THE scorecard presented recently by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, on the impact of the government’s National Social Investment Programmes offers another opportunity for stakeholders to re-examine the current national poverty-reduction strategies. While the government claims appreciable success, most critics insist that the results neither match the financial resources deployed nor meet the global standards of accountability. With over N1 trillion of public funds already spent, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and his ministers owe Nigerians a more comprehensive accounting.
They need to come up with better programmes to drag more people out of poverty and stimulate job creation initiatives.
Upbeat as usual, Farouq said 15 million Nigerians were impacted through the NSIPs. Given the steady rise in the number of the poor in the country, however, this figure is viewed with scepticism. More unsettling is her confirmation that between 2016 and 2022, the projects have gulped over N1 trillion.
Giving a breakdown, she said that N890.71 billion was spent on the N-Power initiative, benefitting 992,600 persons. For the Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme, comprising the TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni components, N17.62 billion was spent and benefitted 185,919 persons. Under the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, 9.99 million pupils were fed at a cost of N200.99 billion, while the Conditional Cash Transfer grant scheme on which N246.27 billion was spent, benefitted 2.24 million rural women and other vulnerable groups, including internally displaced persons.
There is a disconnect between the sums spent and the impact of these schemes. Obviously, the relief for many is temporary, with no long-term income earning impact. While the World Social Summit identified poverty eradication “as an ethical, social, political and economic imperative of mankind” and urges governments to address the root causes of poverty, and “ensure that the poor have access to productive resources, including credit, education and training,” it is the strategies adopted that determine success.
While the country had recorded 87.5 million extremely poor in 2018, a report by the National Bureau of Statistics that found 133 million Nigerians to be ‘multidimensionally poor’ in 2022 confirms that the regime’s strategies are not delivering. This undercuts Buhari’s promise to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years through his programmes.
But poverty has exceeded the World Bank’s projection of about 95.1 million extremely poor citizens by 2022, though it acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic plunged five million more people into poverty.
The NSIP through its components was introduced in September 2016 to curb poverty and hunger in the country by providing a more equitable distribution of resources to vulnerable citizens. The N-Power intends to equip citizens between the ages of 18 to 35 with skills for meaningful viable livelihoods, while the CCT doles out cash benefits to indigent families to improve their nutrition and standard of living.
The GEEP (TraderMoni) provides soft loans of between N10,000 andN100,000 to traders, artisans, farmers, and women; the HGSF aims to increase school enrolment by providing meals to poor students in public primary schools, and involving the farmers and women in a direct value chain.
Poverty alleviation programmes are not new in the country, having been introduced by successive governments under different nomenclatures. But all floundered due to several problems, including implementation failure, lack of a reliable social database, nepotism, corruption, and absence of a favourable business environment and sustainable standards of living.
The mishandling of the COVID-19 palliatives in 2020 showed that apart from corruption and internal sabotage, the ministry did not manage food supplies to families effectively, largely due to the lack of database.
The 2018 NSIP Third Party Monitoring report by Action Aid lamented that the poor monitoring and coordinating resulted in failure to attain expected outcomes. While noting its good intentions, the report said the project was corrupt, lacked quality monitoring and coordination, and a “sustainability strategy.” It stated that it did not have a well-planned exit strategy that would instil the needed values without the commensurate palliatives.
A change of strategy is imperative. For one, such projects are better left to local and state authorities; waste, diversion of resources and corruption are inevitable when Abuja tries to micro-manage rural dwellers. Also, it is more impactful to identify and invest in small scale farmers, start-ups and small enterprises that typically create jobs, provide steady income, and stimulate exports, innovation and competition.
Development scholars cite the factors that induce poverty in the country to include low economic growth, unemployment, under-utilisation of resources, absence of economic diversification, inadequate investment, and poor governance.
The government must create an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and employ more hands, and deploy more products and services. More importantly, it should accord priority to the growth of SMEs.
Radically improving power generation, transmission and distribution will energise the productive sectors, SMEs, the job market and reduce poverty. The World Bank said SMEs are vital for poverty alleviation and job creation, employing 50 per cent of the working population and accounting for more than 90 per cent of all businesses worldwide. The wasted sum of N1 trillion would have been better deployed in closing the financing gap in the SMEs sector, and recorded better outcomes.
Nigeria should adopt proven strategies: Grameen Bank, Bangladesh’s “bank for the poor ‘’ gave soft loans to rural women and achieved a 94 per cent repayment rate; the microfinance scheme greatly improved the wellbeing of the local people and has been copied by many countries.
In his first coming as president (2003 to 2010), Brazil’s Luiz Inacio da Silva’s “zero-hunger” programme emphasised structural problems like land reforms, employment, and compensatory policies such as its subsidised food programme. Along with other initiatives, it is credited with lifting 20 million Brazilians out of poverty. Buhari should launch a vigorous privatisation programme, tame insecurity, and overhaul the power and railway sectors. The states should prioritise rural infrastructure, agriculture, and SMEs development. The current template is gulping too much and delivering too little, it should be reviewed. ,
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