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Is Nigerian presidential candidate Peter Obi correct about poverty levels, unemployment and number of children out of school?

About 100 million Nigerians are living in poverty, a national Nigerian newspaper reported Peter Obi as saying. Obi is the Labour Party’s 2023 presidential election candidate. The Nation said Obi was responding to Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso, candidate for the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), who is reported to have said he would not be Obi’s running mate. 

In an interview on Arise TV on 6 July 2022, Obi said: “The comment by the elder brother Kwankwaso is the reason why we have 100 million Nigerians living in poverty, 18 million Nigerian children out of school, and about 52% of Nigerians either unemployed or underemployed.” 

“This is because rather than vote for competent leaders, we vote for incompetence due to a primitive consideration of religion and ethnicity,” Obi added.

Other publications also reported on his claims.

There have been talks in the country of the Labour Party and the NNPP uniting as a “third force” to rival the main parties, the governing All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.

But do 100 million Nigerians live in poverty? Are 18 million children out of school? And are more than half of Nigerians employed or underemployed?

Claim

100 million Nigerians are living in poverty.

Verdict

Incorrect

In 2018, the Austria-based World Data Lab project sparked the now widely repeated claim that Nigeria is the world’s “poverty capital”.

Nigeria had overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extreme poor in early 2018, project researchers said, based on their World Poverty Clock data tool.

“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,” the World Data Lab said.

In June 2022, the clock estimated that 83.1 million Indians lived in extreme poverty, compared to 83 million Nigerians. 

The World Bank measures extreme poverty as the number of people living on less than US$1.90 per day.

The data from the widely used poverty tracking tool does not support Obi’s claim.

Is there any other data? 

In May 2020, the Nigeria Living Standard Survey estimated that 82.9 million people lived in poverty. But the survey, by the country’s data office, did not use the World Bank’s $1.90 poverty benchmark.

The National Bureau of Statistics said it set the national poverty line at N137,430 a year or N376.5 a day. At the time, this translated to $353 per year or $0.97 a day. 

Based on the exchange rate in July 2022, this has dropped from $353 per year to $332 per year, or $0.91 a day.

The national statistics office’s data still does not support Obi’s claim.

Claim

18 million Nigerian children are not in school.

Verdict

Unproven

The Institute for Statistics (UIS), the official data agency of Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, provides internationally comparable data on education.

The UIS defines out-of-school children as the number of children and young people in the official age range, for the given level of education, who are not enrolled in pre-primary, primary, secondary or higher levels of education.

Prior to 2014 the agency counted 10.5 million children as being out of school in Nigeria. In 2014 it revised the figure to 8.6 million, based on new population data.

In 2019 it revised its methods. But 18 million remains the most recent figure in its database. We have reached out to the UIS for more details and will update this report with their response.

What does other data show?

The 2018 national personnel audit report by the Universal Basic Education Commission showed 10.1 million Nigerian children were out of school.

The commission was established by the federal government to provide better access to education in Nigeria. 

In January 2022, Peter Hawkins, a representative from Unicef, the UN agency that focuses on the well-being of children, said Nigeria’s 10.5 million out-of-school children was the highest number in the world.

Four months later, however, the head of Unicef’s office in Kano in northern Nigeria, Rahama Farah, was widely reported saying the figure had sharply risen to 18.5 million children.

Farah told journalists that 60% of these children were girls. Attacks on schools by Islamic jihadists and bandits in the north were a factor for the increase, he said.

We have asked Unicef for details of how they calculated this figure. We will update this report with their response. In the meantime, because of the widely differing estimates, we can only rate this claim as unproven.

Claim

About 52% of Nigerians [are] either unemployed or underemployed.

Verdict

Mostly Correct

The most recent official data shows the national unemployment rate was 33.3% in the last three months of 2020. In absolute terms this is 23.18 million people

The National Bureau of Statistics defined the unemployed as people aged 16 to 64 who were available to work and actively seeking work, but were unable to find any.

The labour force data was collected from 33,300 households in the country’s 36 states and the federal capital territory.

The data shows another 22.8% of Nigeria’s working population – or 15.9 million people – were underemployed.

Underemployed people work for at least 20 hours a week on average but less than 40 hours per week, or are engaged in an activity that underutilised their skills, time and educational qualifications.

This means 56.1% of Nigeria’s working population were either unemployed or underemployed. Obi’s estimate is therefore largely on the money.

Further Reading

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