How Illiteracy, Poverty Fuel Insecurity in Nigeria, By Habib Halliru


…How Illiteracy, Poverty Fuel Insecurity in Nigeria

Nigeria, a country with rich cultural heritage and immense economic potential, is facing a complex and entrenched threat to its stability: the intricate connection between illiteracy, poverty and insecurity. As one of Africa’s most populous nations, Nigeria is at a critical juncture in its history, where addressing these issues is not only a social obligation but a necessary step towards a more secure and prosperous future.

Illiteracy and poverty often share a symbiotic relationship, and addressing these issues will lead to a more stable society. When a significant portion of the population lacks access to quality education, a cycle of underdevelopment is set in motion. Illiteracy hampers economic growth by limiting human capital and innovation. Furthermore, without an educated populace, individuals are prone to evil ideologies, perpetuating a cycle of violence and unrest.

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Nigeria’s staggering illiteracy rate is a serious reminder of this challenge. According to UNESCO, the country’s literacy rate hovers around 60%, with significant disparities between urban and rural areas and people of different social classes. These gaps highlight the urgent need for inclusive educational policies that target marginalized populations, ensuring that no one is left behind. Investing in quality education is not just a means to secure a brighter future, but a powerful weapon to tackle the root causes of insecurity. 

Closely intertwined with illiteracy, poverty is both a cause and consequence of insecurity. Impoverished individuals often lack access to basic resources and opportunities, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by criminal groups. In the absence of sustainable livelihoods, some may be forced to turn to crime as a means of survival, inadvertently contributing to the rise in criminal activities that breed insecurity. Addressing poverty requires a multifaceted approach, including job creation, social safety nets, and equitable wealth distribution.

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Meanwhile, about 84 million Nigerians wallow in extreme poverty, surviving below $1.9 per day, while 133 million (63 percent of the country’s population) are multidimensionally poor, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). This number is actually frightening and shocking, showing how the nation is sinking into the ocean of destitution. Nigerians are drowning in poverty to the extent that it can be spotted with our naked eyes. This was seen in Adamawa state, when masses broke some government store and loot everything. Poverty was also seen during COVID-19 lockdown, when mobs broke so many stores across the country so as to find what to eat.

Nigeria’s economic potential is undeniable, with a diverse range of resources from crude oil to other natural resources. However, a large proportion of the population remains excluded from reaping the benefits of this wealth. Sustainable economic growth must go hand in hand with poverty alleviation efforts, ensuring that prosperity reaches all corners of the nation. By providing avenues for economic empowerment and reducing income inequality, Nigeria can quell the desperation that often drives individuals toward criminal activities.

To effectively tackle the entwined challenges of illiteracy, poverty, and insecurity, Nigeria’s policymakers must prioritize holistic solutions. Education reform should focus not only on increasing enrollment but also on enhancing the quality of education provided. Modernizing curricula to align with the demands of a rapidly evolving job market will equip students with relevant skills, increasing their chances for gainful employment.

Simultaneously, targeted poverty alleviation initiatives should be undertaken to uplift vulnerable communities. Microfinance programs, vocational training, skills acquisition and entrepreneurship support can empower individuals to break the chains of poverty, reducing their susceptibility to deviant influences. Additionally, fostering an environment conducive to investment and job creation can spur economic growth, while social safety nets offer a buffer against economic shocks that can aggravate insecurity.

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A crucial component of any effective strategy to combat illiteracy and poverty is fostering social cohesion and inclusivity. Embracing diversity and promoting dialogue between communities and the government can defuse tensions that often lead to conflict. By addressing underlying grievances and building bridges between different groups, Nigeria can cultivate an atmosphere of unity that counters the divisive narratives exploited by insurgent factions.

In conclusion, the connection between illiteracy, poverty, and insecurity in Nigeria is a complex and multifaceted challenge that demands a comprehensive and strategic approach. Tackling these issues requires a commitment to quality education, sustainable economic growth, and social inclusivity. By breaking the cycle of illiteracy and poverty, Nigeria can significantly reduce the breeding grounds for insecurity, fostering a nation that thrives on the principles of knowledge, prosperity, and unity. The time for action is now, as Nigeria’s journey towards a secure and prosperous future begins with addressing its most serious challenges.

Habib Halliru, Department of Mass Communication A.B.U Zaria.

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