Dudley Seers …

Dudley Seers Theory of Development and The Nigerian Situation
Murtala Adogi Mohammed
According to Seers, (1969) Development means if the level of poverty, unemployment and inequality have decline over a period, then development can said to have occurred. Then it is likely that the standard of living of individuals has improved, it is clear then, that economic progress is essential. According to Seers true development lay in the elimination of poverty, increase in literacy and improvement in the health system as opposed to the increase of per capita output.

Since independence in 1960, the overarching goal of Nigeria’s economic development has been to achieve stability, material prosperity, peace and social progress. But a variety of internal problem have persisted in slowing down the country’s attainment of these growth and development objectives. These include inadequate human development, primitive agricultural practices, weak infrastructure, and uninspiring growth of the manufacturing improvements in well-being, social sector, a poor policy and regulatory environment and mis-management and misuse of resources.

In this essay we attempt to relate Nigerian situation with Dudley Seer theory of development specifically by using his key performance indicators (poverty rate, unemployment, and inequality) for measuring development based on his theory.

Dudley Seer Theory of Development

Dudley Seers was a Cambridge trained development theorist who stressed the significance of social development in developing countries before moving to economic development seeing that in order for economic development to reach its maximum potential social development has to occur first. Seers was highly critical of using indexes such as unemployment and inflation when referring to Third World countries

In other words to Seers true development lay in the elimination of poverty, increase in literacy, improvement in the health system as opposed to the increase of per capita output. Thus one may conclude that the whole concept behind the HDI lies within Seers notion of development.

Seer, in David and Nixon (1986) argues that when a Third World country wants to develop, it would be paramount important for the LDCs to put the following cardinal principles into considerations;

  1. That family income should be adequate to provide a subsistence package of food, shelter, clothing and footwear.
  2. That jobs should be available to all family heads, not only because this will ensure that distribution of income will generally achieve subsistence consumption levels but also because a job is something without which personality cannot develop.
  3. That access to education should be increased and literacy ratios raised.
  4. That the populace should be given an opportunity to participate in government.
  5. That national independence should be achieved in ‘the sense that the views of other governments do not largely predetermine one’s own government’s decisions’

The Nigeria’s Situation

Nigeria has emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an annual growth rate of 6 per cent witnessed between 2001 and 2008. Until the current global economic crisis began to affect the economy seriously towards the end of last year, the country had achieved unprecedented macroeconomic stability. The government has been quite concerned with these poor outcomes, we acknowledges the efforts and the recent policy initiatives, which indicate increasing commitment of the government to a broader poverty reduction, social protection and human development agenda. Positive results can already be seen in the trend of the Human Development Index (HDI) rate of growth from 0.490 through 0.494 to 0.499 and 0.513 (NBS) in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008, respectively, placing Nigeria in the lead of low HDIs in the global UNDP HDI ranking (UNDP- NHDR 2009).

Findings from UNDP National Human Development Report 2008/2009 revealed that, significant growth in recent years – per capita income crossed the $1,000 mark in 2006, expansion in agriculture as main driver of overall growth, From low bases other sectors have experienced expansion as well – e.g. communication and banking, But there has been no structural transformation.

However, the high growth rates do not seem to have translated into equitable distribution of wealth, poverty reduction, employment generation, and improvement in the standard of living of Nigeria populace.

Relating Nigeria’s Situation with Dudley See Indicators of Development

1. Poverty

One of the key indicators developments identify by Seer is reduction in poverty level of individuals. Poverty can be defined as the inability to achieve a certain minimal standard of living. Poverty is reflected in low GNP per capita, and thus increasing number of Nigerians are suffering from absolute poverty. Absolute poverty is reflected in low living standard of the people, food is the major item of consumption and about 80 percent of income is spent on it as compared with 20 percent in advanced countries.

