By Farida Adamu
“We must move away from slot mentality, I appeal to the political elite to please drop this slot mentality and use the social register so that programmes targeting the poor and vulnerable actually go to the poor and vulnerable” – Governor Nasir El-Rufai, 24 February 2021.
If we have learnt anything from the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that the welfare of any one of us, is actually tied to the welfare of all of us. The pandemic exposed not just the fragility of our healthcare but the lack of a safety net for even those at the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder. To worsen matters, the poor and vulnerable were short-changed in the distribution of palliatives in most states. So, the continuous politicisation of social programmes, or to use a Nigerian parlance, the man-know-man and slotting mentality, is not just a ticking time bomb. The bomb had already exploded but only the discerning heard its muted sound during the lockdown!
In 2018, Nigeria overtook India as the nation with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87million Nigerians, representing over 50% of the population, living on less than $1.90 a day, according to the World Poverty Clock, as compiled by the Brookings Institution. Despite such devastating statistics, social protection programmes at all levels seldom reach the poor and our most vulnerable. Political elites and those in authority, most times corner palliatives or poverty alleviating programmes for their cronies or relatives, excluding those who actually need such interventions. Indeed, in most cases, there is lack of a functioning monitoring and evaluation mechanism, to guard against abuse and the menace of “slotting”. However, not in Kaduna state.
What is the state doing differently? So far, over 260,000 Poor and Vulnerable Households (PVHHs) have been captured in its Social Register and the exercise is still ongoing. This register was generated through a comprehensive process known as Community Based Targeting (CBT), where people living in a community, define poverty and assist in identifying those that should be captured in the Social Register.
This rigorous CBT process began in 2017, with nine pilot local government areas, three from each senatorial zone. In zone one, Ikara, Kubau and Lere local governments were chosen for the exercise, while Birnin Gwari, Chikun and Kajuru area councils were selected from zone two. On the other hand, Kachia, Kauru and Sanga local governments represented zone three in the pilot scheme. In May 2020, the remaining 14 LGAs in Kaduna state were also included.
The State Operations Coordinating Unit in the Ministry of Planning and Budget, is entrusted with generating and maintaining the Social Register. Presently, this robust database has been mined by the federal government to deliver its Cash Transfer Programme. The register is also readily available for NGOs and other development partners to access and identify the truly vulnerable.
The main thrust of the Kaduna State Social Protection Policy which was launched last Tuesday, is to ensure that residents of the state, particularly vulnerable groups, are afforded a life of dignity through programmes which are implemented in a fair and transparent manner. Like every laudable policy, the document didn’t just emanate from good intentions or wishful thinking; it was a product of intense field work, data reviews, analysis and input from experts. The final policy document was polished by social protection experts from Save the Children International (Child Development Grant Programme) and UNICEF. It also took an all-inclusive contributions from members of Civil Society Organisations, beneficiaries, vulnerable groups and traditional institutions.
Promoting equality of opportunity irrespective of age, gender, religion or political affiliation is at the centre of Kaduna state’s governance agenda. To ensure continuity, Kaduna State Government will institutionalize the Social Protection programmes, by backing the policy up by law and establishing an Agency to coordinate all its related activities. Already, 1% of Kaduna State’s IGR has been approved to fund the proposed Agency.
However, the aim of the Social Protection Policy will be defeated if the political elites and the society at large, do not wean themselves of the slot mentality as Governor Nasir El-Rufai advised while launching it last Tuesday.
Farida is a Special Assistant on Media and Communication