It is therefore expedient that in addressing inequality of whatever thematic expression, there has to be a systematic approach to poverty alleviation. Corruption is a bane towards equality, and should be fought to a standstill. Nigerians must support the Buhari administration in clearing the Augean stable. However, tackling corruption alone will not leapfrog a nation from poverty to equitable prosperity. The economy has to be opened up.

This past decades, the Nigerian economy has experienced unprecedented growth. From the low 2.8 percent growth rate and a GDP of 74 billion dollars in 1999, the economy soared in leaps and bounds as a result of improved crude oil sales, and the success stories in the telecommunications and services industries, following the liberalisation of the economy. As at the last quarter of 2014, the economy grew at seven percent, with the GDP reaching 574 billion dollars. Nigeria became the largest economy in Africa, and the 21st in the world, in nominal terms. While the reality of the growth must be admitted, it lacks inclusiveness. Nigeria is a paradox: a better economy does not equate a financially buoyant people. The increase in resources has further deepened the challenge of fair distribution.

Nigeria still performs poorly says the new World Bank relative poverty estimate, which is 33.1 percent. This represents a drastic but surprising improvement from the more popular previous estimate of 60 percent. This new figure, still locates Nigeria below the poverty line. It reminds one that Nigeria remains one of the most unequal countries—with the inequality spanning the social, economic, political, and cultural—in the world.

From the National Bureau of Statistics data for the first quarter of 2015, it is evident that while 6.5 percent of men in the labour force were unemployed, and 13.9 percent, underemployed; 8.9 percent of women in the labour force were unemployed and 19.6 percent, underemployed. Another UNESCO report, quoting from the NBS, reveals that Nigeria’s adult literacy spectrum runs variably across states (Lagos 92 percent and Borno 14.5 percent), regions (urban 74.6 percent and rural 48.7 percent), and gender (male 65.1 percent and female 48.6 percent). However, most studies on inequality agree that all dimensions of inequality are skewed against the poor. The poor are the most vulnerable of Nigeria’s multifaceted socio-economic challenges. The insurgency in the North affords a learning curve as it shows the connection between poverty and vulnerability. Daily, unemployed youths are recruited into terrorist groups with promises of money.

It is therefore expedient that in addressing inequality of whatever thematic expression, there has to be a systematic approach to poverty alleviation. Corruption is a bane towards equality, and should be fought to a standstill. Nigerians must support the Buhari administration in clearing the Augean stable. However, tackling corruption alone will not leapfrog a nation from poverty to equitable prosperity. The economy has to be opened up. All vistas for unleashing potentials and creating new centres of development must be fully explored to raise revenues, create new capacities and facilitate new people-oriented investments.

It is important for all hands to be on deck. But first, we have to diversify this economy. Diversification means looking beyond oil. The Federal Government needs to show its managerial creativity. Diversification also means looking beyond the national cake at the centre. It is time for states to become proactive, inward-looking, leverage on their comparative advantages, this Budgit report shows.

Nations are as developed as the size of their budgets, global statistics show. A country like Norway with a little above five million people allocates over 200 billion dollars for its people, yet generates above 280 billion dollars as revenue; Nigeria currently allocates about 30 billion dollars as total expenditure, and runs a deficit budget for its 170 million population. But how can budgets and revenues be ramped up? How can citizens latch onto programmes that can improve their lives? What actions need to be taken to close the increasing income gap between classes? How can these be done in Nigeria, especially when the future looks bleaker with reducing oil prices?

It is important for all hands to be on deck. But first, we have to diversify this economy. Diversification means looking beyond oil. The Federal Government needs to show its managerial creativity. Diversification also means looking beyond the national cake at the centre. It is time for states to become proactive, inward-looking, leverage on their comparative advantages, this Budgit report shows.

It may not be easy but actions must be swift. The Federal government should invest in massive development programmes in the areas of critical infrastructure development. Nigeria’s land laws need to be reformed to make lands more accessible for commercial farming. Agriculture should be used as a strategy for mass employment and wealth transfer to the poor citizens. And no, it is not enough to make policies, they must be executed and they must positively affect the farmers in the most rural communities. This will raise their purchasing power and create multi-sectoral ripple-effect in a manner that is assuring of inclusive development.

Education is important. Girl-child literacy should be improved by providing opportunities for the over 10 million out-of-school children through access to quality public education. Adult literacy must be emphasised. Government needs to do more than mere lip service to education. Parents need to do more than enrolling their children in public schools. The success of Nigeria in building an inclusively prosperous economy will represent a growth pole for Africa. This will be a huge incentive to the continent’s collective aspiration of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Olapeju Olasunkanmi is a Chartered City Planner in Nigeria, and consults widely in the fields of environmental, housing and development planning. This article is part of the #evenitup Campaign by Budgit and Oxfam, Nigeria.

This article is part of the #EvenItUp Campaign by BudgIT with collaboration from OXFAM, Nigeria.