Eradicating Poverty with Social Investment Programme

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Ugo Aliogo in this report examines the effectiveness of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) to end poverty in Nigeria since the launch of the programme in 2016.

The federal government has continued to implement the National Social Investment Programme on the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari. The N-Power has been expanded from 500,000 to 1 million beneficiaries.

The Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) has been restructured to GEEP 2.0. The revamped GEEP 2.0 was officially launched on 24 August 2021 and has successfully registered over 600,000 potential beneficiaries in all the 774 LGAs nationwide through collaborative partnership with the National Orientation Agency. The National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) is also growing strong. As you know, the programme is designed as an incentive to boost school enrolment and improve nutrition of primary school pupils while sustaining the impact of agricultural and women entrepreneurs in communities to produce and provide a quality meal daily to pupils at the basic education level.

The NHGSFP aims to provide free school meals to 25 million children in the country by 2030. Currently, the programme is providing meals to nearly 10,000,000 school children nationwide. The programme has further empowered over 100,000 cooks and over 100,000 small holder farmers in the local areas where the schools are located, while creating employment opportunities across sectors such as transportation and manufacturing.

The programme is being extended to children in non-conventional educational settings so that they may access its benefits. The Household Uplifting Programme (HUP), which has the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) as its flagship intervention, is designed to provide targeted financial transfers to poor and vulnerable households under an expanded national social safety nets system. Those enrolled in the programme benefit from monthly grants of N5,000 to smoothen consumption, stimulate demand and ensure survival directly in the household. Since inception, a total of 1,676,799 eligible households across the country are benefiting from monthly N5,000 grant, as of March 2021. This is in addition to the 1 million Urban Poor who are benefitting from the Conditional Cash Transfers, under the directive of Buhari to further expand the programme due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overview

The government established the National Social Investments Programmes (NSIP) in 2016, to tackle poverty and hunger across the country.

The suite of programmes under the NSIP focuses on ensuring a more equitable distribution of resources to vulnerable populations, including children, youth and women. Since 2016, these programmes combined have supported more than 4 million beneficiaries’ country-wide through a fair and transparent process supported by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning (MBNP) and other notable MDAs with aligned goals.

The N-power: This was designed to assist young Nigerians between the ages of 18 to 35 to acquire and develop life-long skills of becoming change-makers in society and playing a role in the domestic and global markets. The youth were also given N30,000 monthly.

The conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) is also direct support to the citizens that are in the lowest poverty bracket to improve nutrition, increase household consumption and support the development of human capital through cash benefits to various categories of the poor and vulnerable. The support is conditioned on fulfilling soft and hard co-responsibilities that enable recipients to improve their standard of living.

Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) is a micro-leading intervention that targets traders, artisans, enterprising youth, farmers and women in particular, by providing loans between 10,000 and 100,000 at no monthly cost to beneficiaries.

On the other hand, the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSF), aims to deliver school feeding to young children with a specific focus on increasing school enrollment, reducing the incidence of malnutrition (especially among the poor and those ordinarily unable to eat a meal-a-day), empowering community women as a cook and by supporting small farmers that help stimulate economic growth.

FG’s Commitment

Speaking on the intervention recently, the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) stated that apart from providing interest-free microcredit loans to petty traders, the various social intervention schemes of the federal government have made a significant impact in the lives of millions of ordinary Nigerians.

He also noted that as part of its determination to boost economic growth, the present administration has also ramped up its support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) sector, which accounts for close to 50 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP and 76 per cent of the country’s labour force.

“The success of the BOI Growth Platform was the story of, “the Nigerian can-do spirit and the entrepreneurial DNA we carry. This is a shining case study of what President Muhammadu Buhari strongly believes: that Nigerians will solve Nigeria’s problems. This is an example of what we can achieve when we unleash the best of our people – especially our young – on the toughest of our challenges, and give them the free-hand to deliver results,” he added.

Osinbajo maintained that the BOI Growth Platform includes interventions schemes such as the renowned Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) loans (MarketMoni, FarmerMoni and TraderMoni) – regarded as Africa’s largest fully-digitalised micro-credit scheme, the MSME Survival Fund under the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), the North-East Rehabilitation Fund, the recently launched World Bank $750million NG-CARES programme, and state-based interventions, and others.

According to the VP, “this demographic was far too important to ignore. We had to start solving for them, especially having been left far behind historically,” a reason he noted led to the implementation of intervention schemes through the BOI’s Growth Platform for MSMEs.

“What might also not be obvious is the sheer scale of impact that has been achieved with these programmes, as over four million Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises have been direct beneficiaries of the over N150billion deployed in the past.

“57 per cent of these MSMEs are owned by Nigerians below 35 years of age, and close to 60 per cent of the beneficiaries are women. What is even less glaring is that the team of Nigerian professionals behind this work is largely young, with an average age of 28 years old.”

Highlighting the transparency and impact of these microcredit schemes, particularly the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP loans – MarketMoni, FarmerMoni and TraderMoni) under the SIPs, Osinbajo recalled his interaction in 2018, with a petty trader, Jafar Abubakar, one of the Tradermoni beneficiaries at Abubakar Gumi Market in Kaduna when he visited to launch the scheme in the State.

The VP further highlighted the nationwide impact of the Administration’s Social Investment Programmes, which he noted was the, “most ambitious social intervention project in Nigeria’s recent history, with a series of people-centric programmes.”

