Yinka Kolawole writes that the recent declaration of Osun State as the leading state in the provision of Social Protection Programmes by the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund, is a boost for the project, which is aimed at eliminating poverty
The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) recently declared Osun State the leading state in the provision of Social Protection programmes, just as they commended former Governor Rauf Aregbesola, for his commitment to social, educational and economic development of the state.
With the Osun Social Protection Law 2018, which was signed into law on November 20, 2018, it made the state perhaps the only state that has a Social Protection Policy and a law for Social Protection among the 36 states. This was one of the last policy documents executed by Aregbesola before he handed over.
Nigeria's representative of UNICEF, Mr Mohammed Fall said the various social security programmes of the Aregbesola's administration have attracted the attention of the world because of its impact at eliminating poverty.
Fall who spoke at the launching of 'Osun Social Protection Policy and Law' by the then governor disclosed that "Osun has become a leading state in the provision of social protection programmes in the entire country, hence the interest of UNICEF in supporting the state in the funding of the programmes".
The Osun Social Protection Policy and Law makes it compulsory for every government in the state to implement social protection programmes for the people.
Represented by Mr. Andrew Buffon at the event, Fall explained that Osun is always presented as an example to the world whenever the issue of social protection in Africa is being discussed, advising that all efforts must be made to lift poor families out of poverty line for the good all.
He urged government at all levels in Nigeria to take issue of social security serious as a means of reducing crime and other social vices in the society.
Fall said: "I think many governments all around the world needs to take a cue from what Osun is doing as a state in terms trying to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor in the society.
"It is time for governments to begin to take social protection programmes serious, we must try as much as possible to begin to lift poor families out of poverty line and give them a sense of belonging.
"The way Osun is doing is the way to go; Osun is a good example to the world in terms of implementation of social protection programmes. Osun has become a leading state in guarantying social protection which is why UNICEF is always ready to support the state."
In his address, former Governor Rauf Aregbesola stated that it has always been his vision to provide happiness for the generality of the people, stressing that it is even more gratifying that he is leaving the law as a legacy.
The policy document was unveiled by the former governor of the state Chief Bisi Akande in company of Aregbesola; the incumbent governor, Mr Gboyega Oyetola, General Alani Akinrinade and UNICEF representatives in the country, among others.
Aregbesola who pointed out that the social protection programmes of the administration were mapped out to take care of different forms of vulnerability, explained that his administration gave out more than N4billion as non-interest loans to women traders to improve their standard of living.
He said his administration has been focused and resolute to wipe out poverty from Osun through the government's six-point integral action plan, which has been the major guide to achieving the set objectives.
According to Aregbesola, "our style of leadership is not just by accident, it has been my joy since childhood to bring happiness to the generality of the people at the same time.
"Since the beginning of this administration, we have been focused and resolute to terminate poverty in Osun through our six point integral action plan and we rolled out different social intervention programs to take care of different forms of vulnerability in society.
"It is worthy of note that many of our social intervention programmes where targeted at women and children to take care of their needs. What we have done with this law is to codify social protection policies into law, it means that whoever emerges as governor in Osun at any point in time has no choice than to implement social protection programmes for the people.
"It is a great thing of joy to me that I am leaving this law as a legacy to the state, with this law vulnerability among women and children in the state will be lessened and an improved life is guaranteed for them in future."
Speaking, the Director General, Office of Economic Development and Partnership, Dr Charles Akinola, said the implementation of social protection programmes became necessary for the Aregbesola's administration because of the need to improve the lives of the down trodden in the state.
Akinola who described the Osun social protection programmes as a fight against poverty in the state, said the administration of Aregbesola has always been determined to banish hunger and poverty in the state.
Veritable Tool for Sustainable Development
In his goodwill message, Hamidou Poufon the Chief Social Policy, UNICEF Nigeria during the launch of the law said it has made Osun perhaps the only state that has a Social Protection Policy and a law for Social Protection among the 36 states.
He said Osun has a long-standing record of social development having outperformed all other states as per the Multidimensional Poverty Ranking report of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative 2018 that ranked Osun at first place nationwide. He said also in social protection, the state of Osun has maintained a good lead in the implementation of social protection programs in the last 10 years.
Poufon added that social protection is increasingly viewed as an important policy component of sustainable development and has become a veritable tool for advancing the development agenda. He said it provides support for particular social groups, reduces gender inequality and break inter-generational transmission of poverty, if administered appropriately.
Within Nigeria and abroad, he posited that several of Osun's social protection programs have attracted attention, more especially the Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Program (O-MEALS), which is the longest continuously running school feeding program in Nigeria; and the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES), which the World Bank subsequently recommended for replication in other states and at the federal level.
Additionally he said the State of Osun is one of the first states to start implementation of the federal-level Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme and was selected as a pilot state for the World Bank-funded Youth Empowerment and Social Support Operation (YESSO).
He said: "Given the State of Osun's record and performance in social safety net investments, social welfare, and social protection, it has become a leading state, continually proving its commitment to enhance residents' resilience and livelihoods.
"UNICEF has collaborated with the state since 2015 in the documentation of the wide array of programs (at least 21 interventions) implemented despite the economic situation nationwide. This document is being disseminated today as the Overview of Social Protection Programs in the state of Osun
"Other output of the collaboration includes the intra country study tour which brought representatives of 15 states and the Federal Government to Osogbo in 2017 for a study tour of the programs that promote social protection, social welfare, economic development, and social services."
He further noted that since the state launched the social protection legislation, there is need to pause and reflect on the journey so far; to take stock of what needs to happen in the future and very importantly to address the following major challenges observed during the study of the programs: like challenges with barriers to program entry, program coordination and lack of coherence due to the absence of a cross sectoral MIS and governance platform.
He called for establishment of short term and ad hoc interventions operated by parallel institutions, while advocating the need to urgently identify additional pathways for lifting the poorest families out of poverty.
He said increase resilience is recommended in Identifying ways to better link social protection, social development, and social services programs in the State of Osun, which will help to maximise outcomes for the current programs and provide a cost-effective platform to scale up social protection systems