Goal 10 of the Sustainable Development Goals set in 2015 by member countries of the United Nations aims to “reduce inequalities” around the world by 2030. Reducing inequality, by closing that vast gap between the richest people and the poorest, is the first step in reducing or eliminating global poverty. OXFAM, an international NGO dedicated to reducing poverty around the world, released a new index for measuring the commitment of governments of 152 nations around the world to reducing inequality. The index also produced a ranking with Sweden coming first on the ranking while African “giant”, Nigeria, was placed last.
18 indicators across 3 key policy sectors were used for the ranking: social spending on infrastructures especially education and health, taxation, and labour rights. Other Nordic countries like Finland, Norway, and Denmark were in the top 10 with European countries France, Belgium, Austria also there. South Africa, the highest placed African country on the list, in 21st position, is number 1 for progressive structure and incidence of tax (taxation). Austria, in 7th position, is the country with the best labour rights while Ireland had the best social spending for infrastructures, in 13th position. Other African nations on the ranking include Namibia, Liberia, Tunisia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Togo, Benin, Sierra Leone etc. all coming ahead of Nigeria, the self-proclaimed giant of Africa.
For many Nigerians, this is not news. The majority of the population, almost 100 million of its 180 million, live below the poverty level. By analysing the 3 key policies measured for commitment to reducing inequality, Nigeria’s performance isn’t surprising. Regarding social spending on health, education and other infrastructures, there’s been little to no change since the SDG’s were set in 2015, which co-incidentally coincided with the onset of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
Despite promises made by Nigeria’s finance Minister Kemi Adeosun regarding funding infrastructures in the country, education and health being the priority sectors for the Federal Government, little has changed. Apart from the peculiar lateness of the Nigerian budget for two years running, education and health make up about 5 percent and 3 percent respectively of the 7.4 trillion naira Nigerian budget for this year 2017. UNESCO recommends a budgetary benchmark of 26 percent for education, to enable countries meet the growing global educational demand. At this rate, Nigeria might not achieve the SDG goal of ensuring inclusive and quality education for all, talkless of health. For most of the indices for health on the continent and indeed in the world, Nigeria’s status is just like it’s inequality status; leaders from the back. Despite this problem, Nigeria provides healthcare cover for only 3 percent of its population.
On labour rights and taxation in the country, Nigeria’s current economic recession has not been easy on workers. Frequent job layoffs, the very minimal national minimum wage, and the wage disparity between the richest Nigerian and the poorest make it seem like Nigeria’s labour laws are non-existent. A recent report revealed that the wealth of Nigeria’s richest 5 could end poverty in the country – that’s how wide the gap is.
The wage disparity between male workers and female workers also undermines the fight for gender equality in Nigeria. Taxation is a non-existent system as the Federal Government is impotent in its ability to collect taxes adequately, hereby increasing revenue. In places where taxation is an active process, it has been over the top. Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos has the best tax system in Nigeria, but still is underwhelming. Arbitrary multiple taxes on the use of radio, television, etc. have made it a burden on middle class citizens and businesses. Social security is non-existent, Buhari breaking his promise to give unemployed Nigerian citizens 5000 naira monthly. Presently, the unemployment rate in Nigeria is 14.2 percent, steadily increasing on a quarterly basis due to the economic recession.What will happen now that the international community know for sure that Nigeria’s government isn’t committed to reducing inequality? Will international NGOs pressurise the Nigerian Government to enact instant changes so as to reduce inequality, a tactic which has worked before albeit temporarily in the case of the Boko Haram girls?
What will happen now that the international community knows for sure that Nigeria’s government isn’t committed to reducing inequality? Will international NGOs pressurise the Nigerian government to enact instant changes so as to reduce inequality, a tactic which has worked before albeit temporarily in the case of the Boko Haram girls?
As usual, the only debilitating factor to reducing inequality would be the systemic corruption in Nigeria’s public sector. The fight hasn’t been won, and would probably not be won anytime soon. However, Nigeria’s unwillingness to battle corruption, (one that has been called a battle for its soul), ranked the 136th most transparent nation from 176 countries in the world, would surely mean reducing inequality is but a dream; and that doesn’t bode well for the future of the nation.