Nigeria: A Rich Country That is Still Poor

Sigcine Manyathi
Poverty-stricken areas in Nigeria. Source: African Liberty

In 1956, Nigeria discovered its oil resources. In the next decade, Nigeria started to explore its oil industry by opening it up to it to international business. Today, the country is the world’s 11th largest oil producer, with an average daily production of 1.8 million barrels in 2020. The petroleum sector represents over 90% of exports in the country. Dr. Furro, a local professor at Albany State University, highlighted that although the revenue is equivalent to billions of dollars, only a small portion of the budget from that addresses the issues of social welfare, public health, and education.

Dr. Furro researches issues that face Nigeria, namely poverty and democracy. What he has concluded is that there is more to Nigeria’s wealth than is known to us. It appears that the the country’s strategy to shift the blame onto the West for the challenges they are currently facing is not fully supported by evidence. The billions that Nigeria losses annually are stemming from the lack of accountability of its administrative structure.

Analyses suggest that political leaders are not being held accountable for such a mismanagement of the national resources. With revenue that has been raised in the country, there is nothing to show for it. According to Dr. Furro,

“there is little evidence to suggest the oil windfall is reflected in improving the social and economic well-being of the people of Nigeria.”

What is seen as being the primary factor in high poverty is corruption, even though the country has the second-largest oil reservoir in Africa.


How corruption is plunging Nigerians further into poverty. Source: The Guardian

Leaders in Nigeria have destabilized the political system of the country to a huge degree by abusing power for personal gain. Funds are being misappropriated daily by political leaders who have reportedly given preference to fulfilling personal interest over national ones. Corruption in Nigeria has had a negative impact in the recent past and has been accepted as a norm.

Natural resource revenues generate the most income for the Nigerian government. In ‘Poverty in Nigeria: Some Dimensions and Contributing Factors,’ Chimobi Ucha highlights that instead of the income being used for developmental purposes, it is circulated among the political office holders and their families, which leaves the rest of the people in poverty. Instead of paying attention to the affairs of the citizens of Nigeria, the government mismanages the funds that are supposed to form part of the upkeep of the country and its people, she adds.

In ‘Poverty in Nigeria: Some Dimensions and Contributing Factors‘, there are several issues involved with bad governance in Nigeria such as usage and implementation of detrimental policies. Corruption is causing an increase in inequality and poverty in the country has led to high crime rates. Lack of education is another important cause of poverty in Nigeria. Being able to participate in society and the economy is important, but in absence of the basic foundation that education provides, poverty starts to take root.

Chimobi Ucha enlists unemployment as another factor that contributes to poverty in Nigeria. Poverty and unemployment go hand in hand. Lack of income and increased cost of living lead to deterioration of living conditions. It is often stated that graduates in Nigeria sit at home with no hope of employment. She further adds in ‘Poverty in Nigeria: Some Dimensions and Contributing Factors‘ that the government is capable but unwilling to provide jobs for the unemployed youth. Employment in Nigeria is not dependent on whether you meet the requirements but rather on informal contacts. The number of quality jobs in the economy is low and government resources are misallocated. 


Nigeria produces millions of barrels of oil. Source: Kaftan Post  

Foreign aid to Nigeria has been popular in the global aid sector. In 2005 and 2006, foreign aid increased from $6.4 billion to $11.4 billion, which is the biggest increase yet according to Impact of Foreign Aids on Poverty Alleviation in Nigeria. 

Foreign assistance may help mitigate poverty in underdeveloped nations across Nigeria, which could be done through funding public developmental initiatives, but there is a different sense in Nigeria about the idea that foreign aid could combat poverty. Many believe that Nigeria is not in need of foreign assistance to try to overcome poverty because crude oil and foreign payments are enough to relieve poverty in the country.

Fighting corruption will not only reduce poverty in the immediate future but will help reduce it in the years to come. Not holding corrupt public officials accountable results in funds from the public coffers meant for development projects not being used optimally. This has historically led to poor infrastructure development, as well as social welfare which leads to or results in poverty.

Diversifying the economy can help aid poverty in Nigeria. Nigeria is fully dependent on oil revenue which can become a multiplier problem. This dependency on natural resources is often referred to as “Dutch disease”, whereby natural resources make a country less competitive. Therefore, diversification of the Nigerian economy is vital to ensure that the economy stabilizes, which would ultimately act as effective poverty alleviation.

  • Will Nigeria overcome poverty by holding its leaders accountable?
  • Can putting more importance on education bring a change to how Nigeria is governed?
  • Will a new governance model bring about a better Nigeria for its citizens?

Suggested Readings

Nigeria Poverty Assessment.

Nigeria’s poverty profile is grim. It’s time to move beyond handouts

Urban poverty in Nigeria and approaches to poverty alleviation: A review

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Nigeria: A Rich Country T…

by Sigcine Manyathi time to read: 4 min