By Odera Umeugoji

Banana Island – one of Nigeria’s most expensive areas

Banana Island – one of Nigeria’s most expensive areas

Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, contributing to over 17% of the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP). This oil-abundant country is not only a sizeable force, but one with huge potential – aside from copious amounts of petroleum, Nigeria boasts a significant amount of coal, iron ore and arable land. Furthermore, the country is extremely populous, accommodating nearly 200 million residents – a number which is growing rapidly.

In spite of these inherently promising statistics, earlier in 2018, Nigeria overtook India, becoming the country with greatest number of people living in absolute poverty: 87 million. This figure becomes increasingly daunting when it is considered that this is roughly half of the population. And even more alarmingly, this number is due to augment.

These hugely contrasting statistics speak for Nigeria’s blatant income and wealth inequality, for which some of the reasons are taxation, the high cost of governance, and corruption. It is no coincidence that all of these reasons are rooted in selfishness – Nigeria’s greatest enemy.

Nigeria’s tax system inevitably causes inequality – smaller businesses are taxed excessively, whereas large multinational corporations (MNCs) can pay below 2% of their profits in taxes due to tax waivers. The immoderate taxing on smaller corporations does not support economic mobility – it renders it very difficult to birth and/or sustain a small business, not to speak of using one to increase one’s economic status. This unnecessarily high taxation combined with the mild taxation of MNCs traps several Nigerians in poverty and financially boosts the MNCs, hence the selfishness because in Nigeria, a stronger economy means greater pay in governmental roles. The high cost of governance in Nigeria is also a significant reason for the vast inequality.

For example, government workers such as lawmakers in Nigeria can make as much as US$118,000 per year. Salaries like these mean that investments into infrastructure are reduced, particularly in the more rural areas, essentially slowing down economic growth drastically by reducing both economic productivity and attraction to foreign investors. Once more, the reason can be attributed to selfishness, as people are willing to treat themselves to higher pay at the expense of millions of others.

The final reason, corruption, holds immense significance with regards to Nigeria’s inequality. Nigeria’s vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, stated that, “No economy can tolerate the level of corruption seen in Nigeria without consequences.” – the level of corruption is abysmal. Whether it involves nepotism, the bribery of police officers and prosecutors, collusion or corruption in any form, large quantities of money are being directed away from the impoverished masses who are in need of it. And whilst the masses are suffering, those at the top only become more affluent – a selfish process.

It goes without saying that as long as this uncaring attitude persists, inequality will worsen. However, altering behaviour which is virtually ingrained in the country will prove to be a demanding task. Although new, honest leadership is often suggested as a solution to issues such as corruption, an individual’s motives cannot always be deduced, and a problem so prominent will require the support of many if a resolution is to be found.

If Nigeria is to fulfil its potential, the limitation of selfishness is compulsory.