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President’s Plan to Pull 100 Million Out of Poverty Achievable – Apera




The National Coordinator of the National Social Safety-Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO) Mr Iorwa Apera has said that not fewer than two million poor and vulnerable households would be captured into its national register in line with the federal government’s effort to alleviate poverty in the country.

Apera disclosed this in an exclusive interview with Daily Asset State House Correspondent Mathew Dadiya.
He spoke on the efforts the office is making to achieve the 10 years target of President Muhammadu Buhari to pull out 100 million Nigerians from poverty amongst other issues. Excerpt:

Can you tell us what your statutory responsibility is as far as the NASSCO is concern?

The national social safety net coordinating office (NASSCO) was established by the federal government through a support of a world bank credit.

The world bank credit was at the national social safety net programme and the NASSCO Programme credit facility from the world bank was designed to establish the office of NASSCO and also start up the national cash transfer. You will recall that the national cash transfer was a campaign promise by the president to give N5000 cash to poor and vulnerable homes. So, the world bank facilitates and helped the government in establishing that. So, NASSCO is established under the office of the Vice President and supervised by the special Adviser to the President on social investment programmes. It’s saddled with the responsibility of coordinating the social safety net programmes in Nigeria and establishing the building blocks of social protections in Nigeria and also building the social register. The social register is for the poor and vulnerable that is meant to put on record a database of poor and vulnerable homes across the country.

How do you agree or dispute claims that Nigeria is the poverty capital, does the database you have reflects this statistical proposition? 

That sort of reports is established by empirical evidence and statistics by that are not within my purview as such I won’t lay claim, to accept or reject their assertion that indeed from their record and statistical evidence that is emerging that indeed Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world. But I can say that we are quite low on a number of development indices on the human capital development indices which came out about a year ago – we are ranked 153 out of 158 countries. We also have high child and maternal morality and all the other indices.  However, in relation to the poor and vulnerable register that we talked about on the national register, we are developing it through a combination of three targeting mechanisms as we call it – one is geographical mapping, this uses empirical evidence from the living standards survey and other surveys done by the national bureau of statistics- that sort of ranks the local government from the poor too he poorest and we used this poverty map to determine the first 30 percent local government that we will start engaging with or raising the register when we get to any state. Now within the states and government structures, we recruit the local government staff, we recruit the state government staff, the states government recruit or second their staff to our state operation and coordinating units or offices who in turn recruit the community base team. They would then engage with the communities through sensitizations and the do what we call community base targeting system and this allows the team to discuss with the communities. The communities would define what is poverty, who and who could be poor and vulnerable in the community.

Now those definitions vary from community to community. We would first of all appreciate the fact that poverty is relative and so when we talk about the poverty capital of the world, depending on who is seeing it and from which prism you are looking through to be able to decide whether you are poverty capital or not.

In the case of these communities, in some communities the definition of poverty is those whom have not seeing smokes coming out of the round huts (kitchens) in the evening or in the morning and so it does signify that house cannot afford even breakfast. Or it means those who don’t have land tie to their family names or those who are traditionally considered outcast within their community. This definition varies across committees but first the community would determine what that means and to them once that is established the team separates the community into three groups, then do a focal group discussion. One group is for the male, one for the women and one for the youth. All the three group then taking the definition of who is poor and vulnerable, then identify the poor and vulnerable within the community.

Sometimes ago you said that you have mapped out 655, 655 homes as poor and vulnerable; what approach did you use at arriving at these numbers and what is the total figures now?

It is part of the approach. What then the community would do, the group would then identify the poor and vulnerable that they think are poor and vulnerable within the community based on the definition, the women would also identify, the men would also identify, then we bring the three group together in the plenary and harmonize the list.

So far how many households have you identified as poor and vulnerable in the country and what is the level of implementation?

At the moment, we have a total number of 1, 132, 000 on the social register of poor and vulnerable made up of 5.5 million individuals and this is across 33 states of the federation including Abuja. We are still gathering the data in the other five states- Ebonyi, Lagos, Ogun, Borno and ….

