Ugo Aliogo writes on the National Social Investment Programme and the need for the federal government to scale up the initiative.
According to the Macroeconomic outlook by the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, high poverty and unemployment rates has continued to highlight the need for Nigeria to pay more attention to achieving inclusive growth.
The report stated in the 2000s, Nigeria enjoyed a decade of high GDP growth averaging 7.6 per cent, adding that the period under review was accompanied by high levels of unemployment and poverty, "which could be largely attributed to the concentration of growth in just a few sectors; hence the country's growth was not broad-based.
The report revealed that in reality, the country's economic growth pattern did not facilitate the creation of economic opportunities for many, which is crucial in addressing the pertinent issues of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion.
The report, however noted that on the social front, Nigeria was yet to implement the much-needed reforms that would significantly improve access and quality of healthcare and education across the country.
It further stated that as at 2018, close to 13.2 million children were out-of-school, which is the highest number in the world, according to UNICEF, "in addition to the core challenge of access, the quality of learning across government-owned schools is significantly low across States."
The reported explained: "In terms of healthcare, the World Bank notes that almost half of the children under 5 are stunted, implying they do not have the adequate brain development to learn in school. This further exacerbates the problem of social exclusion in Nigeria. Furthermore, in the World Bank Human Development Report released in November 2018, Nigeria ranked 157 out of 189 countries.
"Nigeria's score of 0.532 was below the average score in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) (0.537) and the global average of 0.728. Life expectancy at birth remains at 54 years, below the SSA average of 60.7 years. Nigeria continues to rank within the category of countries with 'Low Human Development'."
However, at a media briefing to examine the successes of the National Social Investment Programme (NSI) and the need to scale up the programme, the Senior Fellow, Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), Dr. Tayo Aduloju, said the group's policy advocacy and engagement with the federal government had been focused on driving inclusive growth.
The NESG Role
As part of efforts to address the prevalent scale of poverty in Nigeria, the federal government embarked on a social investment programme. To carry out impact assessment, the Policy Innovation Unit (PIU) conducted detailed evaluation of the NSIPs. The PIU is jointly made up of NESG, Accenture and Busara Center for Behavioral Economics.
The objectives of the impact evaluation study was to assess the impacts of the NSIO interventions against the specific programme objectives as envisaged during the adoption and initial implementation of the programmes.
The programmes are the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSF), the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programme, the Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP) and the N-Power initiative.
The objective of the NHGSF is to provide children in primary 1-3 across public schools in Nigeria a free nutritionally balanced meal as an incentive to drive primary enrolment, use locally-produced food and employ low income fairly unskilled women as cooks in order to improve the welfare of these women as well as access to markets for local smallholder farmers. The goal is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, improve nutrition and health, promote agricultural development, gender equality and empower women especially in rural communities.
According to Aduloju, it is evident that from the sample of schools studied, the PIU found teachers in NHGSF schools reported a 12.5 percent increase in the average number of pupils enrolled (across primary 1-3).
He noted that PIU in the report discovered that a large proportion of NHGSF teachers (92.1percent) across the 600 schools sampled across 6 States in each of the 6 geopolitical zones reported an increase in enrolment.
He further expressed hoped that there are positive signs of increased enrollment from the sample, given that the programme is relatively new in some States (not all states were on boarded on the programme in 2015) the programme is still gaining momentum in some states and we hope to see continued positive signs of enrollment as the programme progresses."
Overview of the Reach of CCT
He explained that before the advent of the President Muhammadu Buhari's administration, a social register was developed under the World Bank assistedYouth Empowerment and Social Support Operation (YESSO) programme in the Federal Ministry of Finance.
According to him, "As at 2015, the register hosted about 67,000 households across eight States in the country, while also managing basic excels sheets.
"One of the first activities embarked upon by NESG was to commence the cleaning of a National Social Register (comprising the initial eight States Social Registers) of data relating to poor and vulnerable households, "through a tried andtested community-based targeting method, from which the cash transfer beneficiaries are mined."
"As at today,however, the NSR is currently in different stages of development across 34 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with about1,091,000 households representing over 4 million individuals captured. The livelihood supports graduation of beneficiaries out of poverty, thereby making them financially independent -this is aimed at complementing the cash transfer to help targeted households to build a mindset of enterprise development in order to reduce abject poverty.
