will is evident by the speed with which these states rounded up the kids for evacuation but until now, have unable to provide them with proper education, a sequence of events that speaks to the mindshare occupied by the poor in the region. It is also an indicator of class inequality in the region, particularly a lack of access to education and a high birth rate. For male children born into such a situation, the almajiri system is often their destination where they are sent, ideally for Islamic education, but end up mostly on the streets begging and fending for themselves, thus relieving their parents of the burden of catering to them. The evacuation of these kids to their home states and parents is very likely to spread the coronavirus unless recipient states put in place measures to isolate and test them. In addition, the evacuations will form a somewhat unfortunate indicator of the extent of community spread in the evacuating states if new outbreaks occur in the recipient states. The recent announcement by Kaduna that 14 kids evacuated from Kano have tested positive for COVID-19 is a mere prelude to what is to come.