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Wealth of five richest Nigerians could end extreme poverty in country yet 5 million face hunger


Reportedly the combined wealth of Nigeria’s five richest men - $29.9 billion - could end extreme poverty in that country according to a new report published by Oxfam today.

The report, ‘Inequality in Nigeria,’ exposes the large and growing gap between rich and poor. It reveals how the benefits of economic growth have been captured by a wealthy elite at the expense of ordinary Nigerians.

Economic inequality is a key factor behind the conflict that has led to the severe food crisis in Nigeria’s north-eastern states.

The UN estimates that five million people in north-east Nigeria will suffer from severe food shortages this year.

The report finds that:

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 $1 million 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 percent. The number of millionaires increased by 44 percent during the same period.

Celestine Okwudili Odo, Good Governance Programme Coordinator for Oxfam in Nigeria, said: “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.” The report highlights significant levels of inequality between states. 69 percent of people now live below the poverty line in north-eastern states where the food crisis has hit hardest, compared to 49 percent of people in the more politically powerful regions of the southwest. It also shows that women are least able to capture the benefits of economic growth because they tend to be employed in low-skilled, low-paid informal jobs.

Women represent between 60 and 79 percent of Nigeria's rural labor force but are five times less likely to own their own land than men. Women are also less likely to have had a decent education; for example, over three-quarters of the poorest women in Nigeria have never been to school.

The report says that that poor people are unable to benefit from Nigeria’s wealth because of high levels of corruption and the excessive influence that big business and a wealthy elite have over government policy making.