The World Bank says it is hopeful the Federal Government can achieve its target of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years, but warned, on Friday, that such an ambitious goal won’t succeed without the execution of policies to keep adolescent girls in school and also provide opportunities in the labour market.
The Country Director, World Bank Nigeria, Mr. Shuabham Chaudhuri, said this during the launch of the policy note on ‘Supporting Adolescent Girls to Kickstart the Stalled Demographic Transition and Harnessing the Demographic Dividend in Nigeria’ which was held in Abuja.
According to him, while it was good to be ambitious, the policy environment for human capital development and job opportunities in the labour market was more crucial.
Chaudhuri said Nigeria was sitting on a ticking demographic time-bomb because governments at both the Federal and State levels have failed to heed previous dire warnings that the country’s exponential population growth might develop into a social disaster.
He said, “At the World Bank, our mission is about helping all of our member countries eliminate poverty and make life better for the bottom half. In the case of Nigeria, that aspiration is very clearly stated by His Excellency the President in terms of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.
“But it is very clear that Nigeria will not succeed in lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty if Nigeria does not manage its demographic dividend and accelerate the transition.
“Nigeria has a demographic time bomb ticking away. Why is that so? The number of jobs Nigerian youths have access to is very small compared to the number of women giving birth to children in the country.
“The single most important thing Nigeria needs to do to manage and realise its full demographic dividend is to keep adolescent girls in school. If we keep girls in school for at least secondary school, they would have matured enough for marriage at 18.”
In a similar vein, World Bank’s Regional Director, (West and Central Africa), Ms. Dena Ringold, said investing in adolescent girls was crucial to reducing child marriages in Nigeria.
She said, “Human capital development is important because it is the foundation for productive life and prepares children to take on the future.
“It is crucial that we invest in adolescent girls in order to increase the number of girls attending school and to reduce girl child marriage. We also need to engage boys since they are critical enablers of girls’ access to quality of life.”
Also speaking, the Emir of Shonga, HRH Alhaji Haliru Yahaya, noted that poorly educated families start procreating early – some girls as early as 10 years of age.
“Patriarchy is a very nasty that keeps women out of the real scheme of things. The issue of early marriage is most nauseating because it is intertwined with culture, religion, and poverty,” he said.
The royal father, therefore, called for a paradigm shift to contain Nigeria’s untamed population growth for the country to achieve demographic transition and harness the dividends.
On her part, the Minister of Women and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, said that for Nigeria to overcome its socio-economic challenges, the country’s present crop of leaders must focus attention on women and girls empowerment.
“When women are empowered, it has a multiplier effect in terms of social and economic dividends for her family and society at large,” she said.