Nigeria row over billionaires’ wealth

The combined wealth of Nigeria’s five richest men – $29.9bn (£22.9bn) – could end extreme poverty in the country, the charity Oxfam has said.

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, hit back at the charity, saying she was concerned about the “language, tone and style” of Oxfam’s report, Inequality in Nigeria.

Oxfam’s Good Governance Programme Coordinator for Nigeria, Celestine Okwudili Odo, said:

It is obscene that the richest Nigerian has amassed more money than he can ever hope to spend in a country where five million people will struggle to feed themselves this year. Extreme inequality is exacerbating poverty, undermining the economy, and fermenting social unrest. Nigerian leaders must be more determined in tackling this terrible problem.”

Oxfam said its research found that:

  • Nigeria’s richest man earns 8,000 times more in one day than a poor Nigerian will spend on basic needs in a year.
  • More than 112 million people are living in poverty in Nigeria, yet the country’s richest man would have to spend $1m a day for 42 years to exhaust his fortune.
  • Despite a rapidly growing economy, Nigeria is one of the few countries where the number of people living in poverty increased, from 69 million in 2004 to 112 million in 2010 – a rise of 69%.
  • The number of millionaires increased by 44% during the same period.

In her response, Ms Ahmed said:

The methodology used in the report also raises some questions: is it for empirical or theoretical purposes? Oxfam needs to tell us in the report what it intends to achieve, what data was gathered, where it was gathered, the sample size and the uses of the data.

When I looked at the report, I was worried about certain concepts, such as ‘Who are the elites?’”

Oxfam cited Forbes magazine, which listed the five richest Nigerians as:

  • Aliko Dangote (net worth $14.4bn)
  • Mike Adenuga (net worth $9.9 billion)
  • Femi Otedola (net worth US$1.85 billion)
  • Folorunsho Alakija (net worth $1.55 billion) and
  • Abdul Samad Rabiu (net worth $1.1 billion).

The five have not yet commented, but the MD of Nigeria’s FSL Asset Management Limited was quoted by the Vanguard newspaper as saying:

The report is not too far from the truth. There is no doubt that there is so much poverty in the country, but I don’t think it is fair to the people mentioned in the report because they are private businessmen, who have built their wealth through hard work. The level of poverty is something that should be addressed to the government.”

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