"Through this effort, the NSIO is also collating critical data relating to nearest functional primary and secondary schools,primary health centers, payment service providers, access roads, connectivity and power supply to the community, tosupport social inclusion.
"The NSIP has enrolled 422,992 caregivers in 26 States currently, being paid N10, 000 every two months,and supported to ensure they save and become productive, thereby taking ownership of their lives.
"Although the cash transfers are aimed at improving consumption which explained why the caregivers are enrolled as those to receive the cash. The beneficiaries are free to use the cash as they so wish. It does not refer to any selection criteria even if; the long-run objective of the programme is to employ the conditional cash transfer method of delivery, whereby limits are imposed by the programme with regard to the use of the money, including participating in capacity-building or taking one's children to a health or educational centre, in order to receive the cash transfer.
"Eligibility criteria are based on the poorest households. The standard structure is 30 communities per Local Government Area and a maximum of 40 households per community.
"CCT beneficiaries reported to spend NGN2, 566.12 on non-essential food, while non-beneficiaries spend NGN1, 998.24 on a monthly basis.
It is important to note that the CCT households live under US$1.90 per day. The components of the food consumed were fish, fruits and vegetables, dairy products and eggs, meat, non-alcoholic beverages, roots and tubers, coffee, tea and cocoa and others. The non-essential food items include alcohol, soap, tobacco and others.
"In children's education, findings show that more CCT beneficiaries have at least one child in school, which is 7 percent more than the non-beneficiaries. 60 percent of beneficiaries reported that they spend at least NGN3, 000 on education goods such as uniform, books and others in the last school term, which amounts to over 20 percent of their bi-monthly cash transfer value. This indicates that CCT programmes are effective at improving school enrolment and participation. For beneficiaries, using the CCT for school costs is an important livelihood choice in terms of investing in their children's economic future.
"The Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP): GEEP aims to promote financial inclusion and access to credit for MSMEs, market traders, artisans, youth and farmers.
"The programme intends to provide affordable micro loans ranging from NGN10, 000 to NGN100, 000 to at least 4 million businesses in four years to achieve growth through Micro Medium Scale Enterprise (MSMEs) such as reducing the financial exclusion rate in the country. GEEP is designed to provide microcredit and sector-relevant 'just-in-time' technical assistance to develop and grow at least 1.6 million beneficiaries in 1 year - with a focus on traders, artisans, farmers/agriculture workers, of which 60 percent are women and 12.5 percent are youth entrepreneurs covering the six geopolitical zones. These target segments account for 27 million of the Nigerian population."
However, the PIU in its report said: "Beneficiaries reported that they stock more goods for sale. The result shows that there is a significant increase in business performance as measured by sales and inventory. This suggests that beneficiaries are utilising the loan to grow their businesses.
TraderMoni beneficiaries increased their savings in bank accounts, showing there is an increase in savings for people who choose to save in a bank account; this indicates a greater use of financial services for TraderMoni beneficiaries.
"However, the amount saved decreased - as expected with beneficiaries who are in the process of repaying loans. Education plays a key role in financial inclusion. For MarketMoni beneficiaries, the ability to read and write increases bank savings deposit by (9%) and increases mobile banking by (18 percent). For TraderMoni, it increases mobile banking by (12 percent)."
The NESG based on its policy innovation unit impact evaluation and findings recommended that the NSIP would never be enough intervention to lift all poor Nigerians out of poverty without the concurrent intervention of broad-based sustainable growth focused on creating economic and job opportunities; and social inclusion focused on equal access to health, education, digital and job opportunities.
The NESG further explained that the NSIP are delivering the stated federal government objectives and outcomes; adding that the NSIP have delivered measurable results even though it has only received 31% of the Annual Budget of N 500 Billion.
The NESG said: "The NSIP should be allowed to scale towards National Impact Targets set in the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP). The NSIP 5 Year roadmap which focuses on the sustainable institutionalization of social protection and investment should be implemented by the federal government.
"The continuous application of monitoring and evaluation to finetune the federal government response to Nigeria's most vulnerable citizens should be explored. The NSIP has succeeded as a programme beyond political party lines as is evidenced by the adoption of State governments that are not in the Ruling Party and therefore has the design framework for transparency, trust and equitable application across the Federation."