The number of poor people in Nigeria remains high. The total poverty head count rose from 27.2 per cent in 1980 to 65.6 per cent in 1996, an annual average increase of 8.83 per cent in the 16-year period. However, between 1996 and 2004, total poverty head count declined by an annual average of 2.1 per cent to 54.4 per cent (UNDP 2009)

Nigeria is not developed by the development indicators of Dudley seers, as 70 percent of the population is classified as poor, with 35 percent living in Absolute poverty. The physical quality of life index (PQLI) is an attempt to measure the quality of life or well being of a country. The value is the average of three state basic literacy rate, infant mortality, quality of life expectancy at age one. It was developed to remedy the faults in measurement of wellbeing by GDP figures. Several causes are attributed to the decline in wellbeing of Nigerians one of them in increase in the death rate of women, infants and children (it was reported in the Nigeria National Human Development Report, 2008.

In Nigeria, changes in poverty and inequality move in the same direction; economic growth and poverty move in opposite directions; and inequality and growth are positively correlated (UNDP, 2009)

2. Unemployment
In developing countries like Nigeria, there is vast open unemployment and disguised unemployment. The industrial sector has failed to expand along with the growth of labour force thereby increasing urban unemployment, there are the educated unemployed who fail to get job due to structural rigidities and lack of man power planning.

Available information indicates that we are in a crisis territory, with youth unemployment at 60%, university graduates constituting 25% of total unemployment and with the formal sector only generating 7% of employment for all those in the labour force, that 66 percent of Nigeria’s citizens, educated youth especially live below the international poverty line, at just $1.70.00 a day $300.000 a year compared to Libya with $12,000.00 a year and Malaysia with 8,000.00 per capita annual.

Unemployment appears to growth arithmetically every year, in contrast to its regional neighbors, most of which have far less “resources” much of the unemployment is recorded in the urban cities, such as Lagos, ABUJA, Ibadan and Kano etc. statistics of Nigerian unemployment seems to consist not of uneducated, rural population who have been up rooted by failing agricultural production resulting from the absence of mechanization and decreasing incomes, but of some highly educated populations, as well, who normally would form the core of the productive vanguard in a developing country. In other words, many Nigerian’s unemployed and consequently poor, are well educated and skilled even by European and American standards.

A brief review of the UNDP released Human Development Report 2007/2008, shows that Nigeria has Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.470, and ranks 158 out of 177 countries surveyed in the world.

Going by the Dudley seer theory of development, one can concludes that real development is not taking place in Nigeria at the moment because unemployment is still widespread; prevalence has not declined, extreme poverty has risen, and number of poor people has also risen in Nigeria

UNDP Nigeria Human Development Report 2009 revealed that, inequality in Nigeria has remained high, one of the highest in the world (0.49) 65% of assets in the hands of 20% of population.

The UNDP- NHDR further revealed that between 1985 and 2004, inequality in Nigeria worsened from 0.43 to 0.49, placing the country among those with the highest inequality levels in the world. Many studies have shown that despite its vast resources, Nigeria ranks among the most unequal countries in the world. The poverty Nigeria ranks among the most unequal countries in the world.

What is happening now in Nigeria is not in line with Dudley Seer theory of development because there is disconnect between growth, poverty reduction and human development in Nigeria There is high inequality limits opportunity for poor people to benefit from growth Nature and content of growth (low employment elasticity, that is, employment not keeping pace with growth expansion of labour force) Structure of the economy still unchanged unlike in other emerging economies (dominance of primary production, weak farm-factory linkage, disconnect between finance and real sector)Slow progress in social indicators.


To achieve what Dudley See referred as development Nigeria need to develop an economy and development strategy that would;

(i) maintain a strong and focused emphasis on inclusive economic growth;

(ii) guarantee better access to social services and adequate infrastructure, especially for the poor; and

(iii) target policy interventions to protect the poorest or the most vulnerable groups. While the foregoing serve as the necessary condition for growth to translate into rapid reduction in poverty and inequality, the sufficient condition is to promote transparent, responsible and accountable governance

(iv) Employment must be neutral with respect to income distribution or reduce income inequality.

