The World Bank has approved loans totaling 237 million US dollars for Nigeria to be used to finance improved health care and poverty reduction in urban areas.
A statement from the World Bank in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, says 127 million dollars will go into the health sector. The remaining 110 million dollars will be used for community-based urban development in selected states. Observers say the loans could not have come at a better time. This is because they're expected to take some pressure off the cash-strapped civilian government of President Olusegun Obasanjo. The administration is currently reviewing this year's budget to cut down on what it considers non-priority projects. Experts say the move became necessary due to lower revenue arising from the reduction in oil quotas by the organization of oil exporting countries, or OPEC. Despite its vast oil and gas resources, most of Nigeria's 120 million people live below the poverty line - a situation blamed on years of treasury looting by successive military rulers and their civilian associates. The resultant neglect of social infrastructure has left the poor in a desperate situation. For example, the Bank says public spending per capita on health is less than five US dollars and as low as two US dollars in some parts of the country. This, according to the World Bank, is way below the 34 US dollars recommended for low-income countries by the World Health Organization. For the community-based poverty reduction project, settlements with more than two million people across seven states are to benefit from the funding program. The objective is to ensure improved living standards "by facilitating adequate, efficient and functional service delivery" in urban areas, especially in the last 20 years. The Bank says this is necessary in view of evidence pointing to a sharp rise in poverty in urban areas. The loans have been granted under concessionary terms enjoyed by poor nations. It is to be repaid over a period of 40 years at no interest charges.