While that is still going on, we are continuing with other states which have some data. Like I have said, we start with the first 30 percent of the local government, we saturate the entire local government, we move to the 50 percent, next 75 percent and next 100 percent. This is also a deliberate structure- deliberate so that we are learning as we go, we are improving as we go, we are also monitoring and ensure that it is the right thing because when the community finally agrees in plenary that the youth list, the male list and the women list is what represent us – we have the same name, agree on choices of all the three groups the community would appoint two people a male and a female that would sign up on this list and the community would keep a copy within them in the community, we take a copy of that to go back and give the enumerators who would go back and register these families into the register. So that is still ongoing in these LGAs; when the LGA finished a community for instance, the data is automatically uploaded because they use tablet. Where there are no networks, once they come to the headquarters or where there is network, it synchronizes with the database at the state level. So, it then becomes the state social register, the state team would interact with this register. So, the state team, their first check is to interact with the community list and take the data that has been synchronized, matched and see that it’s actually the people that the community picked as poor and vulnerable that the enumerators have registered. Once that is established, and satisfied as the state register, the state sends it up to us. We then check, validate the data and ensure we have also set up a mechanism to ensure it is actually the register. We do what is called a back check- we randomly pick some data, go back to validate to ensure that it is what the community sent.

What is the actual investment that has gone into this safety net programme so far?

First of all, the NASSCO credit is $500 million across five years. We are in the second year. It is meant to build the social register, support the building blocks of the social safety net and also do the cash transfer for the federal government. Like I have said, already, we are building the social register, we’ve signed a memorandum of understanding with all the 36 states and Abuja. We are developing the register in all the 36 states and Abuja. The data that we have so far is for 32 states including Abuja but five states data would soon come in to make it 36 states and Abuja. Eventually we are going to saturate every community, every local government and every state in the country and Abuja.

Now as to level of implementation, we have done the register to that numbers that I gave. The cash transfer, once we get the social register in, we do what we call a proxy mean test that further ranks these poor and vulnerable homes from the first to the sixth poorest. The federal government cash transfer targets the poor of the poorest. So, on average for one million, about 687,000 poor and vulnerable homes would be eligible for cash transfer. Now the social register is a register for potential eligible beneficiaries into any social intervention or social safety net programmes. For the federal government, there are three social intervention and safety net programmes at the moment: the national cash Tran that gives N5000 to poor and vulnerable homes to stimulate consumption and the additional top up of N5000 depending on the state’s decision to bring together the supply side and then it becomes conditional. The second one the Youth Employment and Social Support Operation (YESSO). This one is also a World BANK’s credit that federal government guarantees for states governments to access. So far 15 states have accessed that credit and now do what we call the skill for job programme- where they come to the social register – this time they do not target the poor and the poorest like in the cash transfer, they take any youth from the poor and vulnerable homes from the ages of 18-35 that is unemployed- could be a school-dropout, whatever the status could be, they mined from it and that place them on skill acquisition, train them under apprenticeship and after the period of apprenticeship they get a start-ups pack for them to start a business on their own. They also mine from this social register caregivers from homes that are unemployed and place them on what we call public works where they are given the opportunity to sweep the streets, sweep markets places, security to look after local government and other public institutions and they are paid N7500 a month. In this case it could be any abled person in the social register who has been identified by the community as poor and vulnerable. The third programme which is very popular, that one is in 30 states of the federation, the community and social development programme. It grew from what used to be called LEA. Now what that does is to take from that poverty map, the community would identify and decide the infrastructural project that they need – it could be road, bridge, electricity, culvert or whatever it is and the project would give them money for them to undertake that project. So, these three programmes are going on and in totality the three social safety net programmes and NASSCO is almost $900 million credit facility by the federal government to support the social safety net programmes and its poverty alleviation strategy.

Sir, talking about the social register do you assign any social security number to those poor and vulnerable that you have captured into the database or how do you track them?

Yes, they have a unique identifier we call it the National Social Register Number. But what we are doing is, the President right from 2015 to hen he came in has signed a White Paper that all databases must align with NIMC. What we have done is to develop our data capturing check list that aligns completely with NIMC the only difference is that we do not take biometrics for now and we also take other date set that defines the level of wealth of that family. But what we are also doing because eventually our hopes is that the NIMC number, the ID number would become the unique identifier as has been signed by that White Paper. What we have done in that check list of ours, we have created a field for a NIMC number so that any family never with a NIMC number would be put it in the form. We have also entered an agreement with the NIMC now to start a small pilot in a local government to see how the individuals that are captured in the register now are captured up on the NIMC platform and give be given a NIMC number. We are hoping that, that would be successful. Once that is successful, we would then carry that along to ensure that everyone that is on the social register also has a NIMC number and then gradually we start the process of migrating completely to the NIMC as a unique identifier.

