Poorest states in Nigeria 2023

This is the most authoritative list of the poorest states in Nigeria, determined entirely on a state's revenue relative to the other 35 states.

Children fetching water from a river

With an economy greater than 50 of Africa's 54 countries, Lagos is the most prosperous state in Nigeria; however, a chasmic discrepancy between the city and some of the poorest states in Nigeria, sees the metropolis stand alone atop the wealth rankings.

Although ranked as Africa's leading economic power, Nigeria also has the second-highest population of impoverished people globally, which only suggests its tremendous wealth is not spread equitably among its population.

Why is Nigeria depicted as being poor?

The poverty rate in Nigeria is 74.5 per cent, with both quantitative and qualitative assessments attesting to the increasing prevalence and severity of this endemic. However, this position is paradoxical, considering the country's tremendous human and material resources.

Despite the significant effort that have been devoted to poverty reduction by successive governments through numerous programmes such as the National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP) and the Nigerian Agricultural and Co-operative Bank (NACB) in 1972; Operation Feed the Nation (OPN) to teach rural farmers how to use modern farming tools in 1976; the Green Revolution Program (GRP) in 1986 to reduce food importation and increase food production; the Family Support Program (FSP) and the Family Economic Advancement Program (FEAP) in 1993; and the National Poverty Eradication Program (NAPEP) in 2001 to replace the previously failed Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP); no discernible progress has been made. 

Using this paradigm, we have not compiled this list of Nigeria's poorest states based on the quality of life, poverty rate, or the human development index since government action or an internal crisis might dramatically alter these factors.

With an astounding poverty rate of 87.73%, Sokoto State has the largest population of poor people in Nigeria, with at least 4.38 million individuals living below the poverty line.

Despite this deeply ingrained poverty, Sokoto has a greater revenue than 21 other states in Nigeria and so cannot be considered one of the poorest states in Nigeria.

Why we have not used poverty rate as a criterion

Despite having the second-highest number of impoverished people in the world, behind India, Nigeria sits within the upper echelons of the world's wealthiest nations.

Similarly, a state with a large number of poor residents does not necessarily lack the resources to cater to its inhabitants.

Considering these criteria, the following is the most authoritative list of the poorest states in Nigeria, determined entirely on a state's revenue in relation to the other 35 states:

10. Ekiti State

Situated in the southwest and having the sixth-smallest population in the nation, Ekiti State is the tenth poorest state in Nigeria.

Agriculture, the pillar of Ekiti's economy and employment, is an industry not optimally utilised owing to insufficient investment, poor infrastructure, and restricted access to finance.

This has led to low production and little revenue for farmers, as well as Ekiti's status as one of the poorest states in Nigeria. 

As the poorest state in southwest Nigeria (Yoruba land), Ekiti State lacks an airport, a railway, and a federal road. It also has the fourth-lowest GDP in the nation and the lowest in the Southwest.

9. Bayelsa State

Bayelsa state, situated in the south-south and with the third-worst unemployment rate in the nation, is the ninth poorest state in Nigeria.

Although the state is wealthy in oil (more than 30 per cent of the country's output), the standard of living is one of the lowest in the area, and distributing money to the populace is very difficult, hence its status as one of Nigeria's poorest states. Nonetheless, the majority of the population is supported by fishing and agriculture.

Although home to one of the four presidents of the Fourth Republic: Goodluck Jonathan, Bayelsa State is the nation's least populous, contributing significantly to its reputation as one of Nigeria's poorest states.

Located in the Niger Delta, Bayelsa State is also one of the poorest states in Nigeria because the oil and gas industry has led to severe environmental degradation of the region, affecting the residents' ability to earn a living through fishing and farming, which were once their primary sources of income.

The state is traversed by several rivers and tributaries, notably Niger and its tributaries, which often overflow following heavy rains, resulting in devastating floods such as that of 2022.

Bayelsa, like other states in the Niger Delta area, has witnessed militancy and insurgency over the years, which has led to a fall in economic activity and frightened away prospective investors, leaving it to wallow as one of Nigeria's poorest states.

8. Adamawa State

The northeastern state of Adamawa, which has the 10th-worst Human Development Index in the nation, is the eighth poorest state in Nigeria. Agriculture, which employs 80% of the working population, employs most of the labour force.

This sector is the foundation of the Adamawa economy, but droughts, floods, and pests have resulted in poor harvests and decreased revenue for farmers.

Adamawa is one of the states most impacted by the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria, which has resulted in massive population displacement and interruption of economic activity.

As one of the poorest states in Nigeria, Adamawa State also has the lowest life expectancy in the nation, even lower than Borno, the most insurgency-ravaged region in the country. 

7. Imo State

Despite having the fifth highest GDP, Imo State, located in the southeast, has the nation's highest misery index and is the seventh poorest state in Nigeria.

Imo State is one of Nigeria's poorest states since, along with Adamawa, it failed to register any investment throughout 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.

Despite being one of Nigeria's oil- and gas-producing states, Imo State has the tenth-highest unemployment rate in the nation.

