As democracy continues to evolve across the world, its most enduring objective remains greater inclusion of the people in governance. However, the initial focus on political inclusion through provision of basic rights to freely choose and mandate their leaders has significantly been displaced by the demand for socio-economic inclusion and empowerment as a more urgent existential need of the electorate, especially the majority poor and vulnerable. The inherent inequities of the electoral systems tend to dilute the impact of “people power” on the political dynamics of the democratic process, such that the expected socio-economic inclusion and empowerment of the masses as the ultimate dividend of democracy remains a mirage and a leading cause of voter apathy and worsening of the plight of the poor and vulnerable.
It is against this background that the historic creation of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development by the Muhammadu Buhari Administration dedicated to the administration and institutionalization of the Federal Government’s agencies and programmes in the humanitarian and social security sector should be evaluated. This is a major breakthrough in the crying need to insulate the necessity for socio-economic inclusion and empowerment of the majority poor and vulnerable masses, including unemployed youth, the aged and the disabled, from the whims and caprices of ambitious politicians that infest the political dynamics of democracy.
After decades of governance without provision of social security except for ad-hoc programmes and fire-brigade interventions, the creation of a ministry to coordinate, consolidate and actualize a systematic and robust social investment agenda to redress the plight of all categories of poor and vulnerable citizens is a monumental achievement. That achievement has since been effectively transformed into a guarantor of government responsibility to deliver to the masses a comprehensive package of relief and empowerment as a policy thrust, irrespective of political vagaries or sincerity of politicians.
Such awesome developments that would usually take ages to accomplish in the entrenched bureaucratic culture were remarkably recorded in only about three years of the creation of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development in 2016. Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, its founding minister, impressively validated her reputation for an impassioned commitment and focused service delivery to distressed and disadvantaged people earned from her cognate experience and track record as Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (2016-2019). In less than three years, she was able to assemble a crack team of committed personnel and aides whom she directed towards a timely and organized take-off.
Subsequently, all hands were on deck to actualize the mandate to effectively coordinate the administration’s strategic response to the humanitarian challenges in the country through provision and effective coordination of humanitarian interventions as enunciated in the ground-breaking National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), now assessed to be the biggest social protection and poverty eradication programme ever put in place by any government in Nigeria and one of the biggest in Africa. The NSIP was conceived to address immediate and long-term socio-economic imbalances and inequalities, alleviate poverty, and stimulate accelerated economic growth under four main clusters- N-Power; National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP); The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP).
Another landmark achievement that further consolidated the establishment and sustenance of the Ministry and its mandate saw to the successful launch of the National Policy on IDP for which the process of developing and adoption commenced as far back as 2001. It provides a framework for national responsibility towards prevention and protection of citizens and, when necessary, non-citizens, from incidences of arbitrary and other forms of internal displacement, meets their assistance and protection needs during displacement, and ensures their rehabilitation, return, reintegration and relocation after displacement, while integrating the provisions of existing international conventions, treaties and protocols on internal displacement, international humanitarian and human rights laws. Other national policies developed by the ministry include National Policy on Ageing, creating a Senior Citizens Centre, the National Migration Policy and the National Disability Policy which established the National Commission for People with Disabilities. The National Disaster Risk Management Policy and the National Social Protection Policy are undergoing administrative and legislative processes.
For the larger picture of the outstanding performance of the new ministry a review of milestones and awesome impact of its programme clusters says it all. The National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme is currently operational in 35 states and the FCT, with arrangements for the on-boarding of Bayelsa in advanced stage. It was introduced in 2016 to provide one free nutritious meal to children in primary 1-3 across public schools nationwide. Almost 10 million children in 54, 619 schools are benefiting from this creative programme, with 120,000 cooks, about 100,000 smallholder farmers and numerous aggregators also benefit. Its benefits include improved nutrition and health of children, increased school enrolment and completion, empowering cooks through job creation, providing sustainable income to small holder farmers, stimulating growth and productivity in communities and financial inclusion by compelling enlisted to open and operate bank accounts.
Another flagship component of the NSIP is N POWER, radical drive toward social and financial inclusiveness and enhanced economy which engages under-represented groups through the design and implementation of policies and programs that promote youth entrepreneurship and equips beneficiaries with work-related and lifelong skills and ensures equal opportunity irrespective of gender and tribe. The Ministry successfully exited Batch A and B beneficiaries in 2020 from which a total of 109,823 beneficiaries have proceeded to set up businesses in their communities. Under Batch C, Stream 1, 510,000 individuals are currently enrolled and an additional 490,000 beneficiaries will be enrolled following Presidential approval to increase the number to one million. The Ministry recently began NEXIT for training exited N -Power beneficiaries with the CBN providing loans to enable them start businesses of their own and become employers of labour.
These are just two of the impressive insights into the outstanding performance of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development within such a short span of its debut under the pioneering supervision of Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq. The significance of this success story however transcends the uniqueness of its momentous emergence by translating into a better-late-than never actualization of the entitlement of the majority poor and vulnerable masses, including unemployed youth, the aged and the disabled, to the socio-economic inclusion and empowerment component of democracy.
The timely and diligent manner in which the structure, implementation packages and policy institutionalization procedures and provisions were successfully and effectively delivered for sustainability, coupled with the scope and impact on the lives and aspirations of its distressed and disadvantaged constituencies now rekindled with unprecedented optimism has escalated the NSIP to the distinctive rating as the Buhari Administration’s most enduring and revolutionary people-focused humanitarian legacy programme and Nigeria’s first social security and economic enhancement policy thrust.
DANLITI GOGA wrote from Kano