FG, ILO Join Forces to Expand Social Protection Programme in Nigeria

….As ILO urges government to streamline fragmented social security programmes

The Federal Government has joined forces with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to give more people access to social safety nets in Nigeria.

A collaborative effort between the government and the ILO, according to the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Barr. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, who received a delegation from the ILO in her office on Friday, aims to enhance the scope and impact of social protection initiatives in Nigeria, and has the potential to significantly improve the lives of many people in the country.

The partnership focuses on extending health insurance, reaching vulnerable populations, among others, just as it seeks to address poverty, health challenges, especially in the informal economy, and unemployment.

The Minister, who thanked the delegation for their visit, said, “Everybody is entitled to social protection. Citizens need to be reassured on their protection by the government.

“I want to change the narrative. Labour is the number one ministry charged with the responsibility of pulling the nation out of high poverty and providing employment. We are not going to wait any longer in the implementation of vital programmes like social security. We are going to fast-track the implementation of social protection policy.

“I want to assure you (ILO) that we will key into the social protection vision, because I don’t know any nation that can survive without employment, both in formal and informal sector. We are going to be fully involved. Labour is a Ministry to watch, based on partnership with ILO and deliverables”, Onyejeocha stated.

Also speaking, the Deputy Director of the Social Security Department of the Ministry, Mrs. Ngozi Anukwu, explained that the department has actively pursued its core responsibilities of social security service in the country, despite the challenges encountered.

“On Convention 102, we have been having meetings and was at the stage of forwarding our steps to the Minister, before the former Minister in the last administration left”, she said.

The ILO delegation, led by Regional Social Protection Specialist, Dramane Batchabi, highlighted the urgent need to expand social protection coverage in Nigeria, where he said only 17% of the population currently benefits from such programme.

Batchabi, who identified some of the challenges and opportunities while speaking on Convention 102 of the ILO, said only 11% of individuals in West Africa enjoy social protection benefits. In Nigeria, this figure dips even lower, with a mere 17% covered.

He said the vast majority of Nigerians, over 80%, operate in the informal economy, further complicating the reach of existing social protection schemes. Similarly, funding constraints pose a significant obstacle to expanding coverage.

Batchabi said: “We are here to brief the Hon. Minister on Social Protection and how to collaborate with the Ministry of Labour. Only 17% of the population is covered by social protection. Africa is the lowest worldwide. The average for the world is 46%. If you look at West Africa, it is only 11% of the population that is covered, and this is very low.

“We are looking at where the Ministry of Labour has comparative advantage, and where the Ministry can come in, in terms of policy measure, considering the already existing National Social Protection Schemes, things to do to extend social protection to the informal economy, how to develop and extend social protection to workers in the informal economy, and how the ministry can contribute to better harmonise the existing social protection policy.”

He identified the causes of limited social protection coverage in Nigeria and Africa to include the non-extension of social protection policies to the informal economy, low investment on social protection and lack of coordination among institutions.

Batchabi noted that the Ministry of Labour held a natural advantage in tackling these challenges by deploying the National Social Protection Policy which was adopted in 2022, as well as through other approaches within the Contributory and Non-contributory social protection schemes.

The Regional Social Protection Specialist said: “It is important for the Ministry of Labour to look into the policy and know where to come in, the social assistance, social care, labour market intervention, and social insurance.”

He suggested that the government could optimise its interventions through the National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), a social protection agency under the ministry, prioritizing social insurance programmes, and streamlining the fragmented social protection landscape as a crucial step towards sustainable progress.

On strategic interventions and funding, Batchabi encouraged the Ministry to analyse the ILO’s recommendations and identify strategic points for intervention.

He reaffirmed ILO’s commitment to supporting Nigeria’s social protection efforts, and however stated that the Organisation and Nigeria needed to work together to identify sustainable funding sources, as expanding social protection programmes required significant financial resources.

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