Social safety net Programme and poverty alleviation in Nigeria
Nigeria like most developing countries of the world is faced with problems of youth and graduate unemployment, high rate of poverty and low economic growth and development. The high rate of unemployment among the youth has no doubt contributed to the high rate of poverty and insecurity in the country.
The country has all it takes in terms of human and natural resources to become the strongest economy and financial hub in Africa and one of the leading economies in the world. In spite of these blessings, there was a huge problem with poverty and unemployment.
Looking at these situations, the question begging for an answer is, why are Nigeria’s circumstances still so devastating in spite of the nation’s huge endowments? Why is it that Nigerians are poor and deprived even when the country is blessed with resources? The answers are not far fetched. It is all centred on bad governance.
Successive governments have demonstrated concerns about the high level of poverty in the economy despite enormous resources, which the country is endowed with. They have at different times introduced various poverty alleviation programmes such as Operation Feed the Nation, Green Revolution otherwise known as “Back to Land”, Directorate for Food, Roads, and Infrastructure, Directorate of Employment, Better life Programme, Peoples Bank Project, Family Support Programme, National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, SURE-P and National Poverty Eradication Programme.
A review of the alleviation Programmes mentioned above revealed some degree of ineffectiveness in achieving the set objectives or in producing the anticipated results because of poor implementation, high level of inconsistencies and corruption.
It was on the basis of afore-mentioned that at the inception of his administration, President Buhari-led government deem it necessary to tackle the challenges of poverty and unemployment in the country. Accordingly, the Federal Government rolled out a comprehensive National Social Safety Net Programme to address unemployment and improve the condition of living of the extremely poor and vulnerable Nigerians. After three years of the implementation of the programme; what are the successes? Has the programme succeeded in alleviating the problem of poverty and unemployment, and what are the challenges?
According to the recent statement credited to the National Coordinator of the Programme, Maryam Uwais, through the programme, welfare support have been provided as well as the creation of jobs for Nigerians in the formal and informal sectors of the economy. Uwais believed that since 2016 when the programme started, about N450b has been spent and the programmes have impacted over 42 million Nigerians.
The N-power, specifically, has to a reasonable extent address the challenge of unemployment as it has provided a structure for large scale and relevant skills acquisition and development. It has also helped to diversify the economy and prepare youths for a knowledge economy and equipped with world-class skills and certification.
The programme has made it possible to have a pool of software developers, hardware service professionals, animators, graphic artists and building services.
According to the office of Special Adviser to the President on the Safety Net programme, about 300,000 poor and vulnerable households in Nigeria have benefitted from the programme in the year 2017 alone. The programme has boosted the business of petty traders, market women, farmers and artisans.
The programme generally, has helped to reduce poverty and unemployment, empower the people economically, encourage school enrolment, built capacity, equip less educated people with skills to be self-employed and promote scholarship in the areas of science and technology.
The policy measure has indeed helped to make life more tolerable to ordinary Nigerians who constitute a large percentage of the population.
The less privilege Nigerians have started to feel the impact of governance directly.
In spite of the successes so far recorded, the implementation of the programme is not without challenges. The challenges range from irregular payment of monthly stipends to the N-power beneficiaries, poor funding, politicisation and lack of adequate publicity to create awareness.
The programme must be massively publicised to raise awareness. This can be achieved if the National Orientation Agency is supported and empowered to use its existing national structure to create awareness. In addition, the timely release of adequate fund is important so that the beneficiaries can adequately be catered for. The government should also ensure that the programme is not hijacked by politicians for its objectives to be meaningfully achieved.
Dr. Aminu is a Director, Documentation and Publication (DTP), National Orientation Agency, Abuja