Although Imo State is the poorest state in southeast Nigeria (Igbo land), it offers numerous investment opportunities, including oil and gas exploration, chemical plants, breweries, hydropower plants, gas-fired power plants, grain mills, starch production, cashew nuts, fruit and vegetable juice concentrate production, integrated multi-oil seed processing plants, ceramics, river transport, and the palm industry.

6. Benue State

With one of the worst poverty rates in the nation and more than half of its inhabitants living below the poverty line, Benue State is the sixth poorest state in Nigeria. Infrastructure, education, and healthcare are areas where the state faces challenges.

Benue is a mostly agricultural state, with most of its inhabitants engaged in agricultural pursuits. Yet, the majority of the state's agricultural economy remains subsistence-based, with poor production levels and little value addition, which has led to low revenue levels for farmers and a lack of economic diversification, contributing significantly to its status as one of Nigeria's poorest states.

Benue's weak infrastructure, which includes roads, power, and water supply, has hindered economic growth and contributed to its status as one of the poorest states in Nigeria. Inadequate power supply, for instance, has hindered the expansion of manufacturing and other companies.

Benue has had significant security issues, including battles between farmers and herders, banditry, and other forms of violence. These have negatively impacted the state's economy by deterring investment and tourism, causing it to rank among the poorest in Nigeria. It is the North Central state most hit by the Boko Haram conflict.

The governance system of Benue has been marked by corruption, nepotism, and a lack of accountability, which has resulted in poor service delivery, insufficient resource allocation, and mishandling of public monies.

Being one of the poorest states in Nigeria, many small companies and farmers in Benue State lack access to financing, making it difficult for them to invest in their enterprises and enhance output.

5. Katsina State

With the nation's seventh-worst Human Development Index, Katsina State, located in the northwest, is the fifth poorest state in Nigeria. The state also has the seventh-lowest education index in the nation, with just 23.1% of the male population and 7.7% of the female population completing secondary school.

The low level of literacy in Katsina State hinders the capacity of its residents to acquire the skills necessary to earn greater wages and participate in more productive economic activities.

Katsina's position as one of the poorest states in Nigeria is very chronic and endemic due to the fact that it has the seventh-highest population in the nation.

Almost 80% of the population of Katsina is involved in subsistence agriculture, which is a major driver of the economy. Nevertheless, the agricultural sector is generally underdeveloped, with farmers depending on traditional and outmoded farming techniques that result in low agricultural production and restricted access to markets, further adding to its status as one of Nigeria's poorest states.

As one of the poorest states in Nigeria, Katsina has been facing security issues, such as banditry and kidnapping, which have resulted in the displacement of thousands, the loss of lives and property, and the interruption of economic activity.

The instability has discouraged investment and made it impossible for individuals to participate in economically productive activities, aggravating the state's poverty.

4. Gombe State

With the nation's second-lowest GDP and sixth-lowest population, Gombe State, located in the northeast, is the fourth-poorest state in Nigeria. Gombe State's status as one of the poorest states in Nigeria may be attributed to its 4th-worst human development index and 8th-worst education index.

Due to the state's extreme poverty, the officials of Gombe State declared in 2020 that the minimum wage legislation would be suspended.

Gombe is predominantly an agricultural state with few industries, resulting in one of the country's worst unemployment rates and few chances for economic development, making it one of Nigeria's poorest states.

Another contributing factor to Gombe State's status as one of the poorest states in Nigeria is that it has also been impacted by the Boko Haram insurgency, which has caused extensive displacement, loss of life, and property damage. 

The negative consequences of climate change on Gombe State, like desertification, land degradation, and soil erosion, have reduced agricultural productivity and exacerbated poverty.

3. Kebbi State

Located in the northwest, Kebbi State has the second-highest rate of female children without secondary school education, making it the third-poorest state in the country. Despite its "Land of Equity" slogan, Kebbi State has the nation's third-worst education index.

Although it has a healthy population of 4 million, Kebbi State, as one of the poorest states in Nigeria earns the lowest tax revenue in the nation.

2. Taraba State

Located in the northwest, Taraba State has the nation's fourth-lowest population and is the second-poorest state in Nigeria.

Taraba, unlike many other Nigerian states, lacks major natural resources such as oil, restricting its potential for income generation and economic development and classifying it as one of the poorest states in Nigeria.

Despite having the third-largest geographical area in the nation, Taraba has one of the lowest GDPs and federal allocations. Thus, the administration of Taraba State has little financial resources to spend on infrastructure, education, and other vital areas that may fuel economic development, making it one of Nigeria's poorest states.

1. Yobe State

With the nation's lowest GDP, Yobe State, located in the northeast, is the poorest state in Nigeria. The state of emergency declared in response to the danger posed by Boko Haram substantially hinders the state's operations.

Yobe State's brush with insurgency has resulted in the loss of life, the displacement of people, and the destruction of infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, and markets, which has had a significant impact on its economy and its ability to attract investments, thereby rendering it the poorest state in Nigeria.

The state has among the lowest literacy and healthcare access rates in Nigeria, which has significant ramifications for the state's economic growth. 

Yobe State's position as the poorest state in Nigeria is due to the fact that low health and education standards restrict the potential of its workforce, thereby decreasing productivity and limiting the expansion capacity of enterprises.