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In line with its primary goal to reduce world poverty, the World Bank’s poverty reduction strategy which focuses on middle income and poorest countries is set to improve living standards in Nigeria. Twenty Nine states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja are going to benefit from the World Bank’s $140 million grant intended to support the efforts of the government in the sustainable development of the country. This was disclosed by Malam Ahmed Yussuf Usman, General Manager of the Niger State Community and Social Development Agency while briefing newsmen in Minna on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.

Usman explained that to benefit from the programme, each participating state would determine the “poorest of the poor communities” based on certain indices provided by the World Bank. Aimed at improving the living conditions of people in poor communities, the criteria for being considered for the grant includes the level of existing infrastructure in the communities within each participating states, the number of educational institutions, health facilities, roads and number of pupils enrolled in schools.

The benefiting states are also required to counter fund the programmes with N50 million every year. Although the first phase of the programme would end next year, the World Bank has given assurance that the scheme would be extended for another five years “because of its positive impact on the participating communities and its ability to reduce poverty among the people,” Usman added.

The Bank is optimistic that its low-interest loan strategy is a catalyst for achieving sustainable development as it greatly supports the implementation of development programs across the country. While this fact is obvious, it is arguable that the Bank’s effort to reduce poverty in Nigeria can only have minimal effect owing to the fact that the country’s poverty index stood at over 50 percent as at October 2018. This is attributed to a number of factors which include but are not limited to poor knowledge of investment strategies, unemployment, corruption, violence, underutilization of resources, inequality, absence of economic diversification, education system, poor saving culture, etc.

Considering the high rate of poverty in Nigeria, it is apparent that the number of communities the World Bank’s funding is targeted at would be large. This raises concerns as to how much impact the scheme can make given that the intending beneficiaries could outnumber the total fund amount available. Also, how effective will the selection process be? During his press briefing, Usman highlighted that the Agency is facing the challenge of “how to meet the huge number of requests from communities”, adding that they had received well over 1,000 requests already.

Noting that the Niger State government has the potential of drawing N1.2 billion, Usman disclosed that the government has so far collected N778 million, in addition, to counter funding the project with N150 million in the last three years. 120 micro projects have already been executed in 20 local governments participating in the scheme, some of which included the sinking of boreholes, provision of electricity, construction of schools, women empowerment and building the capacities of junior and senior staff of local governments.

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