One of the pitfalls of programmes like this is monitoring and evaluation to forestall sharp practices in the system, what strategy are you adopting to ensure that the benefit gets to the right people?

We have a very robust monitoring and supervision system. First, the world bank does its monitoring through the support system that it gives to us but internally at our level we also have a very robust monitoring programme that helps the entire system. The team develops monitoring tools. We just concluded a monitoring support mission in most of the states and we are given a feed back from it. We have also engaged civil society organizations as third party to monitor the programmes and they are completely independent from us. Their report only comes to me as a national coordinator. What they do is to take the National social register take all the beneficiary for the cash transfer, the youth employment programme, for CSDP and they go back to the communities to validate the information that you put in your form and they come back with report every quarter. This report is completely independent and it helps us also to engage properly. The other one is that the entire suite of the programmes are design on output based. Now output base means that it is driven by the states and we only reimbursed the states based on the result of the registration for the social register that they bring and we only give states money to develop the register depending on the total number of poor and vulnerable households they have brought and have been approved into the social register. It’s performance base. We the hire a private accounting firm that takes these output from the states- for instance, a state like Kogi has brought maybe 750,000 poor and vulnerable households, they would then take these numbers, take the unique identifier, take all the information and go back to those communities and just to make sure that when we do this, we take record of the individual compound, we take the geo-coordinate. Without our people, the verifiers simply use the geo-coordinate to locate the house and they go to validate that – you’re in the social register we’re you validated by your community, we’re you enumerated? Ye yes. If no, then they go to the custodians of the community list to collaborate the list against the record. So, such structures are put in place to ensure that the data and those who eventually access this social safety net or intervention programmes are actually those that were picked by their communities. We are not influenced by anyone right from the choice of the local government that we started based on completely statistical data established by the bureau of statistics through other surveys that produced the poverty map and no state Governor or any politician has been able to say you enter this state, go to this local government first, no, that has never been the case, we operate independently.

How much support have you being receiving from the state government?

Like I have said, the state governors do not interfere with so there is no political interference from the governors right from the choice of civil servants. They do internal advert for civil servants to apply, they conduct interview and they follow the memorandum of understanding that we signed and once they picked the civil servant, they send the names for us to validate before they go ahead and give appointment letters. No governor has said, I don’t like this state coordinator, give my brother or give my cousin, no. Secondly, they all have given established offices for us in the states and employed the civil servants who have been successful in the interviews to man these positions. In most cases they even go ahead to start with stipend, they also give top up to the operational cost that we give to states. States have even gone a step further in supplying the tablets that we used in collecting the data that we use when our supply has not come in and a few states like Akwa Ibom, Ebnue, Jigawa have done that. State like Benue has even gone ahead to give the state team monthly stipend to help them even move ahead in the generation of the register in terms of the communities that are there over and above what we even give which has supported the team a lot. So, we receive a lot of support from the state, we appreciate it and we would continue to do so.

We are actually advocating for the states to have it as a budget line under the ministry of planning so the state operation and coordinating unit is situated in each ministry of planning in each state of the federation.

Before the election the perception was that this Programme was targeted at mobilizing support for the President; how have you been contending with this kind of perception?

They have been there and we will always refer everyone to the efforts we have been making and the evidence that have been established. Like I have said before, for the social register, the evidence Rest with the community and for journalists and friends and for critics we simply say go to the communities and see for yourself.

Last quarter, we took a couple of journalists to the field in Plateau state and they went to the communities and they saw the register for themselves. The evidence is out there and for the communities we are very happy because we share information with the communities CSOs also come and take the list and go to the communities and you see the communities list by yourself and interact with the communities, interact with the beneficiaries.

But this is devoid of party politics, there is no political affiliation to the composition of the social register.  We encourage everyone to participate this sort of rumors by political agitators that it was a political tool should not be believed. The facility that established NASSCO and its structures was actually designed to last beyond the first tenure of the president. It wasn’t a matter of dependent on whether he wins or he loses. To also give credit to Mr President, it would be the only programme in my own little experience that has no political influence at all, I sit under the office of the Vice President I have never a single day received instruction from him that you are going to Ekiti state or why are you not in Lagos, why are you not in Osun state or as you are in Osun state you better start with this or that local government or listen to listen to this state governor he wants this to start with this people or that people, never! Not even a single day. Even when you have people say oh can IG be like that, he says look what does the system says, come back to Apera, what did he say, please let’s follow those resumes.

