Leading civil society organisations in Nigeria, led by the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) as well as the Community Empowerment and Development Initiative (CEDI), International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre (IPCRC), and the New Initiative for Social Development (NISD), have released an evaluation report on the National Social Investment Programme in Nigeria.

The evaluation project which metamorphosed into the report was christened as the Enhancing Social Protection Policies in Nigeria (ESPPIN). The exercise also received the support of international donor agencies including Bread for the World (Germany), the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office during the implementation period which spanned 2020 to 2023 and was carried out in five states in Nigeria which are Anambra, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Ekiti.

Addressing the dignitaries at the launch, Reverend David Ugolor, executive director of ANEEJ said the evaluation project was carried out as the contribution of local civil society organisations towards assessing the impact of Social Investment Programmes(SIPs) and to know the extent to which SIPs have reduced poverty in the country.

Ugolor said: “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, embarked on the 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.”

According to him, with 133 million Nigerians multidimensionally poor, social investment schemes remain the beacon of hope for the poor. And with Nigeria’s social investment scheme having over $1 billion as allocation, the scheme should transcend mere budgetary figures, adding that it should serve as a shared commitment to uplift the less privileged out of poverty.

Commenting on how the data for the evaluation report on the National Social Investment Programme were collected from the above-mentioned states, Rev Ugolor said social programme’s documents were reviewed as well as reports, and key stakeholders were reached out to. There were key informant interviews conducted by ANEEJ, government and media representatives, CSO leaders among others.

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He added that the evaluation exercise produced interesting findings. Among these are the increasing awareness of the people on the importance and opportunities in social investment programmes; willingness to attend training programmes when required, training of key stakeholders on how to improve social protection in the country, while the participating CSOs advocated for improved implementation of social investment programmes at both the federal and state levels.

“The first proposal submitted by ANEEJ for reforms to the proposed bill for an Act to establish the National Social Security Commission (NASSCOM) for the regulation, management and administration of social security benefits and services, and other related matters. ANEEJ made five-point observations on the Bill and five recommendations based on the observations to the Senate Committee. The bill was passed into law in 2023,” Rev Ugolor said.

He added that it was also recommended that the social investment scheme for Delta State should be financed through the recovered assets from the state’s former governor.

Other achievements of the evaluation exercise include that some states have joined the federal government to develop policies that will enhance social investment programmes, just as there is now an improved collaboration among policy makers at the state level as well as among civil society organisations.

“There is need for continued tracking of the implementation of the policy and bills passed to ensure their implementation in line with the overall goals of the project and for sustainability of gains achieved.

“Peer learning should not just include the CSO partners but government stakeholders from non-performing states and performing states to improve political will for social investment programmes in the non-performing states. There is need for sustained advocacy to ensure the gains of the project are sustained,” Rev Ugolor said.