The year 2020 has been a peculiar year for most nations and sub-nationals in the world. The peculiarity is in respect of the unpredictable public health diseases and civil unrest as well as economic recession that greeted the world in the wake of the first quarter up to the last quarter of the year.
In Nigeria, and by extension Cross River State, the COVID 19 pandemic surged in its first and second quarter of the year putting many out of employment, especially those in the informal sector and some from the formal Private sector. Many witnessed depleted household incomes which triggered the poverty level as economic activities came to what experts described as its lowest ebb.
Just when the government was working hard to curtail the effect of the pandemic on citizens and the economy, a civil unrest erupted i.e. #ENDSARS protest which began as a peaceful protest against police brutality but was hijacked by hoodlums. The aftermath of this hijack led to the wanton looting and vandalization of both public and private assets across different states in the country with Cross River inclusive.
During the COVID 19 pandemic and the ENDSARS protest, aggregate demand and supply of goods and services significantly reduced. As a consequence, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined consistently for four consecutive quarters, thus the country slipped into recession.
From COVID 19 through ENDSARS to recession, in deed it was a peculiar year
Mitigating the effect of these health and socioeconomic shocks on the state as well as the federal government has triggered a new focus on development especially in the rural areas. There is a growing perspective that development should be put in the hands of those who needs it the most, such that they are allowed to part-finance, implement, monitor and contribute to the sustenance of the assets that would be created.
In Cross River State, the government has laid a strong foundation for inclusive growth and development through the establishment by law of the State House of Assembly, the Cross River State Community and Social Development Agency since 2009. It is the implementing Agency for the World Bank assisted Community and Social Development Project (CSDP) which currently operates in 30 states of the federation and the FCT.
Using the least cost Community Driven Development model that puts the community on the drivers seat of their development, the Agency has made tremendous impact on the lives of many communities and vulnerable groups since its inception in 2009. While the three-fold uncertainties revealed the weaknesses of states in the country in terms of preparedness to respond to shocks, the CSDP provided the needed resilience in beneficiary communities across the state especially in areas of access to social services like health, education, water and sanitation.
Working with the communities and the vulnerable groups, the Agency from inception disbursed three billion, two hundred and twenty two million, three hundred and seventy one thousand, one hundred and fifteen naira only (N3, 222,371,115) to fund 1064 micro projects in line with the felt needs of the beneficiary communities and vulnerable groups across the 18 LGA of the state.
Out of these, 1061 micro projects accounting for 99.72% were completed and put to use while 3 micro projects were cancelled. The multisectorial micro projects include health post with furnishing and equipping, solar powered boreholes, school and science block with furnishing and equipping, market stalls, culverts, mini bridges and sanitation and environmental management facilities like VIP toilets.
The impact of these interventions which has been trickling in long before the COVID 19 pandemic contributed largely to the state response to COVID 19 especially in key areas of improving access to health care services, water and sanitation. Specifically, in the health sector, the Agency approved and funded 191 micro projects including the construction, furnishing and equipping of health post with staff quarters for health workers. In these health post, over 5,200 persons are receiving medical treatment.
In the water sector, Agency approved and funded 177 boreholes most of which are solar powered from inception in 2009 to September 2020. Whereas, it also assisted several communities and vulnerable groups with the construction of education related micro project such as classroom block with furnishing, science laboratory with equipping accommodating 26,830 peoples in primary and secondary schools across the state.
The outcomes generated from these interventions have been far reaching in the fight against poverty and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2019, an independent outcome evaluation report for the CSDP additional financing which began in 2015 was conducted and the results speaks volume about the impact of the Community and Social Development Project (CSDP) in the state. In the health sector for instance, women attending antenatal increased by 92.9% while female and male children immunized increased by 128.25% and 132.46% respectively in beneficiary communities across the state. Furthermore, the average distance and time taken to access health centres reduced by 74% and 54% respectively.
In the water sector, access to potable water improved significantly as cost of water in beneficiary communities and vulnerable groups reduced by 88% while average distance and time to fetch water also reduced by 77% and 71% respectively.
In education sector, the Project in the state recorded a 108.02% and 189.12% increase in school enrolment for male and female pupils in primary schools respectively. Whereas, enrolment for female secondary school children also increased by 40.37% in beneficiary communities. Furthermore, the average distance and time taken to get to school reduced by 53% and 43.27% respectively.
The factors that influenced these positive outcomes and success story of the Agency has been three-fold. The first is the use of the Community Driven Development (CDD) model that puts the target beneficiaries on the driver seat of their development giving them opportunity to actively participate through part financing, planning, needs identification and monitoring. Empirical evidence abound that this model is at least 3 times cheaper than the conventional supply driven development model.
The second and also very important is the unwavering commitment and tremendous support provided by the state government particularly under the able leadership of His Excellency, Sir Ben Ayade. The government ensured constant flow of funds from the statutory 0.5% deductions from LG account on a monthly basis as well as provided policy guidance with due regards to the state government development strategy.
The third and very key is the quality of leadership and the team work exhibited by members of staff, Management and Board of the Agency in the State since inception. The operations of the Agency is currently being managed by Mr Fidel Udie as Ag. General Manager.
As we work therefore with eyes on the future, any effort to sustain the gains of the past such that will see to improvement in access to social infrastructure services especially in the rural areas should be encouraged at all levels. To achieve this, policies should be skewed to favour the vulnerable groups and indigent communities across the state. The process to doing this is aptly captured in the words of Philippine Y. C. James Yen:
“Go to the people
Live with them
Learn from them
Plan with them
Work with them
Start with what they know
Build on what they know
Teach by showing, learn by doing
Not showcase but a pattern
Not odds and ends but a system
Not to conform but to transform
Not relief but release” *(NAN)