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70 million Nigerians are poor, says World Bank •Jigawa State poorest in Nigeria

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THE World Bank has disclosed that about70 million Nigerian adults are poor, while Jigawa is the poorest state in the country.

 World Bank Lead Economist, Mr John Litwack, speaking at the media launch of the Nigeria Economic Report (NER) on Monday in Abuja, stated that poverty rates remain high particularly in rural area.

Mr Litwack noted in the report that although poverty rate declined slightly between 2004 and 2010, it did not however reflect on the generality of Nigerians.

The NER stated that Lagos had the lowest poverty rate of 22.9 per cent while Jigawa had the highest at 77.5 per cent. The report further showed that poverty is concentrated more in the Northern part of the country as against the South West where the rate of poverty is lowest.

The World Bank lead economist explained that to overcome these, there is need for better coordination of federal and state policies in key areas of the economy namely: macroeconomic management, coordinated policies to enhance market connectivity and improve public service, and the realisation of national standards in public financial management and disclosure.

“Enhanced cooperation among the federal and state governments can successfully address all these issues, thereby unlocking enormous potential for growth, job creation, and improvement in the welfare of Nigerian citizens,” the report said.

He insisted that problems in government have hindered the ability of Nigeria to translate its resource wealth into the infrastructure and public services needed for a take-off into sustainable and diversified growth.

Litwack said that to attract foreign investors, it was important that government also tackle the problems of market connectivity and infrastructural deficit.

“Investors with the potential to set up large scale operations and create jobs will be reluctant to do so if they cannot service a large market. Under these conditions, a number of Nigerian states have limited opportunities to attract significant investors,” he said.     

He pointed out that for Nigeria’s federal system of government to work for development, there was need to hold government officials accountable, saying that until the public was aware of public expenditure, it would be difficult to hold public officers accountable.

“In Nigeria, much too little of this information is current is currently available at every level of government. In some cases, the problem can be related to the actual absence of information. In other cases, the information may exist, but is not disclosed to the public in a regular and clear manner.”

The World Bank therefore recommended that “better monitoring of indicators of performance can foster healthy competition and knowledge sharing among Nigerian states, as well as increasing accountability of public officials to voters.”

The lead author of the report, while acknowledging that the country’s improved macroeconomic management had strengthened its balance of payment and reserve accumulation, added that increased accumulation of the country’s Excess Crude Account (ECA) would make it less vulnerable to any global financial shocks.

Speaking at the launch, the World Bank Country Director to Nigeria, Marie Francois Marie-Nelly, said there was need by the government to begin to operate a more stable budget despite volatility in oil prices worldwide.

She urged the government to create a conducive atmosphere for investment to thrive and “the private sector will come in.”

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