ANEEJ Laments Growing Poverty Rate in Nigeria
BY: Femi Mustapha
The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) has expressed dismay over the growing poverty rate in the country, stating that more Nigerians are multidimensionally poorer now than they are monetarily poor.
The Executive Director of ANEEJ, Rev. David Ugolor, made this assertion in his welcome address at the Conference on Social Investment Programme/Project closeout of the Enhancing Social Protection Programme in Nigeria Project (ESPPIN) held in Abuja on September 19, 2023.
According to him, the 2023 data from the World Poverty Clock has pegged the number of extremely poor Nigerians at 71 million. He emphasized that Nigeria, with its 213.4 million-strong population, faces this stark reality.
He explained that approximately 63% (133 million people) live in multidimensional poverty, according to the National Bureau of Statistics data, experiencing a range of deprivations that underscore the urgency of robust intervention.
Rev. Ugolor stressed that the current economic hardship caused by the impact of COVID-19, the Russia-Ukraine war, and the removal of fuel subsidies that have led to an uncontrollable increase in the dollar-Naira exchange rate have continued to put Nigerians in shock over uncertainties regarding the prices of food, goods, and services due to inflation.
The ANEEJ Executive Director added that this has further pushed more people into poverty, as the statistics of such individuals are yet to be documented, justifying the need for further action and increased investment in social protection programs to cushion the effect of poverty on Nigerians, particularly the vulnerable population.
He observed that to address the increasing poverty level in Nigeria, the Federal Government designed several interventions, such as the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), an ambitious effort aimed at improving the lives of the most vulnerable citizens.
The National Social Investment Programme, according to him, is often lauded as one of Africa’s largest social protection programs and a beacon of hope for millions.
However, he expressed dismay that with an annual allocation exceeding $1 billion, this program transcends mere budgetary figures; it symbolizes our shared commitment to uplifting the less fortunate and creating a stronger, more equitable society.
“Against this backdrop, the Enhancing Social Protection Policies in Nigeria (ESPPIN) Project emerged as a civil society effort to complement the efforts of both the national and sub-national governments in tackling poverty.
“ANEEJ, with support from Bread for the World (Germany) and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, embarked on the three-year project (2020-2023) to enhance the implementation of the Social Investment Programme across Nigeria.
“The ESPPIN project is being implemented in 5 states (Anambra, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Ekiti) and the Federal Capital Territory, and ANEEJ is working with CSO partners such as Community Empowerment and Development Initiative (CEDI), International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre (IPCRC), Awka, Anambra State, Development Initiators, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, and the New Initiative for Social Development (NISD).
“The final external evaluation of the project has just been completed as part of the project Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, and Learning (MERL) processes and will be presented later today.
“The report shows that the ESPPIN project, which began in 2020, has yielded some remarkable outcomes. Aligned with our goal, we played a key role in advocating for the harmonization of Social Protection Bills at the National Assembly and aligning them with the National Social Protection Policy, which we canvassed for a review.
“The project also contributed to the review and approval of the National Policy on Social Protection by the National Economic Council. Notably, the ESPPIN Project’s efforts contributed to social protection policies and laws being enacted in three out of five project states—Anambra, Edo, and Ekiti, showcasing effective policy implementation at the state level,” he said.
Explaining the reason for the gathering, Rev. Ugolor opined that the event would allow the group to interrogate the current development paradigm in the face of the current policy crisis and explore ways of improving the implementation of the National Social Investment Programmes at the national and sub-national levels across the country.
“At the end of the day, we hope to articulate relevant suggestions flowing from the discussions around innovative approaches to improve the implementation of Social Investment Programmes to better achieve sustainable development goals and poverty alleviation in Nigeria.
“The ESPPIN project has demonstrated that when civil society organizations and government join hands, positive change is not only possible but sustainable.
“As we wrap up the three-year project implementation in the next couple of days, we remain dedicated to building on these achievements, fostering collaboration, and creating a brighter future for those who need it most,” he assured.
In his remarks, the National Coordinator of the National Social Safety-Net Coordinating Office (NASSCO), Kabir Abdullahi, said his organization was established in 2016 by the Government in partnership with the World Bank to strengthen social safety nets and social protection systems in Nigeria as a core strategy to help end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity.
Abdullahi, represented by the Communication Manager of NASSCO, Joe Abuku, disclosed that there is a database of 15 million poor and vulnerable households, comprising a population of 60 million people on the social register.
Similarly, the National Coordinator of the National Cash Transfer Office (NCTO), Mrs. Hajara A.T Ahmed, said ANEEJ is a third-party monitor assigned to monitor the disbursement of $322.5M Abacha repatriated funds.
Represented by the Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM) Manager Ichado Glory, she lauded ANEEJ in their roles as a third party, saying the Network assisted with Advocacy across the state and gave strong political support to the cash transfer program.