The opposition PDP blasted the governing APC by claiming Nigeria was the poverty capital of the world and the world’s third most terrorised country. It also said unemployment was at 35%.
But Nigeria is currently in second place to India for absolute numbers of poor people. And available data ranks Nigeria as the sixth most terrorised country in the world.
The unemployment claim is mostly correct. At the end of 2020, Nigeria’s unemployment rate was 33.3%. And its rate of underemployment – people not working enough or to their ability – was 22.8%.
Nigerians go to the polls in February, with the presidency up for grabs as Muhammadu Buhari serves out the last of his constitutionally mandated two terms.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is seeking to regain the top job after it was voted out in 2015. At its party primary on 28 May 2022, chairperson Iyorchia Ayu took aim at the track record of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Nigeria is now both the poverty capital of the world, [and] also the third most terrorised country,” Ayu said.
He also claimed the economy had collapsed, with a high unemployment rate of 35%.
“[But] don’t lose hope, don’t give up on Nigeria. PDP is coming to the rescue,” Ayu said. We took a closer look at his claims.
“At the end of May 2018, our trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million,” they said.
The World Bank measures extreme poverty as the number of people living on less than US$1.90 per day.
Based on absolute numbers, India has more poor people than Nigeria.
Is there other data on this?
This has dropped to $313 per year or 90 US cents a day, based on the June 2022 official exchange rate, because of the devaluation of the naira.
Comparisons require common benchmarks
Is it acceptable to call any country a “poverty capital”? We asked Ndiro Ayara, a professor at the University of Calabar in southern Nigeria. He researches poverty and economic development.
“It is possible to describe a country as the poverty capital,” Ayara told Africa Check. “That does not mean the country is the administrative headquarters of poverty. It just means that the country has the highest number of poor people.”
He added: “For a human to live well and survive every day, he will need some basic things which are the same across the world, and these are food, water and shelter.
“We can compare two countries based on some economic indices. However this comparison should be done using common benchmarks, an example being the World Bank's $1.90 per day benchmark."
The Nigerian government defines terrorism, in part, as a deliberate act that may harm a person, country or an international organisation, or intimidate a population and destabilise a country.
Nigeria is battling several security challenges. These include the Boko Haram terrorist group and its splinter faction the Islamic State in West Africa, clashes between farmers and herders, and banditry and kidnapping.
One attempt to measure global terrorism is the Global Terrorism Index by the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP), an international think tank headquartered in Australia. The index tracks 163 countries.
To rank countries, it uses data on deaths, incidents, hostages and injuries from terrorism, weighted over five years.
Do rankings reflect reality?
Confidence Isaiah-MacHarry, a security analyst at Nigerian research advisory firm SBM Intelligence, called for care when using external reports.
“One must exercise caution when using reports by a lot of Western-based institutions and think tanks,” he told Africa Check. “You must look at their methodology and find out if they have people on the ground in the African countries they are reporting on.”
The IEP’s only African office is in Harare, Zimbabwe.
“Rankings are not necessarily a true reflection on the ground. For them to rank Nigeria sixth all the way from third [in the index for 2019], it may mean that some other countries have become a lot more terrorised than Nigeria.”
“But it does not feel that way internally given Nigeria's current security situation,” he quipped.
The link between insecurity and unemployment
There are various angles to the country’s insecurity challenges, according to Agagu Akinsola, a professor of political science at Ekiti State University in southwestern Nigeria.
“We can partly attribute Nigeria's insecurity challenges to policy failure, especially in the areas of formulation and implementation,” he told Africa Check.
“To solve Nigeria’s security challenges is a hydra-headed thing. Policies do not exist in a vacuum. Nigeria may formulate good security policies but other issues also need to be addressed. Take Boko Haram or banditry: some unemployed young people are readily available to take up arms.
“There is no way policy can deal with insecurity if people are not properly engaged and able to provide for themselves.”
Agagu, who is currently researching conflict management in Nigeria, said religion and migration were other issues to consider.
The labour force data was collected from 33,300 households in the country’s 36 states and the federal capital territory.
The official data agency defines unemployment as where a person does not work at all, or works for less than 20 hours per week.
It also says underemployment is when an individual works for at least 20 hours a week but for less than 40 hours. Underemployment is also when a person works a job that underutilises their skills or educational qualifications.
Together, 39.1 million people were either unemployed or underemployed.
Leaders must recognise ‘there is a problem’
Kayode Omojuwa is a professor of political science at the Ahmadu Bello University in Kaduna, northwestern Nigeria. He focuses on party politics in Nigeria’s democratic process.
“In an ideal society, these issues of unemployment, poverty and even insecurity should be the focus during an election season. People should strive towards making political leaders accountable but that is not the situation now,” he said.
“A large percentage of Nigeria’s young population is helpless and unemployed which can lead to unrest, the type witnessed during the EndSARS protests. Even those in public universities have been at home for months because of the lecturers’ strike.”
Nnadozie told Africa Check that change must begin with policymakers recognising “that there is a problem”.