VSI – Vision Spring Initiatives

The Implications of Poverty On The Civic Space

Despite being the largest economy in Africa with a huge human capital, economic inequality has reached exponential proportions in Nigeria. As at May 2020, 40.1% of Nigerians were living below the poverty line and Nigerian ranked last out of 157 countries on the 15 overall inequality index. The economic inequality in the Nigeria with the impact of underdevelopment exacerbated by a lack of federal government resources to the region, poverty and hunger, high rate of unemployment, etc, at the expense of the citizens’ interest, insecurity, communal conflict, and a lack of basic social amenities. These are the issues that the civil society engages in, with demands for fairness, improvement, and delivery of development, so that life becomes bearable for the citizens. However, in their quest to support leadership with their opinions, civic spaces for such expressions have become smaller and no longer accommodating.
The inequality among regions is high and translates to different rates of poverty among states. According to 16 the NBS report, 14 out of 15 states below the national poverty headcount average were states in the North, while Ebonyi state was the only state in the South. Varying degrees of inequalities exist between states, urban-rural divide, sectors and among men and women. However, the population mostly affected by poverty in Nigeria was those working exclusively in the agricultural sector. Despite the prevailing statistics, it is important to note that the gendered nature of inequalities is high with women less likely than men to own land, more likely than men to be employed in low paying and informal jobs, less likely to attend schools and get an education. In addition to gender inequalities in the labor market, significant gaps in access to social protection also have an impact on income and time poverty among women. With almost half the country living in extreme poverty, a generation of Nigerians has emerged with nothing to lose but their poverty. They are procuring arms and engaging in violence, banditry and insurrectional acts, thereby precipitating the march towards anarchy. The gender gaps in labor market indicators have not narrowed in a meaningful way over the past two decades. Access for women to economic opportunities can enhance their well-being and amplify their voices within and beyond their households which will reduce the shrinking civic space, while helping them to safeguard their families from economic deprivation. Women and girls, after being empowered need space to speak out and organize against injustice and the root causes of poverty, without fear of repercussions guaranteed in the Nigerian constitution, and in regional and international instruments promoting the respect for human rights for which Nigeria is a signatory.

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