UK MPs highlight scale of Nigeria’s development challenge

27 Jul 16

Tackling poverty, corruption, conflict and problems with basic services in Nigeria is one of the most important development challenges of this century, according to the UK’s International Development select committee.

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A woman cooks in a Nigerian refugee camp

A woman cooks in a refugee camp in northern Nigeria.


British MPs said that, while the country has made progress, the scale and depth of the development challenge in Africa’s biggest economy remains significant, and the UK’s prioritisation of the West African nation is vital to the region and the world.

UK funding for Nigeria has risen to £266m for 2016-17 – making its programme in the country the third largest UK aid programme in the world, and the second largest in Africa.

Nigeria was the continent’s richest nation in terms of GDP last year, and its oil wealth had brought two decades of sustained economic growth until the crash in commodity prices took hold in 2015.

But these economic successes were not equally shared. In particular, poverty is concentrated in the country’s Northern regions, where the insurgency from Boko Haram has also caused a surge in violence and instability.

Overall, Nigeria is home to: 120 million people who live below or just above the poverty line, 60% of whom live in the Northern regions; 10% of the world’s mothers who die in child birth; and 16% of the world’s out-of-school children.

A corrupt political system, driven by patronage and nepotism, also flourished off the back of the country’s oil riches.

Stephen Twigg, chair of the committee, said the election of reformist president Muhammadu Buhari on an anti-corruption ticket last year is cause for optimism, but that the need to support governance reforms “is clear”.

The committee urged DFID to help push governance improvements, including by maintaining support throughout the election cycle, measures to increase accountability, and utilising the large number of UK-trained lawyers, especially in the UK-based Nigerian diaspora, to drive reform in the judicial system.

ActionAid however noted that the report ommitted the need to tackle tax havens, including in the UK's overseas territories, which facilitate much of Nigeria's corruption by enabling money to be siphoned out of the country. 

Twigg also pointed out that in “health, wealth and education, there are great disparities in Nigeria”.

The country is struggling to meet the global targets on such issues, set out in the Sustainable Development Goals, agreed by world leaders at the United Nations last year. Nigeria also fared poorly on the SDGs’ predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals.

Twigg stressed that if the Nigerian government is supported to deliver on basic services such as education and health, the massive population boom projected in the country over the next few decades “could be an asset to a stronger, more stable and prosperous Nigeria”.

The committee’s report, published today, called on DFID to implement a number of recommendations to support the Nigerian government in improving delivery of basic services, as well as inclusive economic development.

DFID’s funding also plays a central role in the reconstruction and security challenges presented by groups like Boko Haram, Twigg pointed out. The report urged DFID to ensure UN appeals for Nigeria go fully funded, take measures to protect education as the militants target schools, prioritise peacebuilding and work to tackle the drivers of conflict.

One area where DFID's funding falls short, according to Ojobo Ode Atuluki, ActionAid's country director for Nigeria, is for violence against women and girls. Efforts in this area are "weak", she said, and "support services for survivors need to be stepped up". 

She called on the UK government to increase support for grassroots services, which help women facing domestic violence, challenge violence's acceptance, push for strong laws and hold the government to account on this issue. 

In Nigeria these programmes are chronically underfunded, and globally they recieve less than 1% of the UK's aid for gender equality, she pointed out. 

"British aid funding to grassroots womens rights organisations must be dramatically scaled up," she stressed, adding that these also play a crucial role in achieving the SDGs. 

The committee said ti believes that successful development in Africa’s most populous country is crucial for the stability of West Africa and a key global priority.

“It is safe to say the committee views DFID spending in Nigeria as one of the most important development challenges of this century,” Twigg added. 



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