As a part of its efforts to build strong civil society groups on Social Protection in Nigeria, Save the Children International has organised a five-day capacity training for 20 members of the National Social Protection Forum (NSPF) on the annual budget processes, social protection budget lines tracking.
Social protection is a set of policies and programmes designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by way of deliberately promoting efficient labour markets, diminishing people’s exposure to risks, and enhancing their capacity to protect themselves against hazards and interruption or loss of income.
Speaking on the sideline of the training in Zaria, Kaduna State, Senior Policy and Stakeholder Advisor for Social Protection Programme, Save the Children International Office, Abuja, Mr.Yimave Gyanggyang said, the training became necessary in the face of recent economic policies in the country which may increase vulnerability among Nigerians and the need for effective implementation of budget lines for Nigerians who are already vulnerable or those who may find themselves vulnerable in days, weeks, months and years to come.
He said “over time, we have been working with civil society organisations in Nigeria to form what we call NSPF and they have been doing a lot around issues relating to social protection leading to a lot of States having their policies and laws in place.
“Going forward, we want to see how we can build the capacity of this forum to participate in budget and budget processes concerning social protection.
“So This training hopes to enhance their capacity to be able to engage the government in formulation of budget around social protection, implementation of this budget and even tracking the budget expenditure”, he added.
Chairman, Civil Society Coalition for Taraba State, Dr. Joseph Gimba described the training as timely and helpful
“To be sincere, the budgeting on social protection is huge but uncoordinated. For whatever reason, the budget does not trickle down to the citizens as it should. Ordinarily, if the money budgeted is released, it will have a positive impact on the citizens.
“If you look at the recently released budget transparency index it indicates that the level of participation, accountability and transparency are very low apart from Kaduna and one other state, other states are performing badly when it comes to the issue of social protection.
“So, with this training for a few States, it requires a lot of funding to extend this training to other states to engage government on these processes because there is a need for us to create local contents in what we are doing”, he said.
A trainee and Chairman, Kaduna Social Protection Accountability Coalition (KADSPAC), Ms. Jessica Bartholomew said “beyond effective engagement in budget processes, this training will help us to identify better ways to engage the government side to improve the budget, prioritisation of social protection programmes and strengthening of relevant MDAs.
“Kaduna State budget is unique in terms of terminology as we have put them in papers. This means if we are to rate our budgeting in the State base on what we have on online and offline papers, we are performing well above average. But in reality, to us as a civil society base on the amount of money that trickles down to our poor and vulnerable citizens at the end of each budget year, we are below the average.
“For example, how can we say we are doing well in reality in a situation where we have 13 percent implementation of social protection budget lines? This means we are not doing well in providing shocks for poor and vulnerable citizens among us and as civil society, we have to keep learning and pushing until we see the desired changes in the interest of people in these categories”, she remarked.
Secretary, Zamfara State Social Protection Platform, Engr Yusuf Yahaya who is also a participant in the training, noted that though civil society and some MDAs are having cordial working relationships, others are yet to open space for such engagement.
“In Zamfara, there is a cordial relationship among the civil society organisation working around social protection in terms of collaboration, support and sharing of ideas. But the challenge in some of the MDAs is that some of the information that could help to engage better are not provided by the officials.
“Another challenge we are having is that there are budgets for social protection in the state but sometimes, they are not domiciled in the MDAs that are supposed to implement them. For example, we have seen a budget that is supposed to be implemented by the State Primary Health Care Board domiciled in Ministry for Local Government Affairs.
“So in general evaluation of social protection budget irrespective of where they are captured, is not well coordinated and because it is not well coordinated you cannot apportion percentage to it.
From our angle as civil society, more need to be done by Zamfara State Social Protection Council which is mandated to coordinate and harmonise all social protection programmes and interventions in the State so we can have one picture of the challenges and prospect of implementation.
“Therefore this training will go a long way in building the capacity of both state actors and none state actors. For those of us who are participating, it has opened our mind to some of the issues with which we can engage government in terms of advocacy, sensitisation, enlightenment and even pushing for legislation that will improve social protection in our State”, he opined.
At the end of the training, recommendations for the 2024 budget phase would be developed to enable the civil society groups who are working around social protection to be fully abreast of the history of the 2024 budget for proper engagements on its implementation as it affects poor and vulnerable Nigerians.