By; YUSUF ISHAKU GOJE
The Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Uba Sani, in response to the subsidy removal of premium motor spirit (PMS) towards ameliorating the accompanying hardship, held a meeting on the 5th of June, 2023, with the leadership of the labor unions and set up an Ad-Hoc Committee on Palliatives. Since then not much has been heard up until the recent interview the Governor granted to Arise TV on the resolution of the National Economic Council (NEC) chaired by the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shattima.
Some of the resolutions as reeled out by some Governors were to allow State governments to enumerate a new beneficiary register for cash-transfer after questioning the integrity of the current social register, cash-award policy for public servants for six months, payment of outstanding liabilities (pension and gratuity), funding SMEs, food security among others.
However, the Governor in the interview emphatically differed from the opinion of some of his colleagues such as Governor of Anambra State, Professor Charles Soludu, who during the press briefing suggested that NEC questioned the integrity of the State Social Register and insinuated it will be jettisoned. Interestingly, the Governor’s position on the need to update the register aligns with the pillar on Investing in Human Capital in his SUSTAIN blueprint, under the segment on Social Welfare, specifically, number four on Social Investment, where it clearly states, “Our Social Investment Office will be resourced to expand provision of support for the poor and vulnerable. The State Social Register is providing a credible database for the objective disbursement of targeted interventions for the people who are most in need of it.”
If the Governor had aligned with the position of his colleagues after the NEC meeting, that would have been a u-turn and jettisoning of a register described in his SUSTAIN blueprint as credible? It is instructive that the Governor campaigned on the mantra to continue and consolidate on the efforts of his predecessor, who had worked with the support of development partners like Save The Children International towards strengthening the Social Protection system in the State. The State government under former Governor, Mallam Nasir El-rufai, invested public funds running into millions to scale the State Social Register coverage from nine pilot local government areas initiated by the then Federal government to the entire twenty three.
In fact, the former Governor, reportedly made a public statement, in 2021, during the Social Protection policy launch that Social Register MUST be used in programmes designed to assist the poor. Despite the current Governor’s clarification in the interview, many stakeholders are still worried that upon his resumption of office, he did not immediately sign into law the Social Security bill initiated by his predecessor. More so, many are now disturbed that there might be minimal value-for-money in the utilization of the N1.9 billion allocated for Transfer-Payment to Individuals under the Kaduna Social Investment Office (KADSIO) and total allocation of N15.4 billion for social protection in the approved 2023 State budget due to the absence of the proposed Social Security law.
The Governor is right that the current register made up of 1.05 million poor and vulnerable households (PVHHs) made up of about 3.9 million individuals captured in the State Social Register under the State Operations Coordinating Unit (SOCU) needs to be speedily cleaned and updated. Similar concern raised by the Governor that 70% of the rural population in North-west is completely financially excluded needs to be further looked at. Kaduna State has one of the worst cases of financial exclusion and poverty in Nigeria. The Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access survey of financial inclusion in the state shows that 62% of adults in the State do not use regulated financial services, with most of them being women, people in rural areas, farmers and micro entrepreneurs.
Likewise in terms of poverty, the Multidimensional Poverty Index Survey, 2022, by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), shows the State, though ranked in the middle of the ladder, is in terms of number (8.04 million) only second to Kano State (10.51 million) in Nigeria. Based on Senatorial District, zone one has about 3.8 million, zone two has 1.5 million and zone three has 2.6 million multidimensional poor. More worrisome is that the State is among four States in Nigeria that is home to one quarter of the 22.85 million poor children under five. As of 2020, according to the NBS, income poverty is about 43%, while the 2019 baseline poverty as captured in the State Development Plan (SDP, 2021-2025) is 84.9%. Definitely, a combination of COVID-19, subsidy removal, high inflation and persistent insecurity have increased the number of poor and vulnerable in the State.
In view of this disturbing reality and the Governor’s clarification, it is hereby recommended that the Governor should concurrently consider the expansion of the Ad-hoc Committee on Palliatives to include wider stakeholders especially civil society accountability mechanisms, mandate the development of a comprehensive implementation plan in alignment with the State Social Protection policy using a multi-sectoral and stakeholders approach, the accelerated cleaning and updating of the State Social Register, timely cash-backed budget releases, review and re-presentation of the Social Security bill to the State House of Assembly for speedy passage and assent into law, and strengthen the State’s financial inclusion communities of practice to accelerate capturing of the unbanked in the state.
Lets engage, ask the right questions and hold the government accountable.
Yusuf Ishaku Goje is an Active Citizen