A review of the Social Safety Nets (SSNs) in Nigeria shows that all the six geo-political regions have had one active intervention or the other. For instance, cash transfers for the elderly and children were available in some states of the federation. Similarly, conditional cash transfer is operational both as federal and state anchored. This started with NAPEP In Care of the People (COPE) CCT and included the Maternal and Child Health CCT. The labour intensive/ job related SSN was most common in Nigeria with so many organizations implementing it in one form or the other. There had been in existence since 1987 the national Directorate of Employment, but National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), and more recently the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) were also major players in the labour intensive programmes. There were also state mounted vocational training initiatives. Price subsidies interventions that related more to agriculture (fertilizer and other inputs) as well as petroleum products.
In spite of the plethora of interventions in Nigeria, there was no appreciable impact on the poor and vulnerable going by available statistics.
Some of the factors that affected the effective implementation of social safety nets programmes of the past include:
• Lack of national SSN policy platform
• Lack of Coordination
• Duplication of efforts
• Poor targeting
• Poor database (including absence of baseline)
• Poor monitoring and evaluation
• Lack of impact evaluation
The last decade has witnessed an increase in the importance and attention given to social protection in the development agenda of many countries. Evidence from social protection schemes have shown a wide range of positive impacts on development, including poverty alleviation, access to healthcare and education and to some extent, increased investments and productivity.
Despite strong economic growth, over 60 percent of the Nigerian population still live below poverty line. The report from the United Nations (UN) on Nigeria’s Common Country Analysis (CCA) described the country as one of the poorest and unequal despite its vast mineral and human resources. Poverty, inequality and instability are strongly influenced by limited economic opportunities, spatial inequities, ethnicity, age and gender inequalities.
In recent years, the Nigerian government and its development partners have sought to develop social protection instruments as a mechanism to tackle the high rates of poverty and vulnerability in the country and to support progress in both the economic and the social spheres. As such, social protection is now emerging as a policy objective, which over the years, resulted in the creation of poverty reduction programmes by the federal government; including the Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) and the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP).
These programmes were expected to improve the standard of living among poor and vulnerable Nigerians. However, these programmes yielded minimal result, which could be attributed to lack of synergy, weak coordination and duplication of efforts, amongst others. Besides, there is a dearth of knowledge and evidence available for the Nigerian Government to learn from and implement a successful social protection programme.
In 2016 the government designed the National Social Safety-Nets Project (NASSP); aimed at dedicating national resources to improve the lives of its citizens and strengthen the role of social protection in helping to distribute resources more broadly. In line with this and to support the federal government to reduce poverty in the country, the World Bank in 2016 announced that up to five million people among the poorest and most vulnerable will get access to social safety nets programmes by 2021; through a $500 million International Development Association (IDA) credit approved by the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors. To match this fund, the Nigerian Government also invested $1.3 billion of its own budget to the National Social Safety- Nets project (NASSP).
To ensure proper coordination and support to NASSP and to avert the issues in the previous programmes, the National Social Safety Net Coordinating Office (NASSCO) was established under the Office of the Vice President through the supervision of the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment Program. The mandate of NASSCO is to build a data base of poor and vulnerable households (PVHHs) in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) using appropriate targeting mechanism in the identification of the poor and vulnerable households. In addition, it is to set up standards to support Social Safety-Nets interventions in the country amongst others. The database under reference could be used for planning and decision making nationwide. This database could also be accessed by development partners for social interventions.
To guide coordination of social protection interventions, the Federal Government has put in place National Social Protection Policy. The Policy commits to dedicate national resources to improve the lives of its citizens and strengthen the role of social protection in helping to distribute resources more broadly. The Policy also outlines a gender-sensitive and age-appropriate framework to ensure a minimum social floor for all Nigerian citizens. Its specific objectives include contributing to reducing poverty, enhancing human capital, promoting sustainable livelihoods, and protecting households from shocks.