Following the statement credited to World Bank Country Director, Marie-Francoise Marie-Nelly, that 100 million Nigerians are living in destitution or extreme poverty, the presidency Sunday debunked the claim as spurious and astonishing on a number of levels.
This was contained in a statement issued by Chief Economic Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Nwanze Okidegbe.
He said Marie-Nelly's claim contradicted the position of the World Bank on the level of poverty in Nigeria.
Okidegbe noted that when the bank’s Vice-President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, visited Nigeria in May, he declared that poverty had fallen under the Jonathan's administration from 48 per cent to 46 per cent.
"Given our current population of about 170 million people, the Country Director’s imagination of 100 million Nigerian destitute seems to be based on a much higher poverty rate than that of her boss. The question that arises from this absurdity therefore is: who is right?
"According to the World Bank itself, to live in extreme poverty is to live on less than $1.25 per day, including the cost of accommodation, clothing, feeding, and other incidentals. $1.25 per day translates into N200 per day (or N6,000 per month). On feeding alone, a loaf of bread costs more than N200 in many parts of Nigeria while a plate of food, even from a roadside food vendor, costs about the same amount.
"More also, there are about 112 million active GSM lines in Nigeria. Even accounting for those who own more than one phone and netting out nearly 44 per cent of Nigerians who are under 15 years (and mostly do not have phones), this is not a description of a country with 100 million destitute living in extreme poverty," Okidegbe said.
According to him, the Jonathan's administration is undertaking critical reforms in all key sectors of the economy to create jobs and reduce poverty.
The chief economic adviser further stressed that the reforms in the agriculture sector had increased production and created many job opportunities.
"In recognition of the fact that growth in the agriculture sector is pro-poor, we are confident that the consistent growth being recorded in the sector is translating into further poverty reduction," he said.