The 'Social Protection Cross Learning Summit' with sub-theme - Improving the lives of poor & vulnerable Nigerians: Lessons from implementing Social Protection in Nigeria was held in Abuja 22-24th January, 2019. The lead paper titled: Designing & implementing SP in Nigeria to protect programme success was delivered by Dr. Michael Samson, Economic Policy Research Institute (EPR). An overview of human capital development in Nigeria was presented by Director, Macro Analysis Department, Ministry of Budget & National Planning.
I made two strategic interventions on the first and second days of the conference. My first comment was the fact that the SIP National Office needs to do more to publicise the extensive work it is doing in the the field of SP so that more Nigerians would be aware of and appreciate same. Besides, the conference taking place on the eve of the 2019 elections, it is not clear what modalities have been put in place to ensure continuity of some of the laudable programmes on SP which could continue to benefit Nigerians like the N-Power programme which has made it possible for otherwise unemployed Nigerian graduates to quit idleness in germane areas like teaching, agriculture, building, etc.
The SIP Office promised to do more in the area of publicity for their programmes. However, since there is frequent policy somersault in Nigeria, the respondent was not too sure what could become of the programme beyond May 29, 2019. My other statement was on the seeming dichotomy between 'conditional' and 'non-conditional transfer'. My position is that either could be employed depending on the country, context, behaviour of the locals, experience of those 'dispensing' the funds, etc. I am not particularly favourably disposed to either method of transfer. Each country, including Nigeria, should rely heavily on statistics in order to determine which method should be employed.
For me, the high point of the conference was the intellectually tasking debate between Michael Samson of EPRI vs Alexandra Yuster of UNICEF. Michael, as expected, spoke as an economist who has his eyes on the money and recovery of same from beneficiaries. He was for conditional cash transfer. In contrast, Alexandra was for unconditional cash transfer because for her, it is the lives of the people that matter. Life is more important than the money. The economist in Michael puts the recovery of money beyond individual survival.
For me, both viewpoints are valid and relevant in particular climes. The interesting thing about the debate between Michael and Alexandra was the civility of the discourse while marshaling their points. For me, there was no victor, no vanquished. Both of them put their points forward with facts and figures. At the end of the debate, Mrs. Maryam Uwais announced that Nigeria was in the process of transiting from unconditional to conditional transfer. I am curious about the 'conditionalities' which are likely to unfold soon!
The international conference brought together experts on the subject matter from all over the world to deliberate on various aspects of SP all over the world. This discourse elicited comparison between what obtains in Nigeria and other countries. Areas covered included:
*Innovations in SP
*The impact of SP
*Evolution of SP
*The case for SP
*Launch of SP Policy in Nigeria
Kudos to the conference planning team for organising such a stimulating parley. We look forward to how the impending conditional cash transfer programme in Nigeria pans out...
*Gender gaps & the social inclusion movement in ICT https://lnkf.in/ga-NXR3
*Financing gaps in Social Protection: Global estimates & strategies fr developing countries in light of the Covid-10 crisis & beyond https://www.ilo.org/.../WCMS_755475/lang--en/index.htm