(v) Economic growth must occur or mean income must rise on a sustained basis.

(vi) Government should really focus on job and wealth creation and in creating jobs, the quality and quantity of the jobs to create are very important to development.

(vii) Government should create an environment for high levels of investment; it remains a critical factor in improving people’s welfare in Nigeria


Nigeria is economically unproductive, relative to its potential for significant development; similarly Nigeria’s capacity to employ its own population seems to diminish progressively, despite the country’s quantifiable fiscal ability resulting from the production and disposal of oil. Concern about inequality is strong in Nigeria, and has prompted a variety of past and on going redistribution programmes woven around poverty reduction and women’s empowerment, but suggested above would solve the problem of underdevelopment in Nigeria, but to do so we must have the political will, maintain discipline, consistency and continuity to secure an irreversible momentum towards development.


David C. & Nixon F (1986) Economics of Change in Less Developed Countries- Retrieved last 07: 09: 2011

Seer D. (1969) The Meaning of Development. International Development Review 11(4):3-4
UNDP (2009) Human Development Report, Nigeria. Achieving Growth with Equity, Soma printed LTD.

UNDP(2008) Human Development Report, 2007/2008. Fighting Climate Change, published by UNDPImageAt the Back of Kofar Mata Masallacin Idi, Kano

About Murtala Adogi

Murtala is an international professionally trained Educationist and Environmentalist with keen interest on Rural Development and Youth and Women Poverty Reduction Strategy and with more than 15 years of professional experience and working with national and international nongovernmental organizations in Nigeria. He resigned as Education Adviser of Department for International Development DFID of The British Government Northern Nigeria Abuja. And took an appointment with Government of Nasarawa State as Special Assistant to Gov Umar Tanko Al-makura on Youth Empowerment. In September 2014 Murtala also resigned his position as S.A. to the Governor to participate in Nigerian 2015 general election. Murtala contested for House of Representative to represent the good people of Lafia-Obi Federal Constituency at National Assembly but gallantly lost the election at primary level. Murtala is a PhD Student Specializing on Rural Poverty and Management of Natural Resources in University Of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Also he holds MSc in Ecology and Environmental Sustainability from University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom, Another Masters in Development Studies from Bayero University Kano and BSc. Ed in Biological Sciences Education, with Second class Upper from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. And Nigeria Certificate in Education from Federal College of Education Kano State, Nigeria. He is a Founder of Centre for Education and Leadership Development, a Non-Governmental Organisation NGO and Founder of Murry Greens Consult, Nigeria. And former Lecturer with Federal College of Education Technical Bichi, Kano state from 2008 to 2010. He spent his early part of life in Adogi, Lafia LGA, and completed his secondary education in Government College Obi, and primary education in Adudu, Nasarawa State. He has been involved in several youth and rural development initiatives; Murtala was a former National Coordinator of Federation Nigerian Youth Greens an affiliate of Global Young Greens. Professionally, he is an active member of Ecological Society of Nigeria ECSN. He presented several conference papers on education, environment, rural development and youth empowerment at national and international conferences. He is also a Sustainable Development Advocate, a strategic thinker, a Trainer and a rural livelihood and development practitioner. Murtala was born into the family of Mohammed Abdullahi Adeka in Adogi town 39years ago, 17Km south-east of Lafia, Nasarawa State. Murtala is a father to Imam, Imran, Iman and Imtihal also husband to Sadiqa.
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3 Responses to Dudley Seers …

  1. Owutoshi Adullahi Ari says:

    Thank God we have upcoming youth like you at the helm of affairs in Nasarawa State who are ready to reduce the level of poverty, unemployment and inequality as identified by Seers as the bane of our development.

  2. Benedict Mwengwe Chipopo says:

    I’m so grateful that this essay was written. i had trouble writing my Development Studies assignment but once i read this essay,evrything changed! Please keep up the good work.

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