With 120 million people living below or only just above the poverty line, 10% of the world’s mothers who die in childbirth and 16% of the world’s out of school children, the scale and depth of development challenges in Nigeria are significant. Despite the re-establishment of democratic civilian rule in 1999 and decades of impressive economic growth, the vast potential of Africa’s most populous nation has yet to be realised. The proceeds of economic successes, largely from the oil sector, have not been shared evenly, with the concentration of poverty in the North contributing to marginalisation and a surge in violence that has killed thousands and devastated the lives of many millions more. Women and girls, particularly in the North, face substantial barriers to empowerment in the form of cultural, social, political and economic disadvantages. Oil wealth has sustained an exclusive political system driven by patronage, and has undermined the accountability of elites to citizens. While the election of the reformist President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 gives cause for optimism, there is an urgent need to deliver necessary reforms to the economy and structures and processes of governance.
In accordance with the scale and importance of these challenges, the Department for International Development (DFID) has significantly increased its allocation to Nigeria in the last 15 years. Funding for 2016–17 is £266 million, up from £20 million in 2001–02, making it DFID’s second largest programme in Africa and third largest in the world. Nigeria fared poorly on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—achieving only two of the eight goals set out by the United Nations in 2000. DFID’s increasing prioritisation of Nigeria is thus highly important, particularly given the setting of new global targets in the form of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) last year.
DFID made it clear in evidence to our inquiry that its strategy in Nigeria is focused on helping the Nigeria Government to do better with its own resources. Strengthening the capabilities of the Nigerian authorities through smart, flexible and politically sensitive programming is the most effective way to foster more effective and accountable governance and pave the way towards an eventual exit from aid. Supporting the entrenchment of the democratic process, developing a deeper understanding of Nigeria’s political economy, using DFID data and expertise to foster accountability and strengthening the Nigerian judiciary are areas of existing operations that DFID should prioritise.
We view DFID’s spending in Nigeria as tackling some of the most important development challenges of the 21st Century. Given its economic potential and rapid population growth, successful development in Nigeria is a global priority. We consider DFID assistance to be important to stability and prosperity in West Africa and thus to the UK national interest.
Basic services such as health and education have not been given the priority they deserve by the Nigerian Government. DFID needs to act as a catalyst to counter these deficiencies. We are particularly alarmed by the poor prospects for Nigeria’s achievement of SDG 4 on inclusive and quality education. The inability of the public school system to cater for all children may necessitate some reliance on private sector provision in certain cases. However, DFID should ensure that expanding the public sector remains its priority and that support for the private sector conforms to the principle of “no one left behind”. DFID supports two major education projects in Nigeria. ICAI praised the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) and criticised the Girls’ Education Project (GEP) in a 2012 report. Evidence to our inquiry supported this assessment. We welcome DFID’s commitment to girls’ education in the North, and though we heard of some modest improvements against a low baseline, we remain concerned to see the Girls Education Project’s (GEP) consistent failure to deliver twelve years after the first phase was first launched.
The lack of access to electricity constrains the economic potential of millions of Nigerians, yet we have concerns about the way in which DFID is attempting to deliver power sector reforms. While there is likely to be a net benefit to the privatisation of the sector, we are not convinced that the impacts of associated price increases for many poor Nigerians have been sufficiently researched and that measures to mitigate these impacts are adequate. We would also like to see evidence of a more cohesive and complementary strategy between DFID and other parts of Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) that have a stake in private sector development in Nigeria.
Despite the operational challenges caused by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East and other areas of instability, DFID has continued to deliver both development interventions and humanitarian aid by remaining flexible and responsive to the changing security situation. DFID should continue its support to the North East with two urgent priorities:
(1) Ensure that, unlike in previous years, humanitarian needs are fully funded; and
(2) Ensure that it is strategically well placed to intervene in reintegrating displaced persons and re-building communities as soon as possible.
1 In 2014, Nigeria spent 0.9% of GDP in public expenditure on healthcare compared with 3.2% in Botswana and 4.2% in South Africa. While the complexity of spending across the different tiers of government make it difficult to make similar cross-country comparisons for education, past reports have indicated that public education spending is low relative to other sub-Saharan African countries, particularly at the primary level.
25 July 2016