Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Monday poverty is fueling the religious violence in Nigeria.
In a speech in Lagos, Clinton reportedly said the northern part of Nigeria remains one of the poorest in the country and suggested more direct investment and opportunities for those in the north.
His comments followed a report Monday by the Nigerian government which cautioned that poverty continues to rise.
The National Bureau of Statistics said 61 percent of Nigerians lived on less than $1 per day in 2010 compared to 51 percent in 2004.
Kabiru Mato, chair of the political science department at the University of Abuja, poverty in Nigeria is the result of corruption and the inequitable distribution of the country’s oil wealth.
“I think the government is right to the extent that the statistics they gave were even grossly inadequate in a sense that, if you take a very curious look at what’s happening in Nigeria, especially the northern fringes, you will find that the percentage of people who are living in absolute poverty is far more than 70 percent,” he said.
Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer, pumping more than two-million barrels per day, but Mato said corruption has deprived many ordinary Nigerians from sharing in their country’s wealth.
“We have been having problems with corruption in this country, and corruption is defined as the inability of government to be meaningful and responsive to the aspirations and yearnings of the people. So, this huge gap, in my view, explains the level of social crisis and the level of political instability,” Mato said.
Mato said he agrees with Clinton that the northern part of Nigeria remains one of the poorest in the country. But, he said other factors have also contributed to the disparity between the north and south.
“In Nigeria, there is a very sharp dichotomy between the northern and southern parts of the country. Yes, the north is more in numbers, but then the level of education of the people of Nigeria of northern extraction is far below the level of education that people in the southern part of the country have,” Mato said.
He also blamed colonialism for the economic disparity between northern and southern Nigeria.
“What the colonial masters did was to create a more economic class in the southern part of the country and creating a political class of people who took over administration in the northern part of Nigeria. This basically was a fault line that was created [by] colonial administrations, and it has been expanded upon over time to the extent that the level of mass poverty in the north is endemic, while it is less in the southern part of the country,” Mato said.