The president has in his Democracy Day speech, says that Nigeria government starting from his administration would take 100 million people out of poverty in ten years. Is it an achievable goal and is this programme in line with his target?

Yes, I see social protection as key strategy to pull people out of poverty and I would say the President was a bit conservative in his estimate over ten years. I will give a simple example; in the social register we have 1.1 million people for poor and vulnerable households- a poor and vulnerable households is on the average five people – that is what the standard family is by definition. Now, 68 percent or so of this 1.1 million households are eligible for instance for cash transfer that is 740,000 households multiply by five gives you about 3.7 million individuals and that is for the first half of the year. At the end of the year you have 1 million poor and vulnerable households are accessing N5000. Evidence in the country shows that a family used 68 percent of those money are spent on consumption, 11 percent on savings and consumption refers to basic households needs like foods, medicines and so on. Let’s take good and say that these poor and vulnerable households go to the market to buy rice. The other percentage is spent on power and other family need.

No, we have in excess of N155 million in savings in the villages. They also used the money to invest in other things and we have had success stories but let’s go back to the simple example of the merchants they go to the village farmer who was stocking only about a bag or rice for a gold month to sale but now because they have cash and the family is coming to buy the rice from him, he is seeking one bag a day, so he needs to improve his stocks may be by ten bags. So, he does improve his stocks by ten bags because he will sale. He has to go to the warehouse, the wholesaler used to sale ten bags a day because the demand was low, so now one villager is coming to buy the whole ten bags, he needs to improve his stocks too up to hundred bags. The wholesaler is going to the manufacturer and say I need hundred bags a month now. The manufacturer was only producing hundred bags a month because that is the maximum, he was selling at that time but now the demand from only one seller is 100 bags he will want to increase his stock to 1000 bags. Meanwhile it takes one labourer to offload ten bags, so he was employing 10 people to produce a hundred bags but because the demand has increased to 1000, he now employs ten labourers to offload and 100 workers meaning that he takes nine people out of the labour market. He now puts food on the table of 90 people putting them on the route to alleviating poverty.

So if you look at that split effect of N5000 to an individual family and you work through that corridor right to the manufacturers giving jobs, you take a step back to the warehouse owner that also gives job because he was employing only one person that takes care if only ten bags and look at the transporters that offload the rice from the producer to the warehouse, the man who is in the street suddenly has a KJV because every week he goes to offload rice he is also empowered.

Evidence abound that for every one naira that you give for cash transfer, a return of N1.30k so you have an additional 30 kobo. If you go down corridor, the manufacturer now has more and he is selling more and is paying more income tax to the government. The wholesaler is selling more and is paying more tax to the government, the village merchant suddenly has lots of business coming in so he is no longer scared that the local government staff are coming to collect tax or they will lock his shop. The money goes around and get back to the government because it is the same tax payers money that the government used for cash transfer and other developmental projects like infrastructures.

In the long run, the ten years period that the president has given, if concerted efforts are made as we are going on, it’s not only going to take those number of people out of poverty but much more.

It serves as music in the ears of the Nigerian people when the president made that promise but it’s a promise that he made based on the experiences and facts he had before him. He also stated in that speech that we now have a register for poor and vulnerable that we know they are not faceless, they are individuals, we know them by their age, by their sex by their locations and other indicators. With this kind of gradual effort that would happen.

Every programme has its attendant challenges what would you say has being your constraint in the implementation of this programme?

We look at structures within government, at the moment we are housed here at the office of the Vice President but if you are looking at the future, we hope to one day spin up into an establishment like a commission. So we are still working towards that and we need to begin to actualize that, and we need to begin to work with key stakeholders within the government and with the legislature to try to make that happen. Public acceptance, public knowledge that is a depth of knowledge in social protection and what the impact or effect could be.

