Nigeria is one of the poorest countries on this earth. Hunger, joblessness, violence, low quality of education, lack of infrastructure, insecurity, inequality, terrorism, and lack of foreign direct investment are few of the poverty signs prevailing almost all around Nigeria. According to National Bureau of Statistics, 61% of Nigerians live under the line of extreme poverty (BBC News, 2012) and this number is increasing with a high rate every year. According to Jideonwo (2014, April 11) over 100 million Nigerians live far under the poverty line where unemployed youth accounts for 54% according to National Bureau of Statistics, but is actually said to be almost 80% as per unofficial figures.

Nigeria is a resource rich country with high reservoirs of crude oil and natural gas as well as agricultural land. However, despite these rich resources the situation of the poor and volume of population living below the poverty line is getting worst. Extensive research has been carried out on various aspects of poverty in Nigeria. Ewhrudjakpor (2008) found that more than 26 development programs to alleviate poverty were failed due to bad governance and corruption. Despite the numerous development projects by foreign agencies, the situation is getting worse day by day.

The purpose of this research is to investigate and establish through research of the available literature about the root cause of prevailing poverty in Nigeria.


Corruption and Bad Governance as Driving Forces towards Poverty

Institutionalized corruption, inequality in all sectors of life, and bad governance are root causes of poverty in Nigeria. To eradicate poverty, the major focus must be on eradicating corruption at all levels first and then setting up a good governance system to promote equality. Majority of the development efforts failed due to institutionalized corruption. Fundamentalist groups (e.g. Boko Haram) aroused due to neglect and inequality rather than due to religious issues. Bad governance has been adding to the miseries and poverty of Nigerians.

Successive Nigerian governments wasted the rich resources of the country through theft, graft, foolish investments, institutionalized corruption, and bad governance. Economist (2000, January 13) stated several examples of Institutionalized corruption and bad governance wasting huge amounts of country’s money. Not only did Nigerian government wasted $280 billion of oil revenues in corruption and foolish investments, but also the successive Nigerian governments borrowed billions more against future oil and wasted that money too. Sani Abasha set up Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), which was almost quarter of the federal budget and was not independently audited. This money was either wasted or stolen. In either case corruption made this huge loss possible. Similarly $8 billion were wasted on Ajaokuta steel industry which was less intended at country’s development and more focused at earning national pride. However, this industry never produced a single rod of steel but provided huge kickbacks. Nigerian Military rulers were never behind anyone in this race. They also lavishly spent tens of billions without any accountability. Cement scandal of Shehu Shagari in 1980’s and capital city of Abuja are other examples which sunk the country’s economy. Transparency International has once placed Nigeria at second after Cameroon among the most corrupt countries of the world.

Ewhrudjakpor (2008) is yet another significant account on analyzing the reasons behind the extreme poverty prevailing among more than 70% Nigerians, the increasing inflation rates, and the failures of 26 poverty alleviation programs in the country in the past. This comprehensive literature survey based research concludes that despite huge amounts of revenues as petrol-dollars, the country remains below the poverty lines due to selfish past governments who were always busy in making money for themselves. Hence the only way out is establishment of a good governance system focused at the promoting equality of rights and intelligent investments in future of Nigeria than to go for prestige projects.

Adekoya (2011, October 10) also stated corruption as the root cause of the poverty situation in Nigeria. The author pointed out that the oil money was misused through foolish investments and corruptions and the real development sectors i.e. agriculture and manufacturing were neglected for investment. Corruption was institutionalized by the successive governments, which made it the lifeblood of statecraft. The author emphasized that Nigeria must eradicate corruption, poor maintenance culture, and must revoke the norms of the society to revolutionize the country and alleviate poverty.

Terrorism has also added to the miseries of life for Nigerians. Rise of fundamentalist group adding to the adversity of situation in Nigeria has been a result of neglect and inequality in different regions of the country. The control on the group has not been possible due to both bad governance and corruption as well as poor law and order situation. Economist (2014) argues that it’s the bad governance and government neglect of the northern Nigeria that Boko Haram is still controlling most of the region with looting, kidnapping and killing adding to the poverty and misery of the Nigerians. The article concludes that the government must invest in building health, security, and good governance institutions rather than filling their own pocket with support from criminals if they want to bring peace and fight poverty in the region.

It is evident from the sources above that the lack of good governance structure, promotion of individual as well as institutionalized corruption within the government structure as well as the whole system of the country, the neglect, inequality, poor political environment prevailing in Nigeria all have contributed their parts to add to the misery and poverty of the country. Thus, all the research efforts call for a governance system that must emphasize honesty with the nation, promote equality, eradicate corruption at all levels, provide equal opportunities without any difference based on ethnic or regional background and will focus intelligent investments in education, agriculture, and manufacturing rather than prestige projects.

Opposing views

Many sources can be found that state various other reasons like lack of quality education, lack of infrastructure to link farmers to the market, lack of health services, awareness among individuals etc. to be driving Nigeria into poverty. However, these reasons are only secondary and can be alleviated easily with transparent and effective governance system free of corruption. As stated by Ewhrudjakpor (2008), 26 programs failed due to institutionalized corruption and bad governance. Once corruption is eradicated at all levels and a good governance structure is established, no poverty alleviation program will fail. In fact, the country would not even require any poverty alleviation programs, because the equality of rights and promotion of corruption free governance system will automatically eradicate all the other problems.


The study concludes that institutionalized corruption, inequality among individuals, and bad governance are root causes of poverty in the country. Corruption free, good governance system is key to success on any efforts to eradicate poverty from the country. Promotion of equal rights across the nation and avoiding neglect based on ethnic background and regions would help avoid rising of any fundamentalist groups to sabotage the peace, stability and law and order situation in the country.

This study is limited to shortlist root causes of poverty in Nigeria from literature and broadly suggest on how to overcome these causes and hence poverty. However, the good governance structure required for the context of Nigeria to alleviate poverty and bring prosperity into the country is an area for future research.



Adekoya, R. (2011, October 10). Nigeria won’t progress while corruption is ‘just the way it is’. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://the

BBC News. (2012, February 13). Nigerians living in poverty rise to nearly 61%. Retrieved from

Economist. (2000, January 13). A tale of two giants – why Indonesia has beaten Nigeria hands down. Economist. Retrieved from

Economist. (2014, November 19). Why Nigeria has not yet defeated Boko Haram. The Economist [Nairobi]. Retrieved from

Ewhrudjakpor, C. (2008). Poverty and its alleviation The Nigerian experience. International Social Work51(4), 519-531.

Jideonwo, C. (2014, April 11). Opinion: Nigerians don’t care about their ‘new economy’ – Retrieved July 17, 2015, from