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UNICEF supports Osun to document, enact Aregbesola's social protection policies into law

By Olawale Adewale, The Nigerian Voice, Osogbo 

The United Nation Children's Fund (UNICEF) has aided the documentation and enactment of the social protection policies of the administration of Governor Rauf Aregbesola into law.

The documents were launched in Osogbo, the state capital at an elaborate event attended by top personalities including " government officials, legislators from the Osun State House of Assembly and bureaucrats as well as UNICEF representatives.

Speaking on the occasion, Governor Aregbesola in his address titled "From Poverty to Wealth" said when he decided to contest, he was determined to liberate the people of the state from the shackle of poverty.

The governor said "Osun was celebrated nationally of recent. This has to do with the recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)s Nigeria Human Development Report (2016) which revealed that the Incidence of Poverty, which is the percentage of Nigerians who are poor, is 53.7 per cent. The disaggregation of this report by state shows that the lowest rate of 17.5 per cent was recorded in Osun."

He noted that the feat was the culmination of all the efforts at providing social welfare for the people of the state. He explained that since the beginning of his administration on November 27, 2010, he was concerned on the need to reverse the ugly trend of poverty ravaging the people of the State.

Aregbesola said he was resolute and focused on the pursuit of his mission and that on assumption of office, he adopted a six-point Integral Action Plan to banish poverty, hunger, create work and wealth, restore healthy living, promote functional education and enhance communal peace and progress.

Aregbesola said his wide array of Social protection interventions programmes were initiated to address the needs of different vulnerable groups in the state and that the objective was achieved.

He said a total of 60,000 youths were positively engaged under his youth empowerment scheme and that other programmes include the Osun Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Programme (OREAP), OOsun Ambulance Service, Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme (OMEALS), Osun Rehabilitation programme and Agba Osun, the welfare scheme for the elderly citizens.

Dignitaries at the event
Aregbesola commended UNICEF, for supporting the State to become a model to other states in the implementation of social protection programmes and for the support given to Osun to codify the policy into law.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Social Policy, UNICEF Nigeria, Mr Hamidou Poufon said Osun has a long-standing record of social development having outperformed all other states as per the Multidimensional Poverty Ranking report of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative 2018 that ranked Osun at first place nationwide.

He explained that social protection is increasingly viewed as an important policy component of sustainable development and has become a veritable tool for advancing the development agenda. He noted that Osun has maintained a good lead in the implementation of social protection programmes.

He said Social Protection provides support for particular social groups, reduce gender inequality and break intergenerational transmission of poverty if administered appropriately.

According to him, within Nigeria and abroad, several of Osun’s social protection programs have attracted attention, more especially the Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Program (O-MEALS), which is the longest continuously running school feeding program in Nigeria; and the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES), which the World Bank subsequently recommended for replication in other states and at the federal level.

He added, Osun is one of the first states to start the implementation of the federal-level Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme and was selected as a pilot state for the World Bank-funded Youth Empowerment and Social Support Operation (YESSO).

He said "Given the State of Osun’s record and performance in social safety net investments, social welfare, and social protection, it has become a leading state, continually proving its commitment to enhance residents’ resilience and livelihoods."

"UNICEF has collaborated with the state since 2015 in the documentation of the wide array of programs (at least 21 interventions) implemented despite the economic situation nationwide."

"Other output of the collaboration includes the intra country study tour which brought representatives of 15 states and the Federal Government to Osogbo in 2017 for a study tour of the programs that promote social protection, social welfare, economic development, and social services."

"As the state launches the social protection legislation, there is need to pause and reflect on the journey so far; to take stock of what needs to happen in the future."

Hamidou expressed confidence that the efforts will provide the impetus to scale greater heights and reiterated UNICEF support and commitment to Osun for all round development for children and women, as well as the implementation of the social protection policy and legislation.