From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Governor Nasir Ei-rufai of Kaduna State has a tall dream. His dream is not only to protect the poor and vulnerable and make life less stressful for them, his ultimate desire is to eradicate poverty in the state.
To this end, the state has launched a Social Protection Policy (SPP). It is believed that, with the launch of the SPP, the challenges of poverty and social exclusion bedevilling the lower class are on their way out, thereby erasing the socio-economic dichotomy between the poor and the rich.
This policy was formally approved by the State Executive Council in the second half of 2020, which is a demonstration of government’s belief that a sub-national government should have a coherent statement of the values and principles governing its efforts to protect the poor and vulnerable.
It is believed that in the absence of a well-established and properly coordinated social protection system, the poor and vulnerable are left to bear the harsh realities and conditions unassisted.
For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic, with all its socio-economic disruptions, has shown how much despair the poor and vulnerable go through on a daily basis without social protection policy in place.
At the launch of the SPP, El-rufai said: “The social protection is pursued in an inclusive and sustainable manner. This Social Protection Policy will be supported by a Social Protection Law, to ensure that government delivers on its promise; a well-articulated implementation plan and results framework have also been developed.
“As a party, one of our core objectives in APC is to protect the interest of farmers, workers, women, youth and persons with disability, leaving no one behind. In Kaduna State, our governance agenda since 2015 has been anchored on promoting equality of opportunity. We have focused on expanding access to education and healthcare as the fulcrum of human capital development. This government has made education in the state free and compulsory for the first 12 years. We have also enacted the Child Welfare and Protection Law. Our public healthcare system offers free services for pregnant women and children younger than five years.
“In 2018, we launched the Kaduna State Women Empowerment Fund (KADSWEF). The fund began by disbursing N200milliuon to women across the state as MSME loans. Over 7,000 women benefited from the scheme and have since begun repaying their loans. Our officials have visited over 3,000 of these beneficiaries to assess their trades and we are happy with the results.
“The Kaduna State Executive Council approved measures to widen the digital payment infrastructure in order to help improve financial inclusion, especially for rural dwellers. Financial exclusion is a reflection of poverty and it complicates the access of poor people to financial services. A feasibility study we commissioned in 2020 revealed that 64% of Kaduna State residents do not have bank accounts. An overwhelming majority (89%) of persons without bank accounts are female.
“To cater to the health needs of the populace, the Kaduna Contributory Health Insurance Scheme Law was enacted, and the Kaduna Contributory Health Management Agency (KADCHMA) was established to manage it. This scheme was designed to widen the net of coverage and to ensure that all residents of the state, including the poor and vulnerable have access to quality healthcare. Beyond that, Kaduna State provides free medical treatment of children under the age of five and elderly citizens over the age of 65 across the state.”
He also spoke on the minimum wage, stressing: “In September 2019, Kaduna State became the first government to pay the new national minimum wage on N30,000 monthly. As part of our commitment to ensuring that no one is left behind, we also raised the minimum monthly pension to N30,000 for workers who retired on the old defined benefit scheme. The state began implementing the new contributory pension scheme on January 1, 2017.
“In the coming weeks, a Social Protection Agency will be established by government to ensure that all social protection programmes in the state are delivered in an integrated, inclusive and sustainable manner that optimizes resource utilization and achieves high impact. The agency will utilize an Integrated Social Protection Management Information System, which will serve as a data repository to ensure that the poorest of the poor are prioritized in programme planning and benefits. This will also ensure the effective monitoring and evaluation of programme impacts on targeted poor and vulnerable residents of the state.
“The government is aware of the enormous cost of providing social protection coverage for the poor and vulnerable. Yet, through this policy, we seek to guarantee minimum social protection floors for every poor and vulnerable person. For this purpose, the Kaduna State Government welcomes partnership with all key stakeholders (donor agencies, private individuals, NGOs, and CSOs) in the social protection space. Only in this sense will it be possible to achieve the laudable goal of this policy, which is to achieve a Kaduna State where poor and vulnerable persons live productive and dignifying lives.
“The task ahead is great, yet looking back at what we have achieved, we have reasons to believe in the possibility of actualizing the objectives of the policy. For this purpose, I will like to recognize and particularly appreciate the active support of Save the Children International through the Child Grant Development Programme (CDGP) in strengthening social protection in the state. Special thanks goes to members of the State Steering Committee on Social Investment for this major milestone, and all donor partners, NGOs, and Civil Society Organisations, who have assisted the state in one way or the other especially in the area of social protection.”
El-rufai used the occasion to take a critical look at the dwindling socio-economic situation in the country, saying: “Nigeria is going through trying times. We have the largest number of poor people anywhere in the world. Five percent of the poor people probably live in Kaduna State. Yet, whenever a programmme is designed to help the poor and vulnerable, we resort to a slot mentality in which important people are allocated slots, instead of targeting those poor and vulnerable people who deserve it. This is unfortunate. We must move away from slot mentality and use our social register to offer targeted support to those that truly need it.”