Improving national social protection systems is a major task for all governments. The main purpose of social protection is to reduce poverty, economic shocks and vulnerability, which in turn, helps to determine the country-specific social protection design requirements (ADB, 2003). In Nigeria, there are three tiers of government: federal, state and local. Prior to the current political dispensation, at the federal level, some forms of social protection programmes had been instituted by military and civilian governments.


Past social protection interventions in Nigeria include:

  • Family Economic Advancement Programme
  • Better Life for Rural Women
  • Directorate for Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure
  • National Directorate of Employment
  • Family Support Programme
  • Family Economic Advancement Programme


Obstacles to effective social protection in Nigeria

Most of these programmes are anti-poverty related interventions that faced many challenges in the implementation process. Consequently, their life spans came to an end when the administrations that initiated them left power. These programmes are also not backed by law. They lack continuity, are poorly designed, and there is an absence of a clearly defined policy framework with suitable regulations for poverty reduction. This compromises the implementation of a comprehensive and effective social protection system.


The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS)

The dawn of democratic governance in Nigeria in 1999 began a new chapter in the design and implementation of social protection programmes. High poverty and unemployment, a collapsed economy, and infra-structural decay, incurred by prolonged military rule, prompted the Obasanjo administration to create the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) (Awojobi, 2014). The NEEDS document includes a social safety net component. However, as asserted by Holmes et al. (2017), many of the core social protection interventions would likely exclude the poor, as they are based on contribution (unemployment insurance, health insurance, contributory pensions).

NEEDS is a long-term development policy and poverty eradication scheme. It establishes important micro-economic, structural and social policies that promote economic growth and reduce poverty (Awojobi, 2014). Furthermore, NEEDS concentrates “on wealth creation, employment generation, poverty reduction, corruption elimination and general value re-orientating” (Nwaogaidu, 2012).


The Nigerian government and social protection policy inconsistency:


2007 - 2011

Policy inconsistency has been a major problem in Nigeria. When the Yar Adua administration came into power in 2007, instead of consolidating and continuing NEEDS, the administration introduced the Seven-Point Agenda (Awojobi, 2014). The social protection component of the Seven-Point Agenda includes universal primary education, combating HIV/AIDS, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health care. All the social protection programmes in the Seven-Point Agenda were designed to run alongside the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing chronic poverty and hunger by 2015 (Awojobi, 2014).


2011 - 2015

The Goodluck Jonathan administration, which was officially inaugurated on 29 May, 2011, knew the importance of social protection in reducing poverty and vulnerability. However, the components of this administration’s social protection schemes were based on investing in human capital. According to Barrientos, most social protection structures conceptualise social protection as an investment in human capital (Barrientos, 2010). Social protection plays a role in human capital vis a vis providing food, skills and services, as well as providing access to finance, which empowers households to invest in their own development (Browne, 2015). 


With human captial development in mind, the social protection of Jonathan’s administration included:

a. Graduate Internship

  • 50,000 graduates were aimed to embark on training in firms to improve their skills development towards employment
  • As of 2014, only 4,000 graduates have been placed in the scheme

b. Community Service Schemes

  • 320,000 youths were aimed to be employed in this public works programme
  • As of 2014, nearly 120,000 youths have been engaged 

c. Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN)

  • 26,000 jobs created in different sectors of the Nigerian economy (Transformation at a Glance, 2014, cited in Awojobi, 2014).


2015 - present

The high level of poverty experienced during the reign of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) (1999-2015) gave successor, Muhammadu Buhari, the impetus to introduce a social protection programme that targets the poor during his national campaign. The office of the vice president of Nigeria is responsible for the administration of social protection programmes, while Maryam Uwais is the special adviser for social protection to the president. Table 1 below provides the summary of the Buhari administration’s six social protection programmes, while table 2 outlines some of the social protection programmes initiated by the federal, state and donor agencies within the current political space.


