Reasoning through social protection programmes

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It is time for leaders to start reasoning beyond greed and accumulation of wealth through corrupt practices and other methods of malfeasance to avoid the eruption of mob action due to poverty and threats of starvation.

Over the years, Nigeria has witnessed huge and seemingly growing insecurity problems, a rapid increase in the poverty rate, high inequality and concurrent threats of instability. The recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics affirmed that 40 per cent of Nigerians live below the poverty margin and more than two million are internally displaced. These and many more challenges pose serious threats to national development and progress.

In a bid to address these problems, social protection is increasingly seen as a policy tool to address such developmental challenges if those in leadership positions care. It is generally conceived as a set of interventions which aim to address poverty, vulnerability and risk. Various administrations since the fourth republic have implemented various social protection interventions with the aim of lessening poverty, economic shocks and vulnerability in both rural and urban areas.

The 2004 National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) marked the beginning of social intervention programmes. However, NEEDS did not achieve the desired result due to weak statistics on poverty, particularly on income poverty. The YarAdu’a led federal government in 2007 also introduced another set of social protection programmes such as Universal Primary Education, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health care. Those programs were designed to run concurrently with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing chronic poverty and hunger by 2015. These interventions were also disrupted as a result of the demise of YarAdu’a in 2009.

The Jonathan administration also recognized the importance of social protection intervention by introducing Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN) and Community Services Schemes with human capital development in mind.
The ineffectiveness of the aforementioned programs led the Muhammadu Buhari administration to implement a new set of intervention programs such as Youth Employment and Empowerment, Conditional Cash Transfers, Home-grown School Feeding and Micro-Credit Scheme for market women.

However, the various programmes seem to have failed to buffer the vulnerability and poverty margin in the country as there are no significant decrease in poverty and vulnerability rates. This could be attributed to poor design and uncoordinated manner of the interventions with no clear-cut policy framework driving the social protection goals.

In other words, social protection programmes are basically ad-hoc and uncoordinated. Another major problem facing the social protection programs in Nigeria is lack of data to indicate those that are vulnerable. Social protection without an appropriate database is synonymous to fetching water with a basket. It is extremely essential to create an appropriate database at local government level to enable it to identify the needy and vulnerable.

This would accentuate proper evaluation and monitoring of the social protection programs. A comprehensive social protection policy framework would clarify institutional roles and responsibilities which will guide social protection design and implementation at the state and federal levels.

This would give room for proper implementation and continuity of the programs when the administration that initiated them vacates power.

Political commitment for social protection at the national and state levels is a pre-requisite for stronger commitment for social protection at the local level. Encouraging broad-based political commitment to social protection needs to be built at both the federal and state levels, given the relationship between the two in terms of designing, funding and implementing programmes.

While government awareness of the need and importance of social protection programmes is rising, there is an urgent need to significantly increase fiscal resources available for social protection programmes to address increasing poverty and vulnerability levels. Given the strong global evidence suggesting that social protection can play a vital role in the fight against poverty and vulnerability, and more generally in building human capital, empowering youth and women, and protecting households against shocks and natural disasters, there is a need to expand social protection programs with smart technical, political and institutional features as documented and diligently researched blueprint of a Bauchi State 2023 gubernatorial hopeful, Hon. Farouk Mustapha.

In the said blueprint, Farouk Mustapha stated that the relative newness of social protection programmes in Bauchi state and Nigeria, there are currently little empirical evidence on their impacts and effectiveness at a local or aggregate level while not heaping the blame on the current government in power in Bauchi state.

Mustapha said: “Continuous monitoring of the performance of social protection programmes would provide an evidence-based framework to see if progress is being made, and where amendments or modifications are needed to improve system performance. It is when these factors are taken into consideration that social protection can effectively meet their aims and objectives, and improve and protect the lives of beneficiaries”.

Muhammad is a commentator on national issues

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