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Opinion: Accelerating Social Protection In Ondo State By Sola Omoboyowa

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The National Social protection Policy defines social protection as a mix of policies and programmes designed for individuals and households throughout their life cycle to prevent and reduce poverty, avert socio-economic shocks by promoting and enhancing livelihood and a life of dignity. Social Protection is therefore a basic set of social rights derived from human right treaties, including access to essential services (such as health, education, housing, water and sanitation, and others, as defined nationally) and social transfers, in cash or in kind, to guarantee income,  security, food security, adequate nutrition and access to essential services.
As a result of the extreme inequality, social security schemes have been developed and implemented, through private and public initiatives, since the 1970s in Europe and subsequently in other parts of the world.
However, the problem of poverty persists, and this can be proved through the World Bank research that over a billion people, or roughly one in six, live in extreme poverty and 2.8 billion people live in poverty. To remedy this situation and promote socio- economic development, the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination (UNCEB) coined the concept of the Social Protection Framework (SPF). This framework aims to place governments as the chief actor responsible for the promotion of four essential and universal guarantees, which would set the ground for a more comprehensive social protection system.
The Social Protection Framework can hence be described as a socio-economic development policy concept and a crisis management tool. It promotes a solid foundation for economic growth; provides a societal insurance against perpetuating poverty and mitigates the effects of economic shocks and crisis. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Labour Organization Conventions are international instruments that have recognized these essential social rights and have been used as the legal basis to support the Social Protection. This can be said it as a result of the fact that its foundation is on a rights-based approach.
Thus, the Social Protection Floor encourages countries to aim towards a universal standard of social protection coverage. Since the context of each country differs in terms of institutional capacity, political ideologies, financial resources, economic structure and cultural values, each floor is defined by individual countries by building from past social protection programs; social protection promotes a more coordinated design and implementation of social and labour policies in order to guarantee a country-defined basic set of social rights, services and facilities that every person should enjoy, which could be granted through: cash transfers such as a social pension conditional cash transfers ; universal access to health care services; food-based programs, as well as food stamps, vouchers and coupons; school supplies and uniforms; vocational and training programs for the unemployed; price subsidies for food, electricity, housing, or other public service; and other programs.
To insure continuity and sustainability, these strategies build on existing social protection mechanisms and include a mix of contributory and non-contributory, targeted and universal, public and private instruments depending on the social, economic and political context. Countries are also encouraged to develop higher levels of social protection in line with their needs, preferences, and financial capacities. This is evident as a global coalition of United Nations agencies, international NGOs, development banks, bilateral organization and other development partners; the Social Protection Initiative Coalition has been created to support countries with the establishment, expansion and edification of their national social protection.
Strategy for the extension.
The ultimate objective of the Social Protection approach is to build a solid basis that would allow higher levels of protection, than simply the ground floor level. As economies grow and fiscal space is created, social protection systems can and should move up the Social Protection Floor staircase, extending the scope, level and quality of benefits and services provided, overall objective of achieving comprehensive social protection for all. Formulating a package of guarantees as a floor should thus lead to rational cost/benefit-based policy decisions.
Affordability Ensuring a Social Protection for the entire world population represents a considerable challenge, but experiences from countries all over the world and calculations show that good governance of social policies and programme is essential for efficient service delivery, monitoring, evaluation and financial management.
The Coalition of the Social Protection Initiative is a joint UN effort to build a global coalition of
United Nations agencies, international NGOs, development banks, bilateral organisations and other development partners that are committed to collaborating at national, regional and global levels to support countries committed to building national social protection floors for their population. 
Ondo state is poised to avail itself of the benefits accruable from an intervention such as this social protection. This is because a society which is truly desirous of development must not only encourage repeated interventions, such as social protection, but must cease any rare opportunity presented for the benefit of its people. The reason for our excitement should then be discernible. Ondo state is receptive to new ideas which will, ultimately, assist its goal for real development.
The importance of social protection cannot be overemphasized in any nation. The most significant is its inherent potential to combat poverty, vulnerability and exclusion. It affords individuals and households the benefit of coping with and surmounting life challenges. The social protection programmes, are specifically designed to enhance the health and productive capability of the people, have proven to be both effective and proactive means of stimulating both social and economic development. The initiatives, if properly executed, become veritable tools in the process of much-craved national development in Nigeria and the world at large.
Ondo state proudly flaunts her enviable pedigree in social protection, having benefited from a rich redemptive programme of the Action Group under the leadership of the immortal Chief Obafemi Awolowo, starting from the period of semi-autonomous rule, during the colonial era, through the short-lived First Republic. The defunct Western Region witnessed an unprecedented growth and real development as a direct consequence of the conscious, deliberate and insistent attitude geared towards making the people the centre of all positive considerations.
Ondo state was lucky to have partaken in this rich heritage.
The introduction of the Free and Compulsory Primary Education programme in the whole of the old Western Region, comprising all the current South West states, Edo, Delta and some parts of Bayelsa State, some sixty years ago, had profound impact on the people. The excision of the Mid Western Region from the old Western Region had its deleterious effect on that part of the country, caught in the web of the negative politics of the nascent republic. The other part which survived the onslaught of the backward politics played to diminish the perceived growing influence of leading political figures of the region, prominent among whom were Pa Obafemi Awolowo and revered Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin. 
