Press Statement by Rev. David Ugolor at a Press Conference on ESPPIN Project
PRESS STATEMENT BY ANEEJ EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, REV. DAVID UGOLOR AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE ENHANCING SOCIAL PROTECTION PROGRAMME IN NIGERIA PROJECT (ESPPIN) ON 24TH AUGUST 2023.
Gentlemen of the press,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this press brief which centres on the progress made so far in the implementation of the Enhancing Social Protection Programme in Nigeria (ESPPIN) project by ANEEJ and the overall poverty situation in Nigeria.
The fight against poverty remains one of our society’s most pressing challenges, particularly in regions where a substantial portion of the population is living in poverty. Nigeria, with its 213.4 million-strong population, faces this stark reality. Approximately 63% (133 million people) live in multidimensional poverty, experiencing a range of deprivations that underscore the urgency of robust intervention. Certainly, the sudden removal of fuel subsidy only increases these numbers exponentially as the cost of living is at a very worrisome level, one of the worst since Nigeria gained independence in 1960.
To address the increasing poverty level in Nigeria, the Federal Government designed several interventions such as the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), an ambitious effort aimed at improving the lives of the most vulnerable citizens.
The National Social Investment Programme, often lauded as one of Africa’s largest social protection programme, is a beacon of hope for millions. With an annual allocation exceeding $1 billion, this programme transcends mere budgetary figures; it symbolizes our shared commitment to uplifting the less fortunate and creating a stronger, more equitable society.
Against this backdrop, the Enhancing Social Protection Policies in Nigeria (ESPPIN) Project emerged as a civil society effort to complement the efforts of both the national and sub-national governments in tackling poverty. ANEEJ, with support from Bread for the World (Germany) and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, took the helm of this three-year project (2020-2023) to enhance the implementation of the Social Investment Programme across Nigeria.
The ESPPIN project is being implemented in 5 states (Anambra, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Ekiti,) and the Federal Capital Territory and ANEEJ is working with CSO partners such as, Community Empowerment and Development Initiative (CEDI), International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre (IPCRC), Awka, Anambra State, Development Initiators, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State and the New Initiative for Social Development (NISD). The final external evaluation of the project has just been completed as part of the project Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning (MERL) processes.
The report shows that the ESPPIN project which began in 2020 has yielded some remarkable outcomes. Aligned with our goal, we played a key role in advocating for the harmonization of Social Protection Bills at the National Assembly and aligning same with the National Social Protection Policy which we canvassed for a review. The project also contributed to the review and approval of the National Policy on Social Protection by the National Economic Council. Notably, the ESSPIN Project’s efforts contributed to social protection policies and laws being enacted in three out of five project states—Anambra, Edo, and Ekiti, showcasing effective policy implementation at the state level. Additionally, the project’s advocacy efforts contributed to the passage of the National Social Investment Programme Bill which was assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent in May 2023.
The project achieved resounding success in its pursuit of three key objectives. Through ESPPIN, stakeholders in the five target states experienced a 50% increase in engagement, as indicated by a surge in applications. ANEEJ championed a multi-faceted approach, leveraging media engagement, training, learnings, and outcomes of National and subnational discusses to highlight the significance of Social Investment Programmes (SIPs). By providing information and evidence, we were able to make duty bearers to take action appropriately.
Key actors from government, civil society organizations, and the media played an active role in monitoring SIP implementation across five Nigerian states. Trained stakeholders undertook at least 10 monitoring activities annually, fostering transparency, accountability, and meaningful collaboration. Through this inclusive approach, ANEEJ fostered a shared commitment to effective implementation.
Throughout the ESPPIN journey, challenges were met with unwavering resolve. Insecurity, bureaucracy, and conflicting priorities posed obstacles, but our determination to effect change remained. The ESPPIN project unveiled invaluable lessons, particularly in the realm of stakeholder engagement. We learned that repeated advocacy, collaboration with the government, and the utilization of existing platforms are vital strategies that accelerate progress.
The ESPPIN project has demonstrated that when civil society organizations and government join hands, positive change is not only possible but sustainable. As we look ahead, we are dedicated to building on these achievements, fostering collaboration, and creating a brighter future for those who need it most.
While we reflect on the project’s successes, it is imperative that concerted efforts are made to address the existing gaps in social protection within the country. Considering this, we urge the relevant stakeholders to take the following steps:
- Adoption of Social Protection Policies at State Level: We implore the governments of Delta, Bayelsa, and other states lacking comprehensive social protection policies to expedite the creation and implementation of such policies without delays.
- Enactment of Social Protection Laws at the State Level: To enhance the effectiveness of social protection initiatives, we urge the State Houses of Assembly in states such as Anambra, Bayelsa, Delta, and Edo, among others, to initiate the process of enacting Social Protection laws. Swift action in this regard will facilitate the states’ contributions to eradicating poverty and promoting social justice, particularly with the problems that have come with the recent removal of subsidy on petrol.
- Increased Investment in Social Investment Programmes: We like to call on the Federal and State Governments should significantly increase their investments in social investment programmes across the nation. By bolstering these programmes, we can create opportunities for millions of Nigerians to escape multidimensional poverty, fostering a more prosperous and equitable society.
- Development Partners Support for Social Protection Programmes. We wish to call on the donor community, the Africa Development Bank, the World Bank and the Private sector to make bold efforts in supporting Social Protection Programmes at both the National, sub-national and local levels in the country to forestall human tragedy in Nigeria
Moving forward, ANEEJ will continue to advocate, monitor, and collaborate with all development partners to ensure that the gains achieved remain secure and impactful. We stand poised to continue fostering legislative advocacy, amplifying the voices of vulnerable citizens, and intensifying investment in social programmes, in the hope that together with other stakeholders, we can accelerate the journey towards a future free from poverty.
I want to specially appreciate Bread for the World (Germany) and the FCDO for providing the resources for ANEEJ and her partners to implement the Enhancing Social Protection Programme in Nigeria (ESPPIN) project.
I thank you all for honouring our invitation.