Top Poorest States in Nigeria

Top Poorest States In Nigeria

Nigeria might be the wealthiest country in Africa, but it’s no news that the nation’s wealth is distributed unequally. Lagos, for instance, contributes about 30% to Nigeria’s GDP; that’s one state contributing about one-third of the nation’s wealth, leaving the 36 other states to share 70% among themselves. Nothing screams ‘unequal’ more than that.

Talking about the percentage contribution to GDP, we can all agree that the metric is a fairly reliable way to ascertain the wealth of Nigerian states, making it a reliable way to find out the poorest states in Nigeria.

Using the GDP of each state in Nigeria, this article will explore the 10 poorest states in Nigeria, how much they contribute to Nigeria’s overall GDP, and why they’re so poor. Also, since GDP data doesn’t indicate the rate of poor persons per state, we’ll use data from the NBS to reveal the poorest states in Nigeria by the multidimensional poverty index, if that’s what you’re after.

Which State Has Highest Poverty in Nigeria?

zW is, beyond any doubt, the state with the poorest persons in Nigeria by both the poverty headcount rate and the latest release of the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).

While Sokoto is where you’re most likely to come across a poor person randomly, it’s not the poorest state by absolute GDP numbers, if that’s what you’re after. However, the question this section is answering is framed to reveal the state with the highest poverty, and that’s Sokoto, beyond any doubt.

For the record, Yobe is Nigeria’s poorest state by GDP, followed by Kwara and Enugu. Sokoto is only the 17th poorest, while Lagos takes the top spot nationwide with a GDP of N41.17 trillion, nearly 38 times as much as that of Yobe.

Which State is Richest in Nigeria?

Talking about poverty and wealth in terms of states is typically controversial and touchy, mostly because there are a thousand different ways to measure wealth and poverty. However, regardless of how you decide to measure or rank wealth or ‘richness’ among Nigerian states, one state will continue sticking out on top: Lagos.

I introduced this article with a surprising statistic: that Lagos makes around 30% of the money there is to be made in Nigeria, automatically making it the richest state in Nigeria. What I didn’t include in that introduction is that Lagos has the highest number of people living above the poverty baseline by headcount.

I also didn’t mention that it had the lowest percentage of poverty in the country and it has the lowest unemployment rate. However, there’s one metric that doesn’t rank Lagos as first, but second, and it’s the multidimensional poverty index (MPI). According to the NBS, Ondo State has a lower percentage of poor persons than Lagos according to the MPI, making it the only state above Lagos in the rankings.

So, if you’re after the richest state in Nigeria by the multidimensional poverty index (MPI), your answer is Ondo State. However, if you’re using any other metric, index, or condition, Lagos will always come out on top.

Is Abuja Richer than Lagos?

Regardless of the metric you’re using to ascertain wealth, Abuja will not come ahead of Lagos in wealth, but neither state is doing particularly badly moneywise. While Lagos has the highest GDP of any state in Nigeria, Abuja doesn’t trail too far behind, as it’s the nation’s administrative headquarters.

In terms of the multidimensional poverty index, Lagos boasts of a second-place finish against Abuja’s 11th, beating Abuja by nine places. Similarly, Abuja trails Lagos by poverty headcount rate, with the former having 38.7% of its population in poverty against Lagos’s 4.5%.

These statistics make one fact abundantly clear: Lagos is richer than Abuja, but relative to the average Nigerian state, neither state is doing terribly for itself.

Top Poorest States in Nigeria (By Poverty Headcount Rate)

GDP is a fair metric for measuring how much money a state has, but it doesn’t do a good job as a determinant of the welfare of people in the state. One metric that takes the purchasing power of the target audience into account, however, is the poverty headcount rate, which is an accepted methodology for determining poverty rates worldwide.

While I admit that this approach has its flaws, it’s exactly what most people want to see. If you’re one of those people, here’s the list of the poorest states in Nigeria by how likely you are to encounter a poor person.

1. Sokoto

Sokoto coming top in this list is no surprise, given that it was also the poorest state by the multidimensional poverty index. Interestingly, Sokoto is only one of the two states that made the top five in both the MPI and poverty headcount rate lists, making it one of the poorest states in Nigeria. It’s not an exciting title to have, but facts are facts and numbers don’t lie.

