The World Bank has said the current National Social Registry and Rapid Response Registry only cover 44 per cent of 18.4 million households in Nigeria.

It asked the current administration to expand the register rapidly to accommodate more families before the commencement of the proposed N5,000 transfer.

The present government, led by President Bola Tinubu, had proposed the use of the social register as a framework for its sustainable cash transfer program to alleviate the suffering caused by many Nigerians by the removal of the fuel subsidy and the foreign exchange management reforms.

Although many Nigerians have expressed reservations over the transparency of the register, government officials have maintained that vulnerable citizens were captured in the register and would not be left out of the World Bank-financed cash transfer scheme.

In its latest report, Nigeria Development Update, titled ‘Seizing the opportunity’, the Bretton Woods institution stated that the government must expand social protection for the most vulnerable. It added that government should also propose a compact with citizens, which directly links the phased-out subsidy with compensatory cash transfers to build public support and trust.

The report partly read, “The government can leverage the phasing-out of the petrol subsidy to establish a new social compact with Nigerians. Establishing a redistribution mechanism that uses a portion of the fiscal savings to protect lower-income households could minimise the negative impact on consumer welfare while still yielding a large net gain in government revenues.

“The National Social Registry includes 15.7 million households (over 60 million individuals) from rural and urban areas in almost all Local Government Areas. The Rapid Response Registry contains 2.7 million households from urban areas making a total of 18.4m families. Together, they cover 44 per cent of all households in Nigeria. The register must be expanded rapidly to increase coverage.”

The bank further advised the full publication of the cash transfer amounts, eligibility criteria and transfer mechanisms to enable the media and civil society to monitor compliance, adding, “Mobile wallets can be set up for recipients who do not already have one, allowing everyone to receive transfers digitally.”

The latest projection by the Washington-based lender showed that the number of poor Nigerians would rise to 100.9 million, following the removal of fuel subsidy if the government failed to compensate vulnerable citizens for the subsidy removal.

According to the World Bank data, 89.8 million Nigerian were poor as of the beginning of this year. It noted that additional four million Nigerians became poor between January and May this year, raising the figure to 93.8million.

The report also noted that Nigeria’s inflation had risen to a 17-year high, and had been driven by factors like the Central Bank’s funding of budget deficit, previous multiple exchange rates, devaluation and trade restrictions.

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