“This is a journey that only began as an idea six years ago: that we can build systems that will serve everybody fairly and justly and bring credibility to government programmes. One of the biggest barriers we identified was the ability to reach people directly, capture and digitalise their information (even if they are illiterate) and process a benefit to them directly in a way that is transparent to all. Our vision set out to solve this.

“For some programmes, the everyday Nigerians were young graduates who would benefit from a direct stipend and employment placement from the government. For others, it would be pupils for whom a reliable meal per day would make the difference between staying enrolled in school or skipping school to earn money for that meal,” he added.

Osinbajo also praised the infrastructure and transparency behind the BOI Growth Platform schemes.

He recalled his visit to the Growth Platform’s Command Centre, which now has, “22,000 agents, living across all LGAs in Nigeria and equipped with its proprietary mobile technologies, receive mandates to capture and digitalise businesses eligible for its growing suite of programmes.”

Experts’ Views

Despite the laudable efforts to ensure the equitable distribution of resources to vulnerable populations, including children, youth and women, the NSIP have come by under heavy criticisms some Nigerians who feel that the programme is not supporting the vulnerable population, thereby not achieving its set goals.

In an interview with THISDAY, the Managing Partner, SIAO, Mr. Ituah Ighodalo, stated that globally, social investment programme is not a permanent initiative, stating that it is a temporary thing for somebody who is out of work in the hope that within a few months, he will get work and continue with his life.

He lamented that government has turned social welfare into an electioneering tool for people and we keep them permanently in poverty, “it is just a waste of time; it is a situation where government creates opportunity for spending money on imported commodities. So, we are wasting resources in that aspect.”

According to him, “We don’t have statistics and information. We don’t know how many people will be taken out of the welfare system over a period of time and we are just giving people money and make them consumption driven. We need to rethink social welfare, plan it with information and statistics. We need to know what the benefits of every naira spent will be in our economy. There is happy money and feel-good money, but you find out that eventually, you have to keep printing these monies and spending it, and this causes inflation without real production, so we should think it through properly.”

In his remarks, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa, hinted that the federal government primarily established NSIP in 2016, to tackle poverty and hunger across the country, adding that by this expectation a comparison of the poverty rate prior to its inception to the rate at this point should suffice to offer a face value assessment of the effectiveness.

He further explained that there have been conflicting reports with the President in his speech to mark the June 12 Democracy Day in 2021, stating that his government had lifted 10.5 million Nigerians out of poverty in the past two years, while the World Bank asserted shortly after that inflation had plunged seven million Nigerians into poverty.

Musa remarked that the President used the headcount index, which is a monetary measure of poverty, noting that by transferring cash to 12 million households during the past five years, “a majority of these Nigerians have exceeded the income threshold of $1.90 per day, below which one is regarded as poor.”

According to him, “The suite of programmes under the NSIP (the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, N-Power and the Conditional Cash Transfer Programmes as main components) focus on ensuring a more equitable distribution of resources to vulnerable populations, including children, youth and women.

“Often, good policies end or fail at the implementation stage; not because they are impracticable but due to the inability of managers to track their progress and get feedbacks on their sustainability. Assessments serve to help understand the strength or deficiencies of plans and programs, for possible fine-tuning, improvement and support which are often geared towards broader coverage and policy efficiency.

“It is commendable that the government held an Annual Strategic Review Meeting, early this year with stakeholders drawn from Federal and State Governments to review of various components of the National Social Investment Programmes for the year 2021, with a view to lift 100 million citizens out of poverty.”

The Executive Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, stated that in 2016, the federal Government of Nigeria introduced the National Social Investments Programmes (NSIP) to cushion and address the challenge of poverty and hunger across Nigeria.
She noted that the series of programmes under the umbrella of NSIP is expected to ensure a more equitable distribution of resources to vulnerable populations, including children, youth and women, adding that the government has disclosed that since the advent of the programme, over 4 million had benefited from the programme.

Assessment of the Programme

Hassan further explained that the rationale behind having a social investment scheme for a country like Nigeria that is grappling with poverty, high levels of inequality and unemployment is a good one.

She hinted that there have been some pieces of evidence to show that social investments programs in Nigeria under the Buhari Administration have recorded some success, “however, there are still some notable gaps that indicate it is still far from meeting global standards.”

She revealed that the astronomical rise in poverty figures and the level of unemployment in the country is a pointer to the fact there is still much to be done.

According to her, “There are serious challenges with the structure and the operationalization of social investment programs in Nigeria. Fundamentally, the schemes were not synchronized with global economic realities. This becomes clear with specific reference to the various programmes.

“Corruption has also been considered as a challenge to the program, this is because many had argued that the fund meant for the social investment program were been syphoned by corrupt politicians and that the program is only more effective during political campaigns
“Finally, is the issue of selection; Nigerians has argued that the process at which the poorest and vulnerable state and citizens was been selected is faulty and not evenly selected across the geopolitical zone. The argument is that the program has been concentrated in one region of the country and state and beneficiaries are selected across the partisan line.”

On her part, the Education Project Coordinator, Actionaid Nigeria, Mrs. Kyauta Giwa, shared deeper insights on the efforts that ActionAid Nigeria has conducted an assessment of the NSIP programme and the findings showed that some beneficiaries of the programme had experienced an increase in income and businesses due to their participation in the CCT, GEEP, N-Power, and an improvement of their economic status was better off than before they were engaged in the programme.