2. Taraba

Since Taraba managed to not make the top five in the multidimensional poverty index, you may not be expecting it to be so high up on this list, until you discover that 87.72 percent of the state’s inhabitants are poor. Its absence in the top five poorest states in Nigeria by MPI might be a miracle, but it undoubtedly has a place among the poorest states in Nigeria.

3. Jigawa

Apart from Sokoto, Jigawa is another one of the top five poorest states in Nigeria, both by poverty headcount rate and by the multidimensional poverty index. Interestingly, it comes third in both lists, showing just how much the state is suffering from the scourge of poverty.

4. Ebonyi

Ebonyi is surprisingly the non-Northern state in this list, as it’s situated in the South East. Since it’s the only state with such a worryingly low poverty rate in all of Southern Nigeria, it has earned itself the dreaded title of ‘poverty capital of South East Nigeria,’ boasting of a nearly 80% poverty rate.

5. Adamawa

Adamawa does only slightly better than Ebonyi, with slightly over 75% of the state’s population in poverty. While it’s not exactly a good showing, it still does better than at least four Northern states, and the fact that it’s not among the poorest states in Nigeria by MPI is somewhat impressive.  

Note that this list is based on the latest (trustworthy) poverty rate we could find (Statista, 2019). Given how little has changed in the listed states over the past four years, the order probably hasn’t changed since then.

Top Poorest States in Nigeria (By Multidimensional Poverty Index)

The multidimensional poverty index is the most complete way to evaluate poverty, as it doesn’t use the narrow-minded approach of determining poverty by how much money an individual can access. If someone living above the poverty line has no access to timely and quality healthcare or a balanced diet, they’re effectively poor, and the multidimensional poverty index reflects that.

As expected, the NBS uses a methodology that uses a series of indicators to determine the MPI score of each state in Nigeria. The indicators include nutrition, school attendance, water access, housing materials, unemployment, cooking fuel, school attendance, food security, security shock, and time to healthcare, among others.

Ranking every Nigerian state by those indicators, here are the top five poorest states in Nigeria:

1. Sokoto

Despite being one of the most prominent states in the northwestern part of the country, it’s not shocking that Sokoto tops the list of Nigerian states with the highest multidimensional poverty. According to the NBS MPI report, 5.8 million of Sokoto’s 6.4 million population are poor, representing a shocking 90.5% of the state’s population.

To put that into context, for every 10 people currently living in Sokoto State, there are 9 poor people; that’s a pretty staggering number. If it makes the data look any less scary, it’s essential to note that multidimensional poverty is different from the international poverty baseline. A person can live well above the poverty baseline while staying multidimensionally poor. Also, Sokoto is not the state with the highest number of poor persons in Nigeria; it just has the highest concentration of them.

2. Bayelsa

Bayelsa is one state you wouldn’t expect to see in a list of the top poorest states in Nigeria, but here we are. This state manages to do quite well in terms of poverty headcount rate, but its high food insecurity, prevalent un- and underemployment, and scary security shock all contribute to score it high among the poorest states in Nigeria by the multidimensional poverty index.

3. Jigawa

Ranking third isn’t exactly a win for Jigawa on this list, but the outlook is worse when measuring multidimensional poverty among children, as this state comes first using that metric. According to the NBS survey, nutrition deficiencies, unimpressive school attendance, and low time to healthcare all contribute chiefly to Jigawa’s terrible outlook.

With 44% of Jigawa’s children of primary school age out of school, the state has a big problem on its hands.

4. Kebbi

Kebbi is one of those states most people won’t be surprised to see on a list like this, which is quite unfortunate. With the state doing badly in terms of nutrition, school attendance, years of schooling, and time to healthcare, it’s even lucky there are a few states in Nigeria that can manage to do worse. In short, it’s easily one of the poorest states in Nigeria.

5. Gombe

While Sokoto leads the poorest states in Nigeria by multidimensional poverty index, Gombe is the authentic poverty capital of the nation, boasting the highest percentage of poor persons countrywide. Apart from Gombe’s unimpressive showing in the MPI, the fact that 74.6% of Gombe residents live below the poverty line should keep the state’s government up at night.

It may sneak itself down into the fifth position here, but it should be undoubtedly much higher among the poorest states in Nigeria.


Revisiting Nigeria’s poverty statistics is never fun, but there’s no doubt that the country is still thoroughly poor. Maybe one way to start fixing the stubborn problem is to keep reminding ourselves that it’s there, and that’s exactly what this list of the poorest states in Nigeria aims to achieve.

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