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$800m World Bank shock response facility for Nigeria’s vulnerable

Recent media reports have put a spotlight on the $800 million facility to be secured by the Federal Government of Nigeria from the World Bank…

Recent media reports have put a spotlight on the $800 million facility to be secured by the Federal Government of Nigeria from the World Bank for assistance to vulnerable Nigerian populations. This facility is being obtained as part of the National Social Safety Nets Programme (NASSP) to scale up government’s response to poor and vulnerable Nigerians dealing with different categories of economic shocks since 2021.

The context of the NASSP is to provide a safety nets system that allows the government to effectively target and deliver programmes to poor households more efficiently. The NASSP supports the Government of Nigeria’s poverty alleviation efforts by expanding the access of poor households to targeted social assistance, which could provide them with a basic social safety net to withstand social and economic shocks.

The project is set within the wider realm of the Nigerian National Social Protection Policy, in which social safety nets are part of the broader social assistance system, as provided by the constitution of Nigeria, Chapter 2, sections 16 & 17.

The $800m facility sourced from the World Bank for the NASSP Scale-Up demonstrates the Federal Government’s commitment to social care, social assistance and part of the long-term framework towards reducing poverty, rolling back the effects of economic shocks, and improving the living standards of poor Nigerians.

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The NASSP Scale-Up is a follow-on project to the National social Safety Nets project executed between June 2016 and December 2022, which established the National Social Register (NSR)  as the database of poor and vulnerable Nigerians (National Social Register) across the 36 States of the Federation and the FCT; and the framework for delivery of social assistance.

With the first phase of the project, which wrapped up in December 2022, two million poor and vulnerable households mined from the National Social Register benefited from cash transfers. An   additional one million non-traditional poor people living in urban areas were reached by government with digital end-to-end cash transfers to enable them deal with the deprivations caused by COVID-19. These one million beneficiaries were pulled from the Rapid Response Register – a subset of the National Social Register.

The NASSP Scale Up for which $800 million is earmarked is a buildup on the successes of the initial (NASSP) project. It will benefit at least 10.2 million poor and vulnerable Nigerian households (in rural and urban poor areas) by way of targeted cash transfers to cushion the effects of existing social and economic shocks (COVID, inflation, naira redesign cash crunch, flood losses etc) including the anticipated petrol subsidy removal.

The federal government through the National Social Safety Nets Project has built the National Social Register (NSR) as a national planning asset, which holds the identity of its poor and vulnerable households across the length and breadth of Nigeria.

It is a comprehensive database currently with over 15 million households (consisting of 61 million registered poor and vulnerable Nigerians) out of the total 17 million households in Nigeria living below the poverty line, based on findings from the National Living Standard Survey (NLSS 2019) – which noted that 40.1 per cent of Nigerians live below the poverty line.  Poor and vulnerable Nigerians can be selected from this database for inclusion in social programmes, as planned under the NASSP Scale up.

The NSR has been developed through the partnership of  state ministries of economic planning, where the State Operations Coordinating Units (SOCU) established by state governments are mandated to build the State Social Register of poor and vulnerable Nigerians.

The identification of poor and vulnerable Nigerians starts with Geographic Mapping of the poorest local governments, wards, and communities, and followed by Community Based Targeting approach where each community is brought together to define poverty in its local context and identify households that fit the profile of poor in the community.

As of 30 March, 2023, the database contains comprehensive information for 61,593,733 poor individuals in 755 local government areas so far covered across Nigeria. It also holds data for more than one million displaced persons across the six states of northeast and Zamfara, and a further 6.8 million informal sector workers living in urban areas nationwide, affected by social and economic shocks.

This database, which is first a State asset that is aggregated at the national level into the NSR  is available for utilisation by government establishments, development partners, philanthropies, NGOs and individuals to deliver interventions that tackle poverty, shocks, emergencies and other vulnerabilities effectively.

As of 31 December 2022, up to two million Nigerian households extracted from the National Social Register had benefitted from direct cash transfers from the Government of Nigeria through  its Conditional Cash Transfer programme,  implemented by the National Cash Transfer Office of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

Thousands more from the register have accessed cash transfers and other assistance programmes from international bodies like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and UN Women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other entities, involved with health insurance (under the supervision of the National Health Insurance Scheme), social works and economic empowerment at both the national and state levels, and private sector stakeholders such as Tony Elumelu Foundation and more have also leveraged the National Social Register to facilitate interventions.

While the Project was majorly designed and developed through the technical support of the World Bank, institutions such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), World Food Programme and UNICEF have all supported aspects of systems strengthening to build an enduring delivery system for Social Protection in Nigeria.

The current $800 million World Bank facility is meant to expand the delivery framework for shock responsive social protection system in Nigeria, with at least 10.2 million households targeted to benefit from the programme.

Suffice to say that as the government reconsiders the policy on petrol subsidies, the National Social Register remains one of the most reliable pathways through which government could directly target sections of the population most likely to feel the immediate impact of subsidy removal, as recently attested to by the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.

The NSR further provides the FGN and other stakeholders a tested framework to channel some of the savings that will accrue from the subsidy removal to support vulnerable Nigerians.

 

Abuku is the Head of Communications National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO)

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