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‘Lagos State social protection policy key to eradicate poverty’

The Lagos State Government in collaboration with UNICEF was the first sub-national government in Nigeria to proactively seek to harmonise social interventions through a state social protection policy. In 2013, the Lagos State Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget (MEPB) was saddled with the responsibility of designing a Lagos State Social Protection Policy (LASSPP), whereby a Technical Working Group was set up with adequate consultation of different stakeholders and relevant Lagos State Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Consultations and community dialogues were held with all stakeholders across the three senatorial districts in the state and the inputs collated were used to produce the draft policy.

Social protection

According to the Executive Secretary of the Lagos Civil Society Participation for Development (LACSOP), Dede Kadiri, in 2020, while speaking at a forum aimed at building the capacity of civil society organisations to drive the implementation of the LASSPP, said Lagos State faced the reality of the absence of a social protection policy that should provide a safety net for its teeming poor population when it locked down following the spread of COVID-19. “At the time, Lagos experienced a fast decline into poverty, crime, hunger, and anarchy, as its 40 per cent poor population saw their options for survival decrease,” Kadiri recounted. This situation led to the speedy adoption of the LASSPP in August 2020 and it presented the state with a new opportunity to begin a sincere and collaborative effort to reduce poverty. Commencing the process of a policy development in 2013 and approving such in 2020 is definitely a long time, but the most imperative, at the moment, is the implementation of such policy to achieve its set goals and objectives.

Purpose

Succinctly, the purpose of the LASSPP is to capture all existing and ongoing Social Protection (SP) interventions and formulate new ones with the aim to efficiently coordinate and seamlessly harmonise the various projects and programmes spread across different ministries departments and agencies (MDAs) and sectors, which are achieving various degrees of success.

What is social protection?

According to the LASSPP, Social Protection (SP) shall mean: “A mix of policies and programmes designed for individuals and households throughout the life cycle to prevent and reduce poverty and socioeconomic shocks by promoting and enhancing livelihoods and a life of dignity.” Simplifying this, Ayo Adebusoye, Chairman, Board of Trustees of LACSOP and a board member of the Lagos State Health Management Agency (LASHMA) said SP covers a set of policies and programmes, or tools of social justice targeted at large segments of the population to provide people with ‘stable access to a means of income and quality social services, including affordable healthcare and education, in order to reduce people’s exposure to the risks of poverty and inequality. Also important to note is that SP is meant to prevent and reduce poverty for individuals throughout ‘the life cycle’, which means SP is effective from birth to death. This essentially means that SP interventions shall systematically target all stages of life such that the socio-economic situation in one phase does not transmit to the next phase and cumulative benefits are achieved across generations. Whether this is currently applicable or not is a point of advocacy because there is a policy provision for it already.

LASSPP policy measures

The policy measures are categorised into eight key components which include: Education and Health, Social Welfare and Child Protection, Social Housing, Livelihood Enhancement and Employment Social Insurance Schemes, Social Assistance, Traditional Family and Community Support, and Legislation and Regulation. Broadly, the policy provides for access to quality healthcare for new born, free education for children of school age, school feeding programme at different stages; provision of capital, equipment, assistive devices and skill acquisition programmes for youths; disability and employment trust fund; business supports clinic for entrepreneurs/start-ups, artisans; long and short term skill training/financial assistance for widows, vulnerable and internally displaced persons (IDPs); contributory pensions to citizens at 60 years and above; among others. With the above listed policy measures and many others, the LASSPP, if fully implemented, has the potential of reducing poverty among Lagosians. To ensure that these potentials are not left ‘untapped’, civil society organisations (CSOs) have huge roles to play towards achieving the implementation of the policy.

Citizen-led Inclusive Social Protection

Despite being robust, there are certain challenges that could hamper the implementation of the LASSPP. For instance, Omolara Olusaiye, a Strategy member of LACSOP said: “The policy lacks clear pathways for the inclusion of CSOs in fa-cilitating citizens’ engagement, and does not effectively synergise the multiple efforts of MDAs in the state.”

More importantly, Olusaiye said the policy is currently not publicly accessible making it difficult for citizens to be aware of its provisions and hold the government accountable for implementation. Also, Adebusoye identified some specific challenges of the policy which include: “Limited fiscal capacity; need for adequate funding of budget lines for SP programmes; limited coverage of informal economy; limited control of migrant workers; and limited coverage of workers in the formal employment by the social security scheme; e.g. health insurance, social housing.”

A major challenge also is the non-existence of the LASSPP Implementation Plan with key performance indicators which would guide what is expected of different stakeholders involved. Despite all of these challenges, engaged and informed citizens, through CSOs and community based organisations (CBOs), can drive the change and help the LASSPP to attain its numerous capabilities.

Recently, LACSOP in partnership with LEAP Africa, Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and Women Liberation and Transformation Group (W-LIT) with support from the European Union-Agents for Citizens Driven Transformation (EU-ACT) trained CSOs across Lagos on building an inclusive citizen-led engagement and accountability system for social protection in Lagos State.

The major high points discussed at the training sessions recommended that CSOs and CBOs need to raise awareness of the existence of the LASSPP, Collaborate with implementing MDAs and facilitate the implementation of social interventions to ensure targeted beneficiaries are not exempted, complement the government’s effort to mobilise funds from local and international partners to fund SP interventions. With the reality currently applicable in Lagos and complemented by reports that have shown that despite being Nigeria’s wealthiest state, Lagos has high levels of urban poverty, with more than two-thirds of the state’s population living in informal housing, it is essential that the LASSPP is utilised to eradicate poverty in the state.

 

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