Reps mull legislation on establishment of social safety centre in 774 LGAs

The House of Representatives, on resumption from its six weeks recess, is expected to commence debate on a bill which seeks to establish Social Safety Net Service Centres in the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Nigeria.

The bill, which had scaled through First Reading before the House embarked on Christmas and New Year recess, was sponsored by Hon. Simon Mwadkwon, with the view to: “provide for, reduction of hardcore poverty among rural and urban vulnerable groups, sustainable development goals and implementation of social protection systems and measures in Nigeria and for related matters.”

According to the proponent of the legislation, the Service shall be a department in the Federal Ministry of Budget and Planning and shall be created in all branches of the Ministry in the 36 States of the Federation as well as create safety centres in the 36 States of the Federation and safety units in the 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria.

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As stipulated in the proposed bill, the objectives of the Safety Net Service include: draw up social safety net programs periodically to address chronic poverty in rural and urban areas and engage in schemes that will graduate poor people from poverty; develop good targeting mechanism that will enhance increased and level of benefits for the poor; provide effective coordination between the safety centres in the States and the Safety units in the local government areas to adequately target poorest areas and reach individuals better; monitor and assess projects, programs, beneficiaries and graduates from the social safety net program and have such number of units as are required to work with the Safety Centers in the States and Safety Units in the Local Government Areas for effective implementation of the functions and objectives of the Service.

The Service is also expected to: develop a blueprint for effective and monthly, quarterly and yearly monitoring, evaluation and analysis of the social safety net programs to ensure that the poor not only receives minimum assistance but graduate from poverty; maintain a register of beneficiaries and a register of graduates from the social safety net programs; develop a sustainable development program to ensure that the graduates from poverty do not fall back into poverty; develop a matrix for poverty reduction by collaborating with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that have a platform for social safety net programs and encourage participation by MDAs that do not have such platforms.

The Service is also empowered to enter both public and private partnerships with donor agencies, multinational companies, organizations and public-spirited individuals to carry out social safety net programs, provided that such partnership will not undermine the integrity, sovereignty and interest of Nigeria; understudy, learn useful systems and practices from middle-income countries where the largest social safety net programs exist to develop quality social safety net programs with good coverage in Nigeria; train and retrain social safety net officers in new forms of social safety net programs and how best to achieve the objective of the Commission; develop a criteria for selecting beneficiaries that qualify to partake in a social safety net program; embark all forms of agricultural projects with both beneficiaries and experts as part of the project to develop food security for both beneficiaries and the nation.

Some social safety net to be provided by the Service include: food transfers, cash transfers, credit schemes, conditional subsidy programs, rural maintenance programs, households where one or more of the children or dependent is terminally ill, education stipend programs, old age allowance, conditional disability and unconditional disability allowance, agricultural subsidy for marginal farmers, unemployment housing programs and homeless shelters; and the service to discontinue social safety net programs.

Some criteria for selecting beneficiaries of the social safety net programs include: households with monthly income of less than N5,000; day labourer or temporary worker with less than N3,000 per job; households that lack productive assets; family of low-income professionals which includes fishing, subsistent farmers, welders, blacksmiths, plumbers; households where the principal occupation of the head is day labour; destitute woman-headed family; household live in slums with no proper sewage, ventilation and portable drinking water system; and such other criteria that the Service will deploy to select beneficiaries from time-to-time.

Clause 7 of the bill which provides for the prerequisite for selection of beneficiaries into the social safety net program stipulates that: the prospective beneficiary must be a permanent resident in the area where the Safety Centre or Safety Unit is situated; the prospective beneficiary is not a beneficiary of any other program organizes by a Non- Governmental Organization; and where the prospective beneficiary is a young person of reproductive age, he or she must have the physical and mental capacity to do laborious work.

The bill is expected to be slated for Second Reading on the floor of the House through the House Committee on Rules and Business.

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