Three Nigerian billionaires’ wealth increased to $6.9 billion during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in March 2020, a report by Oxfam in Nigeria has said.
Collectively, the total wealth of the three billionaires in Nigeria equal to $24.9 billion, the report stated.
The report said the billionaires saw their wealth increase by 38.3 per cent during the pandemic while 7.4 million people were estimated to have fallen into extreme poverty in 2020.
It noted that two out of the three richest billionaires have more wealth than the bottom 63 million of the Nigerian society.
The report titled: “Inequality kills,” was presented to the public yesterday by Oxfam in Nigeria Project Manager, Henry Ushie, ahead of the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda in Switzerland.
According to Oxfam in Nigeria, inequality is contributing to the death of at least 21,000 people each day or one person every four seconds.
“This is a conservative finding based on deaths globally from lack of access to healthcare, gender-based violence, hunger and climate breakdown,” Oxfam in Nigeria said in the report.
Globally, the report said 10 richest men more than doubled their fortunes from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion —at a rate of $15,000 per second or $1.3 billion a day— during the first two years of a pandemic that has seen the incomes of 99 per cent of humanity fall and over 160 million more people forced into poverty.
It noted that billionaires’ wealth has risen more since COVID-19 began than it has in the last 14 years with a new billionaire minted every 26 hours, as inequality contributes to the death of one person every four seconds.
“Collectively, the total wealth of the three billionaires in Nigeria equals $24.9 billion and throughout the pandemic (beginning in mid-March 2020), their wealth increased $6.9 billion while the majority of Nigerians are poorer. It is a remarkable surge in wealth at the very top of the society, which has not impacted positively on the majority.”
He added: “As the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated social-economic distress impact more on the families, women and girl now face unprecedented risk of physical, sexual and psychological abuse and violence.
“It is now a moral burden on billionaires to invest more on social goods including water and sanitation, education, food security, health and social infrastructure as part of their corporate social responsibilities for a just post-pandemic recovery.
“We can end inequality and it is a moral duty for the billionaires and corporations to play their part to end hunger, disease and poverty.”
To claw back the gains made by billionaires, Oxfam in Nigeria urged the Federal Government to tax the huge new wealth made by the billionaires since the start of the pandemic through permanent wealth and capital taxes.
It urged the government to invest the trillions that could be raised by these taxes toward progressive spending on universal healthcare and social protection, climate change adaptation, and gender-based violence prevention and programming.