The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, on Friday lamented that despite the economic growth witnessed in Nigeria, extreme poverty still pervades across the length and breadth of the country.
Ahmed, who stated this in Abuja at the launch of the Africa Social Safety Nets Report, said the complexity of poverty in Nigeria has led government to introduce measures aimed at mitigating it.
She noted that President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration introduced social safety nets interven tions to reduce the impact of poverty and social-economic vulnerabilities in Nigeria.
According to her, “Spending on social safety nets is an investment that helps to fasten the growth of any economy. It is important for government to invest in infrastructure but it is even more important to invest in soft infrastructure, that is social safety net, because without human investment, all other investments are at the risk of failure.”
She noted that the present administration had in the last four years invested tremendously in healthcare, education, transport, and social investment programme.
She revealed that the budget for these critical sectors in 2014 was over 840million, adding that the allocation has risen to over two trillion as of 2018, apart from annual N500billion allocated to Social Intervention Programme since 2016.
As a strategic government’s poverty reduction programme, the Minister announced that about 10 million children across the country are beneficiaries of Federal Government’s National School Feeding Programme.
Ahmed added that School Feeding Programme of the Federal Government has spill-over effect, as it has created jobs, boost agricultural productivity and enhanced school enrolment of children.
She underscored the need for Nigeria to continue to work for long-term solutions to poverty, adding there was also the need to build human capital resilience.
Earlier, Mr. Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank Country Director said the Report launched was one of the analytical document designed to assist the Federal Government in lifting million of Nigerians from the scourge of poverty.
Benmessaoud explained that the World Bank has been supporting the implementation of social safety nets in Nigeria, adding that the Bank has supported the building of National Social Register in 29 States of the federation, with over five million people on the Register.
He therefore tasked the Federal Government to invest more on Social Safety Nets to reduce poverty and graduate the poor from poverty to skills acquisition and economic empowerment.