Nigeria: Despite Buhari spending $7bn on social causes, 133 million citizens still live in squalor 

By Eniola Akinkuotu

Posted on Monday, 21 November 2022 10:37, updated on Wednesday, 23 November 2022 12:30
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has not yet made his intentions clear about who might succeed him. February 5, 2022. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

At least 133 million Nigerians now live in abject poverty despite a social investment programme by the current administration that has cost about $7bn since 2016. 

This is expected to dominate public discourse in Africa’s largest economy 96 days before a highly anticipated presidential election.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index as released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) states that 63% of Nigerians are poor due to a lack of access to quality health services, education, employment and security.

“The survey was implemented in 2021 to 2022 and it is the largest survey with a sample size of more than 56,610 people in 109 senatorial districts in the 36 states of Nigeria,” NBS boss, Semiu Adeniran, said.

The report says of the 133 million poor Nigerians, 86 million people live in the North, while nearly 47 million live in the South.

“In general, a disparity between North and South is evident in both incidence and intensity of multidimensional poverty, with the North being poorer,” the survey reads in part.

Poverty capital

Reports by the World Bank show that in the last seven years, poverty has continued to deepen. This coincides with the advent of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration which took power in 2015.

In 2016, Buhari introduced a poverty alleviation scheme which ensured unemployed graduates were paid stipends while the poorest households in the country were given petty cash and taught soft skills.

The programme gulped $1bn yearly since 2016, according to the government.

Taking the Covid-19 pandemic into consideration, the World Bank had projected that 95.1 million Nigerians would be living in poverty by 2022 but the latest figure shows that Nigeria has exceeded this projection by over 35 million.

In 2018, a report by the World Poverty Clock stated that Nigeria had become the world poverty capital as six Nigerians were falling below the poverty line every minute.

Buhari responded the following year by announcing a plan to pull out 100 million Nigerians by 2030, but this remains to be seen.


Statistics released by the NBS early last year put Nigeria’s unemployment rate at 33.3%. Around the time, the Buhari administration approved N52bn ($120.9m)  for a special works programme that employed 774,000 jobless youths for three months across the country to do menial jobs such as clearing drainages, sweeping markets and road maintenance in rural areas.

However, the government has continued to disagree with these statistics, insisting that it doesn’t take into consideration the informal sector.

“We’ve always said the NBS looks more at the formal economy than the informal economy. There are small and medium firms that employ people but are not captured.

“I can tell you that by opening up the construction sector, we have created direct and indirect jobs,” Nigeria’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, told The Africa Report.

Junior Finance Minister, Clem Agba, said it was concerning that despite the poverty alleviation programme designed to tackle poverty, with more than five million persons impacted, poverty still persisted in the country.

Inflation rises

But there seems to be no respite in sight as inflation has continued to rise compared to last year.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) which measures the change in prices of goods says inflation increased to 21.09% year on year in October compared to 15.09% in October 2021.

Food inflation maintained its upward trajectory, accelerating to 23.72 with a month-on-month decline of 0.21%. Core inflation similarly spiralled to 17.76% in October.

“We have yet to see abatement to the key factors fuelling inflation. Some of these factors are global, others are domestic. They are a combination of structural and policy issues.

“These factors include the depreciating exchange rate, rising transportation costs, forex market illiquidity, hike in diesel cost and insecurity in many farming communities,” says economist, Muda Yusuf.

We’ve always said the NBS looks more at the formal economy than the informal economy. There are small and medium firms that employ people but are not captured.

Yusuf, who is the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise CEO, says these are largely supply-side and policy concerns.

Monetary policy tightening in most economies around the world, especially the leading economies, is also driving imported inflation and the depreciation in the exchange rate,” he adds.

Speaking to The Africa Report, Adegbami Onakoya, from the Economics Department at Babcock University, says the report is a wake-up call.

Onakoya says Buhari needed to amend his economic plan, adding that the 100 million people he sought to take out of poverty was not enough given the new statistics.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options