Three Nigerians wealthier than 83 million others

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Vincent Ahonsi

By Mary Izuaka

 

Oxfam in Nigeria is suggesting that three of the richest men in the country are wealthier than 83 million Nigerians. Oxfam disclosed this in a report titled “Davos 2023 Inequality Report” unveiled at the media briefing in Abuja ahead of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of world leaders held in Davos, Switzerland from 16 to 20 January. 

According to the report, Nigeria’s richest 0.003%, about 6,355 individuals worth $5 million and above have 140% more wealth than 107 million other Nigerians. “A wealth tax of 2% on the millionaires, 3% on those with wealth above $50m and 5% on the Nigerian billionaires would raise $3.2 billion annually. This would be enough to double the spending on health. 

Oxfam therefore called for more tax on billionaires and not workers and is a message sent to world leaders at the World Economic Forum, WEF, organised as “Davos 2023” where ‘survival of the richest’ was published on the opening day of the conference, while world elites gathered in the Swiss ski resort as extreme wealth and extreme poverty increased simultaneously for the first time in 25 years. The report also noted that a tax of up to five per cent on the world’s multi-millionaires and billionaires could raise $1.7 trillion a year, enough to lift 2 billion people out of poverty. 

The country director of Oxfam in Nigeria, Vincent Ahonsi, who presented the report, said the wealth of Nigerian billionaires has grown by a third since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Ahonsi, the richest men in Nigeria have more wealth than 83 million Nigerians.  A new Oxfam investigation discovered that the richest 1% grabbed nearly two-thirds of all new wealth worth $42 trillion created since 2020, nearly twice as much money as the bottom 99% of the world’s population. During the past decade, the rich 1% captured around half of all new wealth,” Mr Ahonsi was quoted as saying. 

He said for over five years, Nigeria spent an average of 9% of its revenue on debt servicing, and in 2020, before COVID, this was 29% or 56 billion. This amount was almost four times the education and social protection budgets, six times the health budget and 14 times the agricultural budget, he said.

Mr Ahonsi noted that despite Nigeria having one of the lowest tax-to-GDP ratios in the world at just 3.6% in 2019, Nigeria spent 80.6 per cent of its revenue on debt servicing in 2022. According to him, while millions of Nigerians are unsure where their next meals would come from, wealthy Nigerians are getting richer and not paying their fair share of taxes but taking advantage of the complexities and loopholes in the tax legislation as well as the lack of transparency and accountability in tax implementation, thereby depriving the country of the revenue needed for social protection and inequality reduction.

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