Table 1: The Buhari Administration’s six social protection programmes and targets:

1. Teach Nigeria: 500,000 graduates to be hired as teachers

2. Youth Employment and Empowerment: 300,000-500,000 youths to be engaged in skills acquisition and vocational training

3. Conditional Cash Transfers: One million extremely poor Nigerians will receive N5, 000 ($16) monthly

4. Homegrown School Feeding: One meal per day for 5.5 million public primary school children, nationwide

5. Free Education for Tertiary Education:100,000 students of science and technology, engineering and mathematics

6. Micro-Credit Scheme: N60, 000 ($192) one-time soft loans for one million market women, 460, 000 artisans and 200, 00 agricultural workers, nationwide

Source: Ojo, 2016                   


Table 2: Select social protection programmes by federal, state and donor agencies:

1. In Care of the People (COPE)

2. Ambassador’s Girls Scholarship Programme (AGSP)

3. Ekiti State Social Security Scheme for Senior Citizens

4. Maternal and Child Health Care Programme

5. Osun State Elementary School Feeding Programme

6. National Poverty Eradication Programme (NPEP)

7. Bayelsa Child Development Account: Savings, Training and Rewarding Savers (CDA Stars)

8. Lagos State Employment Trust Fund

Source: Author’s compilation


Social protection in Nigeria today: challenges

Poverty and inequality are so high in Nigeria, that the current social protection strategy is facing many challenges (Holmes et al., 2012).  Some of the core challenges impeding the delivery of social protection schemes in Nigeria include:

  • Policy inconsistency
  • Lack of funding
  • Low coverage
  • Poorly design social protection schemes
  • Corruption
  • Lack of accountability
  • Issues of targeting
  • Lack of data indicating who are the poor


Going forward

Committed efforts are required from all stakeholders in delivering sound social protection programmes to beneficiaries and overcoming these challenges. The high level of poverty that is being experienced in Nigeria under democratic rule requires effective social protection schemes (Mukoro, 2013). Due to the challenges associated with the design, implementation and delivery of social protection programmes in Nigeria, Umukoro (2013) argues that concrete efforts are needed towards improving the social protection plans and enhancing the structural problems linked to social protection service delivery in Nigeria.

It is argued that for current and future social protection programmes in Nigeria to have a significant impact on beneficiaries, some factors need to be taken into consideration:

  • Capacity assessment
  • Increased funding
  • Legislation on social protection
  • Information management
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Programme linkages
  • Targeting
  • Monitoring and evaluation

It is when these factors are taken into consideration that social protection programmes can effectively meet their aims and objectives, and improve and protect the lives of beneficiaries. In sum, social protection programmes can indeed have a positive impact, as is highlighted in emerging evidence, if they are effectively designed, monitored and funded.



Asian Development Bank (2003). Social Protection: Our Framework, Policies and Strategy. Accessible:

Awojobi, O. N. (2015). “Cultivating Policy for Development in Nigeria: An Appraisal of President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda (2011-2014)”. International Research Journal of Humanities, Engineering & Pharmaceutical Sciences, (9) 1-11.

Barrientos, A. (2010). Social Protection and Poverty. Social Policy and Development Programme Paper Number 42. Geneva: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.

Browne, E. (2015). Social protection: Topic guide. Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham. Accessible:

Daka, T. (2017). School Feeding Programme takes N6.2b in 14 States. Guardian.


Holmes, R., Akinrimisi., Morgan, J., and Buck, R. (2012). Social protection in Nigeria: Mapping programmes and their effectiveness. The Overseas Development Institute, UK. Accessible:

Ojo, J. (2016). Buhari’s N500bn social intervention programme. Punch. Accessible:  

Nwaogaidu, J. C. (2013). Globalization and Social Inequality: An Empirical Study of Nigerian Society. Wien: LIT.

Umukoro, N. (2013). “Poverty and Social Protection in Nigeria”. Journal of Developing Societies, 29(3), 305-322. doi:10.1177/0169796x13494281


This blog post is published as part of the Ambassador Series, which presents insights into social protection around the world from the viewpoint of our Ambassadors, a group of international online United Nations Volunteers who support the online knowledge exchange activities, networking and promotion of

Going forward


Social Protection Programmes: 
  • All programmes
Social Protection Topics: 
  • Financing social protection
  • Governance
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Programme design and implementation
  • Social protection systems
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Poverty
  • Nigeria
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
The views presented here are the author's and not's