The UK Department for International Development (DFID) is allocating £120 million to Nigeria for 2009-10, up from £20 million in 2001-02. The Committee supports this level of funding on the basis of the regional significance of Nigeria to West Africa, its close ties with the UK, and the scale of poverty in the country, but it believes it would not be sensible to increase aid while corruption and poor governance remain such significant barriers to poverty alleviation.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. More than half of its 150 million people live in poverty despite the country being a major oil producer. One in five children dies before the age of five. Nigeria is not on track to meet any of the Millennium Development Goals. If Nigeria does not make faster progress towards the MDGs, these targets stand little chance of being met globally by 2015.
The Chairman of the Committee, The Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce MP, said:
"The scale of the need in Nigeria is clear. We were concerned to learn that some of the States in northern Nigeria have the worst human development indicators of any region in the world which is not affected by conflict.
"The maternal mortality rates are particularly shocking. Nigeria has 2 per cent of the world’s population but suffers 10 per cent of global maternal deaths. New strategies have to be found to ensure that maternal health services are available and that cultural obstacles which prevent women gaining access to them are overcome."
Nigeria is not an aid-dependent country: aid accounts for only 1 per cent of GDP. However, governance, public finance management, and delivery of basic services all suffered under 30 years of military rule.
The Committee supports DFID’s approach of focusing on building the capacity of Nigeria’s federal, state and local government to provide the services which its people need and to ensure proper systems of accountability. DFID is also working with the World Bank and other development partners on employment generation.
The Chairman said:
"Nigeria is an ethically diverse country with a long history of political instability. It also has large numbers of young, unemployed men who are at risk of turning to violence and crime if they cannot find jobs. DFID’s Growth and Employment in States (GEMS) programme is a welcome first step in addressing unemployment.
"Its initial target of 100,000 new jobs is a promising start. But given the size of the population and its rapid growth, it is important that the GEMS programme acts as a catalyst for the Nigerian authorities and the private sector to work together to create many more employment opportunities."
Nigeria’s dependence on oil wealth has made it vulnerable to the volatility in oil prices over the last year. The impact of falling prices is compounded by the instability in the oil-producing Niger Delta region where the poor conduct of oil companies and the failure of State authorities to use their substantial resources to benefit their citizens has allowed violence, kidnappings and abuse of the rights of local people to flourish.
The reports says that resolution of the conflict and instability in the Delta must be a priority for the federal government, supported by donors, including DFID.
The Chairman said:
"Nigeria has been described as an oil-ruined country. Oil has distorted the economy and discouraged growth in other sectors. Competition for a share of oil wealth dominates politics, feeds corruption and diverts attention away from improving governance and providing the basic services which Nigerian people need.
"The Nigerian Government needs to do more to ensure that oil wealth is used to fund the country’s development."
Whilst there has been some welcome progress, it is important that DFID is realistic about what it can achieve: change is likely to continue to be slow and incremental until the Nigerian authorities provide stronger leadership for reform.
The poor standards of governance also make it crucial for DFID to have robust mechanisms in place to ensure that funding is not misused and that its impact is not blunted by the weakness of domestic structures.
DFID must ensure that it is able to demonstrate that its investment is making a worthwhile contribution to improving the lives of Nigeria’s poorest people.