LAGOS (Reuters) - Forty percent of people in Nigeria live in poverty, figures published by the statistics office on Monday showed, highlighting the low levels of wealth in a country that has Africa’s biggest economy.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in a report about poverty and inequality from September 2018 to October 2019, said 40% of people in the continent’s most populous country lived below its poverty line of 137,430 naira ($381.75) per year. It said that represents 82.9 million people.
Nigeria is the top oil exporter in Africa, which has helped to create wealth related to crude sales that account for more than half of government revenue. But a failure to diversify the economy and build much needed transport and power infrastructure has stymied growth and the spread of wealth beyond a rich elite.
Rapid population growth outstrips economic growth, which stands at around 2%. The United Nations estimates that Nigeria will have a population of 400 million by 2050.
Nigeria was already struggling to shake off the impact of a 2016 recession before the new coronavirus pandemic hit economies worldwide.
“In Nigeria 40.1 percent of total population were classified as poor. In other words, on average 4 out of 10 individuals in Nigeria has real per capita expenditures below 137,430 Naira per year,” it said.
The statistics office said it did not include Borno, the state worst hit by the decade-long Boko Haram insurgency, because many areas there were not safe to reach.
A total of nearly 8 million people need humanitarian assistance across Borno and two neighbouring states affected by the insurgency, according to the United Nations.
The NBS said it had changed its methodology for its study, so the figures could not be compared with previous reports on the same subject covering 2003-2004 and 2009-2010.
“The 2019 study is accordingly treated as a base study and any comparisons with previous poverty studies should be treated with caution,” stated the report.
The statistics office said 52% of people in rural areas live in poverty, compared with 18% in urban parts of the country.
It said the highest poverty levels were in the northwestern state of Sokoto, where 87.7% of people lived under the poverty line compared with 4.5% in commercial hub Lagos state which had the lowest rate.
Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Ken Ferris