The World Bank has advised Nigeria to scale up its social investment programmes to address the large number of people living in extreme poverty in the country.
The World Bank Country Director, Mr Rachid Benmessaoud stated this on Friday at the launch of the Africa Social Safety Nets Report by the National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO) and World Bank.
Benmessaoud said that Nigeria spending less than three per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on social investments was not enough to fight against poverty, build human capital and spur economic growth.
He said the bank was in full support of the country’s social investments and that was why it helped to establish a social registry, containing legitimate names of poor households in parts of the country.
He said the registry had helped the federal and state governments to reach genuine vulnerable people through different targeted intervention programmes like the conditional cash transfers.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed has disagreed with the Social Safety Nets report, saying that Nigeria spends more than three per cent of GDP on social investments.
Ahmed said that the report did not take account of other social protection programmes like pensions, health insurance and interventions that target people living with disabilities. “The report further reveals that West Africa has the highest number of cash transfer programmes in Africa. The implication of this for us is that we must continue working towards a long time solution to poverty, as cash transfers cannot be sustained.
“This means that we must have a long-term plan to build human capital and resilience of our people. Our midterm focus will be to have in place a universal health coverage for all, scale up our school lunch programmes for all primary school students and provide scholarship for all students in tertiary education.
In the long term, Nigeria will be thinking towards transformational growth and development by setting up economic clusters for entrepreneurs,” she said.
Also, the National Coordinator, NASSCO, Mr Iorwa Apera, said that his office would ensure that the next report on social safety nets gives a more holistic picture of government’s spending on pro-poor programmes.
“The President has declared that it’s lifting a hundred million people out of poverty. That is a strong policy statement and what we are doing with this is that we are building a social register of the poor and vulnerable targeting interventions to lift them out of poverty. At the moment, the register is in 32 states and has 5.4 million individuals, which serves as a huge data base for lifting these 100 million people out of poverty,” he said.
The Federal Government of Nigeria established the National Social Investments Programmes in 2016, to tackle poverty and hunger across the country.
The N-Power programme is designed to assist the unemployed between the ages of 18 and 35 to acquire and develop life-long skills and are given a stipend of N30,000 monthly.