Seeing poverty statistics drop in Kaduna before May 29, 2023 is my utmost desire – Saude Atoyebi
Saude Amina Atoyebi is the Kaduna State Focal Person for the National Social Investment and Head of Kaduna State Social Investment Office (KADSIO), Kaduna State Government House. In this interview with SOLA OJO, she said in addition to being instrumental to development and approval of Kaduna State Social Protection policy by the State Executive Council, her topmost priorities are to witness the passage of Social Protection law and poverty reduction in Kaduna State before the expiration of the tenure of his principal, Governor Nasir El-Rufai by May 29, 2023. EXCERPT:
From the onset, there are specific objectives for the social protection programmes both at the state and national levels, can you summarise these objectives?
The main purview of our office is to oversee social investment programmes being implemented in Kaduna state. And, the main purpose of these programmes and interventions that we have done is to reduce poverty and vulnerability of the people in Kaduna State. As you may be aware the National Bureau of Statistics and the World Bank data showed that there is over 40 percent poverty level in Kaduna state and the only way we can address it is by putting in place policies, programmes and interventions to lift people from the position of poverty to being able to have sustainable livelihood. In doing so, we have federal government programmes and state-based programmes in the form of contributory and non-contributory programmes. Contributory programmes will be programmes with health insurance and pension. For the other programmes which are social assistance programmes they do not require beneficiaries to contribute any part of money before they benefit and we have a load of them across different sectors. But I think the most popular ones we have are the national social investment which include cash transfer, school feeding programme, the GEEP and the likes. Here in Kaduna state, we are looking at a way to institutionalise these programmes such that regardless of which administration comes afterwards, the programmes become part of the process and administration in the state.
How have you been funding some of these programmes?
We work closely with the federal government and we are grateful to them because a lot of these programmes are actually funded by them. The state government is just to provide support and ensure that things are done the right way. That is where we are and that is how far we have come and like I said the aim of these programmmes is to ensure that in a few years when we will be looking at the statistics which is about 40 percent to see that it has dropped drastically despite the challenges of COVID-!9 and global recession. It is our hope that we will get there.
We want to know where we are in the state with regards to institutionalisation of these programmes to ensure they continue after this government?
We first started with the Social Protection Policy which was done in 2020 and that put the state among the few states in Nigeria that have put the policy in place. Between that time and now, we are working to move it further. Legislation will make it stronger. So, we are working on the draft bill, a lot of consultations are ongoing. Luckily, the governor himself is chairing the law review meetings with regard to social protection. So, we are working hard to ensure the bill provides for the establishment of a social protection agency. We hope that a lot of these social protection programmes will be consolidated into one place rather than having them fragmented, linking both the contributory and non-contributory aspect together so their management is unified and the state has a clear picture of everything being implemented across board. Again, part of the provision of that bill is to have a social protection trust fund which will provide us the required resources needed to implement. You know COVID-19 showed that if we don’t have those pool of resources, you can be taken unaware and you won’t be able to do anything because the way the government works is that you have to budget, you have to have these systems in place so that when the need arises you can draw from them.
Some of these programmes involve money. What are your challenges and how are you managing them to ensure the jobs are done?
To be honest, in implementing these programmes, there have been quite a number of challenges in the sense that the beneficiaries are not drawn from one location because the programmes cut across the 23 local government areas of the state. A lot of the people are in rural areas, very hard-to-reach which make getting in touch with them quite difficult. And of course, money is involved and where money is involved, there is the likelihood of fraud. But thanks to accountability groups like Kaduna Social Protection Accountability Coalition (KADSPAC) with which we have been able to partner very well because the coalition is present across the political wards and local government areas, been able to be our eyes and ears even where government officials cannot be and that provides some levels of check and balance to us where you are able to see and report to us so we can take swift action. In Kaduna, we have over 4,000 public primary schools and all are supposed to be participating in school feeding programmes. Even if the state officials will go to every school, it is impossible in one year – 365 days including the public holidays and weekend which is why we are trying to make the communities own these grogrammes to ensure that people within do not ruin the programme that is supposed to be beneficial to their children, to their households. Security is a challenge in some areas in accessing some of these places. It has also helped us to restrategise for example, where we would have carried cash, we have now digitised the process. This is a win-win for everyone. A lot of people are now financially included and reduce risk as beneficiaries just get alerts on their cards and they are able to use the fund. So far so good, there are challenges here and there but we are making progress.
There are areas where the CBT has not been able to capture poor and vulnerable households due to security issues, what is the hope of such people?
What we have started doing is to work with the local government to provide support within their communities. Usually when our team goes out, we provide security to help them. Now we are devolving that responsibility to the local government because they know their communities and they know the best way to approach certain things. They give us valuable advice and to be honest, a lot of the local government have been very supportive because they understand the benefit to their people. Beyond security, we have not been able to saturate social register due to issues around emerging communities in some political wards. So, it is an ongoing exercise and I don’t think any of these programmes has a fixed termination point. What is most important is to continue updating it so we can have a system in place. In terms of our social register, we are at about 2.6 million at the moment. For most part of 2022, what we have done is to concentrate on updating the data though this data collection started in 2017 and some parts are obsolete while some things that are needed now were not captured. Things like national identity number, bank account, telephone numbers were not captured ab initio.
What improvement would you like to see as both the federal, states and local government continue to see how they can reduce poverty and provide shocks for vulnerable Nigerians?
In the area of improvement, I would like to see there is more engagement in the design processes. Before a new programme is implemented, I know that some of these multilateral organisations use case studies from other countries. But sometimes we have our own unique experiences which if well-articulated right from the planning stage it will help us in implementation. I will like to see more ownership within the local government communities in a way that it is devoid of favouritism
What would you like to be remembered for after May 29, 2023 when this administration’s tenure would be expiring sine qua non?
I would like to see that the law is passed and that it will be a landmark for us because we have institutionalised social protection to a large extent. From the depth of my heart I would like to see poverty statistics drop significantly and see that we have increased in the number of lives we have touched, especially among the poor and vulnerable groups.
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