- To focus on health, poverty eradication, human capital devt
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The World Bank has earmarked about $4 billion for poverty eradication, erosion control, human capital development and health-related issues in the 36 states of the federation.
Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, said this wednesday in Abuja, explaining that the money would be spent on projects that would uplift the states’ capacity expand the possibilities for their development.
He spoke at a press conference where he briefed journalists on the outcome of a meeting governors had with World Bank officials in Abuja.
Fayemi said: “The bank is spending somewhere in the region of $4 billion in states, and some of our states are benefiting from a range of grants, even the loans, which we can benefit from on the basis of the bank’s investments in our states.
“So, it is important for us to work on that engagement both in terms of the lending operations, in terms of advisory activities, in terms of the concrete action in our states. I don’t know of many development agencies that have programmes in 36 states; the World Bank does and all of our governors were present in this meeting. We had an extensive discussion on how to improve on existing relationship and how to build on those projects that have transitioned from one governor to the other.
“This is important because transition can be a challenging period and it is absolutely important that we treat government as a continuum and address whatever gaps that there are without throwing the baby away with the bath water. These are what came out from the investment/lending portfolio, a programme for result portfolio, which are two vehicles that the World Bank uses in their relationship and support in our states.”
He added that the NGF has proposed suggestions, which the bank has taken up and will be implementing to better the relationship it has built with Nigeria over the years.
“There is a question of course of also not having enough resources and the need to expand the lending portfolio from what it is now both to the federal government and the sub-national entity. It is absolutely important that that vehicle is not closed because if we can borrow from the World Bank at one percent interest, it is always going to be better for us than for us to be borrowing at 25 percent commercial lending rate’ that is a no brainer, we will all agree with that.
“For us, it is about development and if you look at some of the programmes, whether you are talking about BESDA – The Better Education Service Delivery for All, in our states, which focuses a lot on the northern states, where we have a high percentage of out-of-school children; or you look at a Saving One Million Lives that deals with malaria and all other diseases that have been responsible for the high rate of child mortality, under five mortality in many of our states, and these are grants.
“These are not loans, including FISTA, which is about fiscal transparency in our states. You will see that the World Bank is a critical partner that we really need to work with in order to improve quality of life and living conditions of our people.”
Giving details of how the World Bank would spend the money across the states, the World Bank Country Director, Rachid Benmessaoud, said: “We at the bank have been particularly engaging with the NGF as the important platform for engaging with the sub-national governments beside our engagements at the state level.
“As you know, the World Bank mission is to fight poverty and build prosperity. We know that the number of poor people has increased in Nigeria in terms of number though the trend is decreasing.
“So, fighting poverty in Nigeria and Africa is going to be absolutely critical for reducing poverty globally. So, therefore, our priorities, which we have engaged with the governors, will be around investing in human capital, investing in people to have access to basic education, health services, social protection.
“But we do recognise the development challenges, which also require investing in infrastructure and filling the large infrastructure gap. But with that, we want to make sure that those infrastructure gaps are filled by bringing more of the private sector so that it will enable us to create the physical space for governors to invest in human capital, including financing from development partners like the World Bank. But most importantly to increase the domestic revenue mobilisation for providing primary spending on the social sector.”