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  • Writer's pictureNsedu Awatt

A Review of Poverty and Social Protection in Nigeria


Social protection can be defined as policies and programs designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting efficient labor markets and reducing exposure to risks while enhancing their capacity to protect themselves against hazards and interruption/loss of income. Asian Development Bank (ADB) outlined five significant elements of Social protection which, when properly implemented, can contribute to the eradication of poverty in the labor markets, social insurance, social assistance, micro and area-based schemes to protect communities and child protection[1]

In Nigeria, many social protection policies and programs are to reduce the lifelong consequences of poverty and exclusion. Examples of such programs include; cash transfers which cover child grants, school meals, skills development, etc.[2]


In recent years, the Nigerian government, with support from UNICEF, has sought to develop social protection instruments to tackle the country's high poverty rates. To achieve this, the government has prioritized pro-poor expenditure, primarily resulting from debt relief (Debt Relief Gain, DRG) negotiated with the Paris Club in 2005. Resources from the Paris Fund are allocated to government-led conditional cash transfer programs focusing on health, education, and economic productivity and maternal and child health fee-waiver programs, alongside supply-side interventions in health, education, water, and sanitation. Despite this, Government’s overall expenditure on social protection remains at 1.4%, which is very low compared to other developed nations.[3]

Social safety net transfer programs can lift Nigeria from poverty if adequately implemented. Data from World Bank shows that an estimated 36% of the impoverished have been impacted by social safety nets (cash, in-kind transfers, social pensions, public works, and school feeding programs). The report also revealed that only 45% of these people have had their inequality lowered and the poverty gap reduced.

The National Social Protection Policy is a transformative tool for addressing poverty, unemployment, social and economic vulnerabilities, inequality, exclusion, and other threats to sustainable development with the mandate of providing a framework for promoting social justice, equity, and inclusive productive growth. However, the government of Nigeria spends a relatively low proportion of its budget on the social sectors, compared to other sectors and countries, with education and health accounting for only 12% and 7% of expenditure, respectively (Hagen-Zanker and Tavakoli, 2011).[5]

The growing population continues to determine Nigeria’s economic, social, and political progress. For this Social Protection Policy to be achieved, Government needs to harness available resources into investments in people and optimize human capital potential.[6]

Other social protection programs implemented by the Nigerian Government over the years are; Conditional cash transfers for girls' education, COPE, Maternal, and Child Health Care (MDG-DRG funded), and Poverty alleviation program, amongst others.


In light of the emergence of the social protection sector in Nigeria, and to develop a practical social protection agenda, Government needs to develop a comprehensive social protection policy framework to provide clear institutional roles and responsibilities.

The government is responsible for laying out numerous social protection options and facilitating national dialogue. The government should promote the coordination of activities among all levels and sectors of Government, and the government should generate a political commitment to address poverty.

Knowledge exchange should be facilitated on the different types of social protection interventions.[7] Social protection should cover Social insurance (pensions, unemployment insurance, and disability benefits), Social assistance (cash and in-kind transfers and care services), and Labor and economic inclusion programs (training and public employment services).

The government should allocate more resources to finance and scale up new and existing social protection programs in the country. Public financial management, spending, and expenditure should have efficiency, transparency, and accountability. In conclusion, the Government should create collaboration with development partners if the desired positive change is to be achieved.

References [1] SPappendix.pmd ( [2] Social protection | UNICEF [3] Owing to the federal structure and the lack of a computerized budget system, it is tough to get comprehensive budget data (both budget and actual expenditure) on a federal, state, and local level for Nigeria. To compensate for data gaps, we have utilized estimation techniques to present a complete picture. The full report discusses data sources, methodology, and limitations in more detail. Social protection includes all expenditures on women, poverty, and social development affairs [4] Safety Nets Overview ( [5] Hagen-Zanker, J. and Tavakoli, H. (2011) ‘Fiscal space for social protection in Nigeria’..’ ODI Project Briefing 61. London: Overseas Development Institute. [6] Nigeria National Social Protection Policy | [7] Social protection in Nigeria: an overview of programmes and their effectiveness | ODI: Think change

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