By 2050 Nigerian population is expected to swell to 400 million according to the Population Reference Bureau. Will it be the engine of growth and prosperity or a crisis of unrest and glaring poverty?
The big multinationals are already rubbing their hands in glee at the prospective market of 400 million people. Nigerian population currently stands at 170 million and the debates rage when will the majority start living the GOOD LIFE? The GOOD LIFE in Western definition is having access to good health, education, security, internet and welfare and the ability to buy fast moving consumer goods like flatscreen TVs and laptops.
The Nigerian planners should act quickly to bridge the wealth gap or it risks a crisis of poverty and social upheaval which will be disastrous for the entire African continent.
Look at Lagos the richest state in the country not too far from affluent Ikoyi is the Makoko slum
where 100,000 residents huddle together in homes on stilts that spill right out into the Lagos Lagoon, few feel on the verge of prosperity.
“We’re poor, and not much is changing,” said Benedicta Hunkpe, as she stirred a cauldron of fish stew over smoking charcoal while children swept along the water in canoes.
The 3,000 naira a week that the 55-year-old Hunkpe earns from selling fish helps feed her eight offspring and 10 grandchildren; her house sleeps 40 people at a time.
“The money is never enough,” she said. “I wanted my children to go to school to give them a better life, but I couldn’t afford it.”
Sceptics say services and the environment can’t keep pace with a population rising at 2.4 percent a year, according to U.N. figures. They fear swelling numbers of jobless and uneducated youths threaten the stability of a country already suffering an Islamist uprising in the north and oil theft, piracy and kidnapping by criminal gangs in the south.
“If we keep growing our population at this rate, without also growing our means to sustain it, we are heading towards catastrophe,” says Owoeye Olumide, a demographer at southwest Nigeria’s Bowen University.
“We have to do something very fast … or we face more poverty and agitation or worse – disease, hunger, war.”
Sprawling around a lagoon and the Atlantic coast, Nigeria’s commercial hub of Lagos – a steamy, tropical city of some 21 million people, according to its government – receives hundreds of thousands of new arrivals each year from rural areas.
The city grows by 672,000 people a year, state data shows.
“It’s like we’re running just to stand still,” said Ben Akabueze, the Lagos commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, a sharply dressed, bespectacled man whose phone trills constantly with demands from state governor Babatunde Fashola.
“You roll out services, then so many more people arrive,” he says. “Sometimes we can’t quite cope.”
Two thirds of Lagosians live in what are effectively slums with no reliable electricity or water. Most crowd into “face me, face you” accommodation squeezing whole families into seven- square metre rooms (75 square feet) sandwiched together along thin corridors.
Noah Semedi, head teacher at one of only two schools serving Makoko’s tens of thousands, is lucky he can read at all.
“My dad has 22 children. I am the last born in the family, so I am the only guy that went to school,” he told Reuters at the wood-hewn school, where 117 children in blue and yellow uniforms huddled around a jetty over the filthy water of the lagoon.
Residents of such areas are a long way from consumerism.