THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in collaboration with ministries of economic planning and budget, has trained 77 personnel of Technical Working Groups (TWG) drawn from 16 states of the federation to ensure even and widespread national development.
The UNICEF Chief of Field Officer and Coordination, Dr. Annefrida Kisesa, said this at the interstate Social Protection (SP) study tour, which started in Ondo State on Monday and ended in the State of Osun yesterday.
Kisesa, who linked the goals with the mandate of UNICEF, added that the grassroot can be easily reached through social protection programmes and better the lives of over 170 million Nigerians.
She noted that the Technical Working Groups, which included top government functionaries from the 16 states, had the opportunity to create knowledge economy, sharing and transfer to accelerate SP for all categories of people.
According to Kisesa, it was imperative for UNICEF to create a strong synergy among the 36 states and FCT to interact, discuss, learn and remodel beneficial initiatives to drastically reduce poverty and accelerate even development.
The six-day tour, which also had international participants from South Africa, Sierra-Leone and the eight UNICEF offices in Nigeria as resources persons on best practices, organzed field trips to inspect SP programmes in Ondo and Osun states.
There were 61 TWG from states and 16 UNICEF staff, while the 15 states that converged in Akure were: Bayelsa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Akwa-Ibom, Benue, Delta, Osun, Zamfara among others; and Adamawa State, which later joined the study tour in Osogbo.
The 77 participants studied the school bus shuttle, micro credit schemes, family court, Agbebiye and Abiye Safe Motherhood initiatives in Ondo State; and the O-YES, O-REAP and the O-MEAL SP initiative which pioneered school pupils free meals in the country.
The Ondo State UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Mr Tejinder Sandhu, affirmed that conscientious implementation of SP programmes would have positive and tremendous bearing on the actualization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2030.
Sandhu, who emphasized that everyone needs SP, also listed the multi-dimensional impacts of SP to include: poverty reduction, human capital, livelihoods, risk management, economic growth, economic resilience and social cohesion.
He tasked Federal Government on the ratification of NSPP in the country, warning that lack of NSPP might scuttle the 17 goals of SDG, which are intertwined with the 16 policy measures of the former.
The UNICEF Chiefs lauded Ondo and Osun states for providing of social protection initiatives for their citizenry, urging all the states to replicate whatever SP programmes organized by their counterparts to eradicate poverty in the nation.
Ondo State Governor and his Osun counterpart, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) and Mr. Rauf Aregbesola respectivel, praised UNICEF for its commitment on NSPP advocacy, stressing that social protection in any nation is so important to combat poverty, vulnerability and exclusion.
Akeredolu added that it is designed to enhance the capabilities of the people and to stipulate them for socio-economic development, revealing that he too and several others benefitted in the social protection programmes of past governments.
According to him, “If the NSPP is passed into law, it would cater for the people of the nation to promote and enhance sustainable livelihood and right to dignity. It provides a social guarantee for accessing social services.”
He assured that his administration would continue and build on the social inclusion and integrated rural development programmes of his predecessors from late Chief Michael Ajasin to Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.
The governor lauded his immediate past predecessor, Mimiko, for implementing sound programmes especially on health and education, affirming that his administration will leverage on the knowledge transfer and experience by the technical work group.
Akeredolu and Aregbesola, who mentioned that SP initiatives had been embedded in his six pacts with the Osun people before he became governor in 2010, pledged to cooperate with UNICEF and accelerate SP initiatives.