COVID-19 will triple number of poor people - Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari says it is expected that the number of poor people in the country will triple as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement on Wednesday, Femi Adesina, presidential spokesman, said Buhari disclosed this in a recorded video message to a virtual high-level United Nations meeting focused on trends, options, and strategies in poverty eradication across the world.

The 2019 Poverty and Inequality in Nigeria report released by the National Bureau of Statistics in May showed that 82.9 million Nigerians are living in poverty.

Speaking on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Buhari said in Nigeria, like many other countries, the domestic supply chains and trading corridors have come under enormous strain, bringing to the fore the health versus economics debate.

The president expressed concern that more than 700 million people or 10 percent of the world’s population is classified as living in extreme poverty, adding that with a population of about 200 million people, a large percentage of Nigerians live in various categories of poverty.

“All the while, they struggle with the most basic needs like nutrition, shelter, health, education and access to clean water and sanitation,” Buhari was quoted to have said.

“In this condition, the number of poor people is estimated to triple as livelihoods across almost all economic sectors have been adversely affected.”

The president added that the prospect of the population sliding further into extreme poverty was real but gave the assurance that his government is also striving to reverse the trend.

The president said the recently developed economic sustainability plan, aimed at stimulating the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, will extend protection to very poor Nigerians and other vulnerable groups through pro-poor spending.

“It is my conviction that devoting our efforts towards human capital development, efficient management of our resources, greater financial inclusion and transformation of the agricultural sector to ensure food security are crucial to poverty eradication,” he said.

“In this regard, Nigeria continues to strengthen its existing social safety net initiative by increasing access to enrolees who fit the various programmes in the scheme.

“Nigeria will also continue to provide easier and increased access to financial services for micro and small-scale businesses through the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme. But we are determined to do more.

“Nigeria holds the view that education is a critical driver of sustainable development and has an immense capacity to eradicate poverty.

“Educating our children, especially the girl-child, contributes significantly to the fight against poverty, environmental sustainability, and improved health, as well as building peace and resilient societies.”

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