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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 December 2007, 10:22 GMT
Welfare deal for Nigeria's poor
Woman carrying a bowl of yams
Most Nigerians live in poverty
The Nigerian government is launching a welfare scheme to help poor families.

They will get monthly payments for one year on condition that they send their children to school and get them immunised against childhood illnesses.

About $70m has been set aside for the programme, to be administered by the National Poverty Eradication Programme.

Provided they satisfy the conditions, at the end of the year they will receive a further one-off grant to help them start up a small business.

The BBC's Chris Ewokor in Abuja says previous anti-poverty schemes have failed because of corruption.

National Coordinator of NAPEP
It is un-Nigerian for any person to be left in misery
Magnus Kpakol, NAPEP
Despite Nigeria's oil wealth, most of its 140 million people live in poverty.

NAPEP national coordinator Magnus Kpakol emphasised that this is a conditional social safety-net scheme, dependent on the recipient's "good behaviour and engagement in some kind of social good".

Initially the scheme will help some 12,000 households and will be limited to 12 states and the federal capital, Abuja.

NAPEP admits that previous microcredit schemes - small loans from the government repayable only when the client feels able - also failed, largely because people felt less compelled to repay the government than private institutions.

The difference with this scheme is that it involves a monthly grant, alongside a microcredit element of a one-off start-up loan, and most importantly, that it will be delivered through community groups who will make sure it is repaid.

"It is un-Nigerian for any person to be left in misery," Mr Kpakol told the BBC.

He said the government aimed to ensure "that any Nigerian who is so disadvantaged or in such extreme poverty or misery, is given a helping hand to be able to fend for themselves."

But once they had established a small business, or were able to get by, they would be asked to repay their start-up grant so that this money can be "revolved" into helping others.

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