Poverty in Northern Nigeria: Causes and remedy

While Nigeria is described as one of the fastest growing economy, it is equally identified as one of the most poverty-stricken nations around the globe; the menace of which is most critical in its northern part, despite bestowed unquantifiable human and natural resources in the region. For example, according to statistics, in Kano and Zamfara States, three out of every four persons and over 91 percent of the population live in extreme poverty respectively, as compared to Lagos State, whose poverty accounts for only 9 percent. As a result, part of the worst human development indicators-unemployment, widened inequality, hunger, ignorance, diseases, violence, youth restiveness, to mention but a few-bedevil the North and in effect, posing great threat to security and stability. In fact, studies indicate poverty has doubled in more than 84 percent of northern communities since 1980 and consequently, the region remains in perpetual state of ‘poverty amidst plenty.’

Even though, poverty is often defined relatively however, it is manifested in unequal opportunities among people; inability to effectively participate in society; lack of enough to feed and clothe (oneself and dependents); inaccessibility to sound education, information, health, clean water/sanitation and credit facilities; powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities; and to a great deal, is living on marginal or fragile environments.


Poverty in the North is most of the time associated to factors such as illiteracy, people’s attitude to economic prosperity, corruption, bad governance, child destitution (like almajiranci, begging), income inequality, ethnic clashes and poor economic roadmap. However, all of those factors are, inherently, the resultant repercussions of poor entrepreneurial initiative at community/society level. That is why, even though no region or nation has ever experienced zero level of entrepreneurship, more entrepreneurially characterised nations/regions are socioeconomically better, and poverty and other related factors seem to be low. Therefore, lack of sound entrepreneurial initiative is the main cause of poverty in northern Nigeria.

Thus, to remedy the situation, entrepreneurship which involves the process of creative use of available resources to solve people’s socioeconomic problems, must be promoted and encouraged. To promote and encourage entrepreneurship in any social setup, institutional (government) interest and support to entrepreneurial activities are ever necessary. Nonetheless, several institutional initiatives have been undertaken to stimulate entrepreneurship and help reduce poverty in the entire northern region but, fruitful result is not yet observed; and by all indications, reducing the poverty is bleak; and it would continue to prey on the North and northerners, unless the following measures are taken; namely:

Regional collaboration: nothing is more common amongst northern Nigerian states than poverty. Meanwhile, the trend in which the world is moving is changing and it presents myriad of challenges to nations/regions, which makes it difficult to stand alone and achieve greatness. Thus, the damage caused by poverty on the North, is so gigantic that, no northern state can single-handedly overcome the poverty. Hence, northern Nigeria states should, as a matter of urgency, come together unanimously to objectively and realistically discuss the poverty challenge that bedevils their region. This involves constructive exploration through resource, knowledge and expertise sharing to develop ‘poverty-curtailed’ strategy to be adopted by each of the northern states. The strategy must be developed along the continuum of the creation of critical value chain of bestowed northern resources where the North has competitive or comparative advantage; joint creation of strategic industries in power and energy; empowering and supporting northern youths’ entrepreneurial capacities; infrastructural development in land, water and railways; and ensuring disciplined and determined leadership governed by honesty, openness and transparency.

Security enhancement: insecurity generally exposes individuals, regions and nations to increase threats to lives and properties; it also obstructs business activities and discourages investment of time, energy, talent and resources in effect, suppressing entrepreneurial activity.   Thus, effective entrepreneurship development that stimulates ‘inclusive’ economic growth and reduces poverty is never possible unless lives and properties are adequately secured. Therefore, northern states must consider security challenge in each state as a concern of all.

Unbiased system of law and order: law and order are meant to provide proper guidelines for the safeguard of human actions against forms of transgressions and sustain equity; without the two, chaos, conflicts and instability are inevitable. Therefore, the symbiosis relationship between law and social stability is of paramount importance in engendering the culture of entrepreneurship. Law protects entrepreneurs’ property and intellectual rights, it enforces contractual agreements and harmonises both entrepreneur and societal interests and assures entrepreneur incentive. This requires northern Nigerian governments to ensure laws and order are justly placed, to give intending entrepreneurs a sense of stability and protection, as well as to safeguard entrepreneurial undertakings and guarantee appropriate dealings with perpetrators.


Dr. Sani wrote this piece from Department of Business Administration, Bayero University, Kano.


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