Social Intervention Programs in Nigeria: How Can They Be More Effective?

Photo by Dami Akinbode on Unsplash


Chimere Iheonu, Ekene Ogude

Date Published

May 25, 2023



Several social intervention programs have been introduced in Nigeria, but they have had limited impact on individuals, households, and businesses. Generally, social intervention programs are designed to enhance the standard of living and encourage social welfare, especially for those at the lower end of the income spectrum, who are frequently the most vulnerable and marginalized. These programs are regarded as crucial for lessening poverty and inequality while promoting social inclusion.

In the past eight years, the Buhari-led administration has implemented intervention programs aimed at tackling poverty and inequality. Prior to the pandemic, the most prominent of these programs was the National Social Investment Program (NSIP), which incorporates the N-Power program, the national home-grown school feeding program, and the TraderMoni, among others. The coronavirus pandemic and its associated economic shocks saw the implementation of additional intervention programs, including the conditional cash transfer program and the survival fund. These interventional programs were aimed at cushioning the effects of the pandemic on vulnerable households and businesses. However, despite the fact that the government has spent around 3.5 trillion on them, a number of stakeholders have disclosed that these social intervention programs have not been as effective as they should be.

Current data show that 133 million Nigerians are multidimensionally poor. This represents 63% of people living within the country. Furthermore, Income poverty has also been  creeping, growing from about 70 million in 2016 to 88.4 million in 2022. These statistics paint a dim picture of the lack of effectiveness of social intervention programs and other government policies.

What goes wrong with the social intervention programs in Nigeria? 

Social intervention programs have been limited in their effectiveness, largely due to the poor quality of institutions in Nigeria. Furthermore, there is the problem of the lack of a comprehensive database to capture poor Nigerians, as well as the poor monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of these intervention programs. These issues are placed in better perspective below.

Poor Quality of Institutions

A key reason why intervention programs often fail to meet their objectives is due to the poor quality of institutions in Nigeria. Widespread corruption means that funds that were intended for social intervention programs end up being diverted for personal gain, resulting in little or no impact on the intended beneficiaries. An example that illustrates this occurred during the height of the pandemic, when relief aid intended for Nigerians was poorly distributed. Instead, many of these items were hoarded and later used for personal gain. Also, when institutions lack accountability, there is often little incentive to ensure that intervention programs are achieving their desired outcomes or even take corrective action when problems arise.

Limited Coverage of the National Social Register (NSR)

The NSR currently has a total of 53 million registered individuals in a country with about 133 million multidimensional poor people. This means that more than half of the poor are not included in the register, thereby limiting the effectiveness of social intervention programs. In 2021, the Nigerian government also set up the rapid response register, which targeted small businesses, street vendors, petty traders, low-wage employed individuals, and households in slums. This register, just like the NSR, has had challenges associated with coverage, limiting effectiveness.

Poor Monitoring & Evaluation

The aforementioned issues, along with poor M&E, have resulted in poor implementation, execution, and effectiveness of intervention programs in Nigeria. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has acknowledged the huge gap in M&E and has called for a comprehensive M&E framework in Nigeria. The importance of M&E for the success of social intervention programs cannot be overemphasized. M&E is crucial to ensuring that intervention programs are successful, as it helps to identify weaknesses in program design and implementation, track progress towards program objectives, and identify opportunities for improvement.

What is the way forward? 

Accountability and Transparency: For intervention programs in Nigeria to be effective, it is crucial that they have clear and well-defined rules and guidelines governing program participation, eligibility, and the distribution of benefits. Additionally, there should be transparency in the selection and distribution of beneficiaries so that the utilization of funds is clearly visible and accessible to the public. By implementing these measures, it can help to build trust and accountability among stakeholders and ensure that these programs are delivering support and assistance to those who truly need it.

Improve M&E: The efficacy and impact of social intervention programs should be routinely examined and reviewed. This might help to pinpoint problem areas and guarantee that initiatives are producing the desired results.

Comprehensive Targeting: Comprehensive targeting techniques should be used in effective social intervention programs to identify and give priority to the most marginalized and vulnerable people and households. To do this, it may be necessary to collaborate closely with community leaders and members to collect data on household demographics, resources, and other indicators of poverty, then utilize this data to identify and rank those who are most in need.

Strong Partnerships: Strong relationships between governmental entities, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders should be an element of social intervention initiatives. With the assistance and buy-in of important stakeholders, this can help guarantee that programs are well-designed, effectively implemented, and responsive to the needs of beneficiaries.


Social intervention programs in Nigeria have faced challenges in achieving their desired outcomes, primarily due to factors that impede their effectiveness. One critical issue is the poor quality of institutions within the country, which hinders the proper implementation and execution of these programs. Additionally, the limited coverage of the NSR highlights the necessity for the government to broaden its scope in order to encompass a larger proportion of impoverished and vulnerable individuals and households. For the successful realization of intended outcomes, it is imperative for the government to prioritize enhancements in M&E processes. By addressing these crucial factors, Nigeria can enhance the effectiveness and impact of its social intervention programs, ultimately leading to improved socioeconomic conditions for its population.

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