Nigeria is faced with several challenges towards achieving meaningful economic growth and development. The population, estimated at 184 million, is growing at a 2.6 per cent percent rate per annum. The number of citizens living below the poverty line of $2 per day is conservatively estimated at 82 million citizens (42.4 per cent of total population).

Following the economic recession of 2016, the nation started experiencing a fast paced increase in its unemployment rate. This rate rose to 18.8 per cent in 2017; representing a surge from 6.4 per cent in 2016. Under-employment was also estimated at 21.2 per cent in 2017. This was more pronounced amongst the youth as Nigeria’s age distribution is significantly skewed to the younger generation or those often referred to as the millennials.

In response, the Buhari/Osinbajo led government attempted a robust approach towards attaining macro-economic stability, economic recovery and growth. This approach has been entrenched in social policies focusing on sectors that drive inclusive growth, such as education, agriculture and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in order to invigorate the economy and enhance human capital.

Historically, there have been over 26 attempts at social protection and investment programmes by successive Nigerian governments to close the poverty gap in the nation. This has largely been driven by the high poverty rate, low social mobility and poor financial inclusion among the lower income classes.

In 2015, The FG set up a portfolio of four (4) social investment programmes to deliver socio-economic support to the disadvantaged Nigerians across the Nation. Following its launch in 2016, the program aimed to transform citizens from poverty to self-sustenance through capacity building, investment and direct support. This initiative is strategically hosted within office of the Vice President. There has been some marked progress in the journey so far;

Job creation and youth empowerment (N-Power)

This programme addresses the skill gaps of non-graduates and graduates alike. It aims to provide skill acquisition opportunities through employment into the education, agriculture, health and construction sectors of the economy. Interested persons are selected on an online platform, so long as they are between the ages of 18 and 35, have the requisite qualifications and have bank accounts through which they are paid N30, 000 each month

So far, there are 200,000 graduates in the program, and a further 300,000 verified graduates awaiting deployment. There are also 10,000 non-graduates in the N-Build category being trained in 23 States. There are a further 10,000 non-graduates awaiting to come on board pending the audit of skill centers in 15 states and explorations in terms of fit. The non-graduate category are paid N10, 000 per month, through the period of 3 months of training and 9 months of apprenticeship. They are also provided with tool boxes and training, to enable them continue with their chosen vocations, as they exit from the training.

Eight technology hubs are also in the pipeline, with the Humanitarian Hub in Adamawa State having taken off, in partnership with ICRC and the Adamawa State Government. 1,500 applicants submitted innovative ideas out of which 250 of the best were selected to make a pitch in Abuja and Yola. After those two events, 25 of them were selected to participate in a boot camp, commencing 28th of May in Yola, Adamawa State. At the camp, they would be mentored, coached and taken into the field to test and fine tune their ideas, after which 6 of the best would emerge winners by the 4th of June, with financial support and FGN backing to actualize their dreams. The private sector, and indeed the public, are encouraged to support the social entrepreneurs at their efforts to resolve our many challenges. The Lagos Climate Change hub is due to commence in June, in collaboration with the World Bank and the Lagos Business School, aimed at engaging interested applicants on solutions around clean energy. The six regional hubs would essentially follow the same pattern as the Humanitarian Hub. The Technology Hubs are designed to encourage creative and innovative minds engage with addressing our many concerns, providing the opportunity for the private sector as well as Governments to engage and harvest the ideas, at scale.

National Home Grown School Feeding Program (NHGSFP)

The school feeding program, which targets vulnerable school-age children in public primary schools, has succeeded in providing nutrition supplementation for over 8 million children. The program has also significantly increased and encouraged school enrolment. The children on the programme are also being weighed, enumerated and dewormed, with the plan to link them to the nearest primary health care centres for community health insurance. As of May 2018, we have 87,261 cooks feeding 8,260,984 classes’ 1-3 pupils in 46,446 public primary schools across 24 States.

The program has also created opportunities for others in the value-chain, inclusive of cooks, suppliers and smallholder farmers thereby easing unemployment and stimulating the economy.

National Cash Transfer Program (NCTP)

The cash transfer program, which serves to alleviate poverty, is a classical social welfare initiative involving transfer payments targeted at extremely poor and vulnerable households. A Social Register is being developed in every State, with information of the poorest and most vulnerable of our citizens, as the foundation for targeting only the poorest of the poor for the cash transfers. Coordinates relating to educational, health, connectivity, payment service provider and access roads in each of the communities are also being collated and shared with the State Governments, towards the strategic provision of critical infrastructure in the communities towards graduating communities out of poverty.

The Register has been developed in 24 States, with 10 more slated to come on board before the end of June. Payment of beneficiaries currently spans across 20 States of the federation, involving 297,973 caregivers from each of the households. Almost 3000 community facilitators have been trained to mentor and support each of the caregivers in the poor households.

Government Enterprise and Empowerment Program (GEEP)

The program objective is to provide interest free non-collateral based micro-loans to 1.66 million micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs). This is inclusive of traders, women cooperatives, market women, enterprising youth, farmers, and agricultural workers. This cohort of business owners generally lack access to loans within the financial sector, necessitating intervention to attain sustainability and growth. So far, there are 298,790 loan beneficiaries across all the States of Nigeria, with 370,675 awaiting the release of funds.

Conclusion

The programs so far have impacted 8.9 million direct beneficiaries against an initial target of 9.76 million. The job creation and youth empowerment, National Home Grown School Feeding Program, National Cash Transfer Program and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Program have attained 13.1 per cent, 149 per cent, 29.7 per cent and 17.9 per cent performance against initial target respectively, with a positive impact on many more indirect beneficiaries as part of the value chain of our activities.

Whilst the government has been heavily criticized for not delivering on its social promise, there just might be evidence to show that this is far from the truth and a fact check would have sufficed for the naysayers.