DFID's Programme in Nigeria - International Development Committee Contents


124. The size and diversity of Nigeria and the scale of the challenges it faces makes it a very difficult country for DFID to operate in. As Dr Mustapha told us:

    I think it is a difficult and complex situation but it is a job that needs to be done, both in the interests of Nigerians and, let it be said, in the interests of the British public as well. Should the country unravel the whole of West Africa is gone and the consequences will ripple right across the globe. It is an engagement that is necessary and not always easy but I think needs to be done.[249]

The enormity of the need in Nigeria is clear: northern Nigeria has the worst human development indicators of any region in the world outside conflict and post-conflict areas.[250] Gareth Thomas was clear that the "dominant factor" behind DFID's continued engagement in Nigeria was the need to make progress on the MDGs: "just the huge numbers of poor people who need assistance in Nigeria itself".[251]

125. However, a number of the people whom we met during our visit emphasised the need to be realistic about what could be achieved by donors, particularly given that aid represents only 1% of GDP. It was evident to us that DFID's work is having an impact, albeit on a small-scale and in a limited number of States. Where success can be demonstrated, there is potential for it to be replicated and scaled up by both the Federal Government and the more effective State governments, who are now showing greater capacity to do this. Nevertheless, change is likely to be incremental and slow so long as the lack of Nigerian leadership continues.

126. There are positive signs. The Federal Government has achieved macroeconomic stabilisation through fixing a benchmark price for oil and saving the excess revenue rather than spending it, avoiding the boom-bust cycles of previous regimes. The huge debt relief package agreed for the country in 2005 has freed up resources to spend on progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, which should bring desperately needed improvements to basic services such as education and health care. Nigeria's non-oil average growth rate increased to 8.1% between 2002 and 2007, up from 3.5% in 1997-2000 (although DFID estimates that this growth rate needs to average 15% between 2010 and 2015 to achieve the first MDG on poverty reduction).[252]

127. The global economic crisis, and in particular its impact on oil prices, threatens this progress. Nigeria has to find ways to make its economy less dependent on oil, to encourage a vibrant and diverse private sector, and to create meaningful employment for its large numbers of young people, particularly young men who may otherwise be tempted into criminality and violence. The assistance DFID and the World Bank plan to offer in this area through the Growth and Employment in States programme will be valuable.

128. It is vital that Nigeria's oil wealth is used systematically to fund the country's development. We believe that it is right for donors to provide aid to Nigeria at the relatively low level of 1% of GDP to encourage reform, but it would not be sensible to raise the volume of aid to that received by other poor African countries while corruption and poor governance remain such significant barriers to poverty alleviation.

129. The obstacles to development, particularly weak governance, corruption and lack of capacity in management of public finances and delivery of services, make it doubly important that DFID ensures that its funding is not misused or wasted. The Minister told us that "our concerns about the effectiveness of government and the government systems" affect the way DFID operates in Nigeria.[253] Its written evidence elaborates: "DFID has designed its programme with a view to protecting aid funds from corruption. No DFID money is spent through Government of Nigeria systems. All programmes are tightly monitored and audit processes are in place."[254] NGOs also recognise the potential risk to their programmes which corruption presents and avoid direct transfers of funding.[255]

130. DFID's programme in Nigeria is its fourth largest in Africa and its allocation for 2009-10 is £120 million. This is a significant amount of money and we would find it difficult to support this level of funding were it not for the high level of poverty, and the country's size and strategic importance. These factors have persuaded us that, despite the challenges and the inevitably slow progress, DFID should maintain its commitment to Nigeria. The numbers of poor people and the appalling lack of progress on the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those on maternal and child mortality and on gender equality, mean that global development targets will only be met if there is significant progress in Africa's most populous country. A healthy realism about what is achievable should be combined with a continued emphasis in DFID's programme on building the capacity of the Nigerian authorities to deliver the services they are responsible for out of their own resources. The Federal and State Governments should be encouraged to learn from successful projects, to replicate them and to disseminate good practice as widely as possible.

131. The scale of the UK's contribution and the weaknesses in Nigeria's systems demand that DFID take the greatest care to ensure that maximum benefit is derived from its funding in terms of improving the lives of Nigerian people. It should have robust mechanisms in place which enable it clearly to demonstrate, to the Nigerian people, to UK taxpayers and to Parliament, that funding is not misused, diverted or wasted as a result of deficiencies in Nigeria's own structures. DFID should also continue to work with its donor partners to apply sustained pressure on the Federal and State Governments to address these deficiencies and to focus their efforts on effective delivery of services and a fair, transparent and accountable use of oil wealth.

249   Q 17 Back

250   Ev 88 Back

251   Q 174 Back

252   Country Partnership Strategy 2009-13, para 1.1; see also Ev 54 Back

253   Q 158 Back

254   Ev 60 Back

255   Q 55 Back

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Prepared 23 October 2009