The 10 poorest states in Nigeria owe local and foreign creditors about N1.18tn, according to findings by The PUNCH.
While the data for the poorest state was acquired from the National Bureau of Statistics, the debt data was obtained from the Debt Management Office.
The NBS, in its National Multidimensional Poverty Index report, disclosed that 133 million Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor.
The NBS said 63 per cent of Nigerians were poor due to a lack of access to health, education, living standards, employment, and security.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index offered a multivariate form of poverty assessment, identifying deprivations across health, education, living standards, work, and shocks.
The report presented the level of poverty in each state of the country.
The NBS report showed Sokoto, Bayelsa, Gombe, Jigawa, and Plateau were the top five poorest states in 2022.
These states were followed by Yobe, Kebbi, Taraba. Ebonyi, and Zamfara.
The PUNCH observed that the top 10 poorest states had a total of 43.99 million poor people, which was 33.08 per cent of the total population of poor people in Nigeria.
Sokoto led the poorest, with 90.5 per cent of people in the state poor. It is followed by Bayelsa with 88.5 per cent poor people, Gombe with 86.2 per cent, Jigawa with 84.3 per cent, and Plateau with 84 per cent.
Yobe had 83.5 per cent of its population as poor, Kebbi had 82.2 per cent and Taraba had 79.4 per cent.
Both Ebonyi and Zamfara states each had 78 per cent of their total population poor.
The NBS report noted that 65 per cent of poor Nigerians (86 million) were in the North, while 35 per cent (nearly 47 million) were in the South.
The report noted, “Overall, 65 per cent of poor people – 86 million people live in the North, while 35 per cent – nearly 47 million – live in the South. In general, a disparity between North and South is evident in both incidence and intensity of multidimensional poverty, with the North being poorer.
“However, the level and number of poor people needs to be addressed in all zones – each of which are home to between 11 and 20 million poor people except North-West, which has 45 million poor people due to its larger population and higher level of poverty.”
It also noted that 72 per cent of people in rural areas were poor. It was the same for 42 per cent of people in urban areas.
Aside from struggling with a high poverty rate, the 10 poorest states also struggled with local and foreign debts.
Data from the subnational debt report as of December 2022 showed that the states had N998bn domestic debt and $386.16m foreign debt (about N178.28bn, using the exchange rate of the Central Bank of Nigeria of N461.68 to a dollar as of Tuesday).
From the debt data, Plateau had the highest local debt of N149.01bn, then Bayelsa (N146.37bn) and Gombe (N139.32bn).
Zamfara had local debt of N112.2bn, Yobe had N90.76bn, Sokoto had N90.6bn, Taraba had N87.96bn, and Ebonyi had N76.5bn.
The least owing states on the list for subnational domestic debt were Jigawa (N43.95bn) and Kebbi (N61.31bn).
The PUNCH further observed that Bayelsa had the highest foreign debt of $60.39m.
It was followed by Ebonyi ($58.57m), Taraba ($46.47m), Kebbi ($40.93m), Sokoto ($36.56m), Gombe ($32.48m) and Plateau ($32.4m).
The least debtor owing foreign creditors were Yobe ($22.51m), Jigawa ($26.99m), and Zamfara ($28.86m).
The PUNCH further observed that despite the high poverty and debt, some of the states released huge pension benefits to their past governors.
The Jigawa State ‘Former Public Officers Pension and other Benefits Law No. 15 of 2015’ stipulates that a governor who successfully completes his term without impeachment will be entitled to a monthly pension equivalent to the current salary of the current governor, two brand new vehicles to be provided by the state government and to be replaced after every four year, six-bedroom fully furnished house, two personal assistants not below grade level 10, two drivers selected by the governor and to be paid by the state, a fully furnished office in any location of choice and fully paid medical treatment within Nigeria and abroad.
The deputy governor is also to get a monthly pension equivalent to the incumbent’s salary, one assistant not below level eight, one brand new vehicle, a four-bedroom flat, and an office in a location of his choice.
In Sokoto, each former governor, under the Sokoto State Pension Law, gets N200m every four years, while the deputy is entitled to perks amounting to N180m, being monetisation for other entitlements, including domestic aides, residences, and vehicles that can be renewed after every four years.
Section 2 (2) of the Sokoto State Grant of Pension (Governor and Deputy Governor) Law, 2013 states, “The total annual pension to be paid to the governor and deputy governor shall be at a rate equivalent to the annual total salary of the incumbent governor or deputy governor of the state, respectively.”
The Ebonyi State Political Office Holders Amendment Law, 2011, makes provision for the payment of pension to Governor Umahi, who is set to move to the Red Chamber of the National Assembly. The law also made provisions for vehicles and personal aides, among others, for the governor and his deputy.
Yobe State, in its pension law, provides that former governors be given a severance gratuity of N200m, two vehicles to be replaced every four years, free medical care and a house in the state or the Federal Capital Territory, among others provisions.
Also, Plateau State has a pension law that supports the payment of N600,000 to its ex-governor as monthly take-home; Gombe State has a law supporting the provision of N300m as pension benefits for the ex-governors.
Zamfara State repealed its pension law that allowed for the payment of pensions and other allowances to the state’s former governors and their deputies shortly after the immediate past Governor, Abdul’aziz Yari, in a leaked letter to the State Government, requested his N10m monthly upkeep. The letter evoked outrage across the country, with many people calling for the abolition of the law in states that had them.
The PUNCH reported that some of these states also owed salaries and pension of their workers amid the high poverty rate.
It was reported that in Plateau State, the new Governor, Caleb Muftwang of the PDP, would have to settle outstanding salaries owed by his predecessor, Simon Lalong of the APC.
In Taraba State, almost all categories of workers were owed, from lecturers in the state-owned university to teachers. The Taraba State NLC had during the 2023 Labour Day celebration, urged the governor to settle the six months’ salaries of local government employees and five months for primary school teachers before handing over to the incoming administration.
In Zamfara State, it was reported that the former Governor, Bello Matawalle, owed workers at least two months’ salaries.
A professor of economics, Prof. Ode Ojowu, earlier urged the government and key stakeholders to come up with policies, programmes and projects that would tackle rising poverty.
Also, the former Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, earlier said that it was concerning that despite the Social Investment Programme designed to tackle poverty, with more than five million persons impacted, poverty still persisted in the country.