The consequence was the ceaseless influx of the peoples of other parts, less fortunate with visionary leaders, into the ever-accommodating and fast-developing South West Region. The evidence of purposeful leadership was pervasive in our region. In the old Ondo state,the first Democratic elected Governor, Pa Adekunle Ajasin, laid the foundation of social protection initiatives.
The Four Cardinal Programmes of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria of the Second Republic, encapsulated this rich tradition of social protection, implemented, faithfully and dutifully, by Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin as Governor of the old Ondo State, which included the current Ekiti State. These programmes, Free Education, Free Health Care, Full Employment and Integrated Rural Development were designed and implemented to uplift the mass of people from the morass of poverty.
There have been attempts to sustain the programme of social protection in ondo state ever since. Late Chief Adebayo Adefarati followed the footsteps of Chiefs Obafemi Awolowo and Michael Adekunle Ajasin. He pursued programmes vigorously unwavering, in the fields of agriculture, education and infrastructural development. The government of late Dr Olusegun Agagu left indelible footprints in the sands of time in the field of education, especially at the primary level, and infrastructure. He ensured the construction of blocks of classrooms in all the 18 Local Governments of the state under the SUBEB Programme. He ensured that the hinterlands were accessible through massive infrastructural development. This state should remain grateful to him for his vision.
Social Protection initiatives was the watch word of Dr Olusegun Mimiko’s administration in the State, he implemented sound policies on health such as Mother and Child hospital, where pregnant women and children are taking care of without any cost. Also, Surgery at the hospital is free and drugs will be provided for the patients. Under the health scheme of Ondo State Government, pregnant women are being tracked for proper monitoring from conception to delivery to avoid material deaths.  ‘Abiye’ programme was introduced in the State to reduce death during pregnancy, where child birth will no longer be a death sentence in Ondo state. The ‘Abiye’ initiative was successful to the extent United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), recommended it for other states of the Federation to emulate.
Education was prioritised in the cardinal programmes of the State government. Over 50 Mega Schools were built and equipped with modern facilities which will make learning conducive. Free Shuttle Bus Programme was put in place to convey students to and from school. The initiative was aimed at curbing lateness on the part of pupils and students. It also reduced risk of accident as record have shown that before the introduction of the free school shuttle buses scheme, accident do occur on motorcycles popularly called Okada which was the major means of transportation used by the students. The initiative also reduced spending from parents by removing the burden of transportation fees on them.  Family Courts were established in the State to address child rights, such as child abuse, violation of rights of children and women, molestation and so on. The family court has successfully delivered the mandate it was established.
Now, the Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, has said the state government, under his leadership, “will continue to give high priority to vulnerable people in the areas of health, education, transportation, agriculture, micro-credit loans, women and children protection, legislation, registration, employment and entrepreneurial schemes, etc.” Our Five-Point Agenda project – deep social investment will engender economic freedom for the people”.
In an address delivered by the Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, at a 3-day study tour embarked upon by fifteen states of the Federation powered by United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF to Ondo for other states to replicate such giant strides achieved by Ondo state to their various States.
The Governor said: “This Study Tour on social protection offers the state the opportunity of peer sharing and learning experience. We will present to you scorecard on what has been achievable within our severely limited resources. We are equally eager to learn from your remarkably outstanding social protection experiences. It is our hope that this tour will create a platform, not only for immediate interaction and deliberation but also, and more importantly, for building lasting network and community of practice for the benefit of our peoples. We will be receptive to new ideas and suggestions which will improve and strengthen our social protection programmes.
In a bid to institutionalize our programme of social protection in the state, the Ondo State Government, with assistance of UNICEF, has proceeded to produce a document – the Social Protection Bill, which is before the House of Assembly for passage into law. In the same vein, the state has an established Technical Work Group on Social Protection. “We have keyed into the Federal Government’s social investment programme (school feeding programme, conditional cash transfers and entrepreneurial schemes).
It is our fervent belief that the National Social Protection Policy (NSPP), when passed into law at the Federal level, and accepted by relevant stakeholders, will provide a framework for a mix of policies and programmes on social protection which will, in turn, cater for individuals and households throughout their life cycles.  These well-reasoned policies will reduce poverty and socio-economic discontent. It also possesses the inherent capability to promote and enhance sustainable livelihood and citizens’ right to a life of dignity. The combined effect of all these initiatives at the Federal and State levels will be the provision of a gender-sensitive and age-appropriate framework which ensures a minimum social protection platform for all Nigerian citizens. In addition, it provides a basic guarantee for accessing social services”. He further recognized and commended the efforts of UNICEF Akure Field Office led by the hardworking Chief of Field Office, Mr Tejinder Singh Sandhu.
From the development of the document on Social Protection, to the drafting of the Bill, through the constitution of Technical Work Group on Social Protection, as well as organizing and backstopping this study tour, UNICEF has been supportive without reservation, while promising continued cooperation with the international body to  ensure the realization of UNICEF’s goals for the State.
Ondo state has taken the bull by the horn in providing guaranteed social protection services to the citizens which has impacted positively to the citizenry, where most states in the country now run to under study the successes recorded in providing social protection services for its citizens.
Truly, Ondo state is indeed a place of pride.
Sola Omoboyowa is the Press Officer, Ondo State Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget

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