Struggling with socializing the structures, socializing the policy has been one. The second one has also been Fund – of course the state government are trying their best, so is the federal government. But the state team needs support, they need the state government to establish it as a funding line so that they have their operational cost. What we do is to fund the actual development of the register like I said on output based. However, the mechanism that fuels that act is not provided by us and we rely on the state governments to support the teams to do that. That has been happening but needs to happen more. Finally, capacity development – human capacity has to do with building their capacity which we have been doing but also institutional capacity because we cannot exist in isolation – we need to work with the relevant ministries, departments and agenciess bbuilding their capacity in understanding the work and begin to use the social register also. For instance, the ministry of agriculture on targeted farmers intervention to the poor and vulnerable could use the social register to pull out poor farmers because the statistics shows who are the real poor farmers. Another interesting thing that we found out when we are collecting data, we realized that the actual poor are not farming because they are so poor, they can afford pieces of land. Those who actually have land tie to their own homes by their ancestors, they least these farmlands to other people so they can feed. So, it’s a very good access programme for the government to target these people and actually give them access to land, access to improved seedlings and mechanized farming to farm.

What is your success story based on the target and timeline that you have set for yourself, have you achieved your target?

We have not I have to be honest with you. We are established in 2016 and our target by the government is to raise a million poor and vulnerable households annually. But we were delayed by a number of factors: agreeing with the states, signing of MoU, setting up structures and all of that, it took a while and we also started by doing and learning. In April 1, 2018, we looked at it and review the entire structure and now we say we are in tract. We are not yet there but by the third year, we should be hitting three million households. We are 1.1 million households by June this year.

We are hoping with all the system and structures we are establishing in the states, by December we would have moved it to two million and we would have a shortfall of our three years target and we would push towards the target more aggressively now that we have set up the system structures, we have done all the necessary procurement that we need to do, we have all the devices that we need to saturate all the states. We are also investing in building capacity of our staff as well. We are very optimistic that we would catch up with the gap that we have had previously.


The Secret to Raising Children with Special Needs Without Exhaustion




Raising a child with special needs in Nigeria can be extremely tiring for most parents. They also have to deal with strange ideas and theories about what caused their child’s condition, which leads to being excluded from society.

In a recent interview with DAILY ASSET News Editor, Prosper Okoye, the Executive Director of Elsali Care Foundation, Goodnews Emeka-Agadah,  discussed the severe consequences faced by these children and shared her secret for managing the stress of caring for them, among other topics.

What is your foundation about?

Elsali Care Foundation was born out of a passionate drive that began during my national youth service days.

At that time, I encountered parents with children who had special needs, and many of them were unaware of their child’s condition or the care they required. Consequently, they would confine their children at home, awaiting their eventual death.

I was able to offer assistance in some cases due to my familiarity with the conditions affecting such children, as I had a cousin who had a child with cerebral palsy, a kind of special need. Regrettably, society has yet to comprehend the distinctiveness of these children. My cousin lost her marriage due to her child’s condition, as people attributed the child’s condition to her own wrongdoing, claiming it was retribution catching up with her.

After completing my service, I joined a non-governmental organization that catered to orphans and vulnerable children, but they provided no support for children with special needs.

Upon observation, I discovered that there are numerous such children in society, and their parents are struggling. Many of these parents are unaware of their child’s condition or where to seek help. It was at this point that I told myself, “I possess significant knowledge about this condition, so let me step in and assist them.” That is how the foundation was established.

We advocate for these children since they are vulnerable and unable to advocate for themselves. We are consistently present for them, providing them with protection. Our primary focus is helping these children realize their potential.

Because we’ve known that when they receive proper care from an early age, there can be a significant improvement that enables them to maximize their potential and lead fulfilling lives.

We offer them clinical therapy, educational support, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and behavioral therapy.

We also aim to incorporate vocational support, as it is through this avenue that they can acquire skills to become more valuable members of society. However, currently, we do not possess the capacity to do so.

How can we identify a child with special needs?

Special needs is a term that encompasses both physical and neurodevelopmental disabilities. In our foundation, we primarily focus on children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, such as autism, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disorders and others.

In more concrete terms, although very unfortunate, society often perceives children with special needs as unintelligent because some may have difficulty speaking, while others may exhibit hyperactive and destructive behaviors.

Regarding physical disabilities, we refer to children who are physically impaired, deaf, or nonverbal.

How do you support orphans since you don’t have a home in your facility?

Apart from the special school center, the foundation takes part in community programs. During these programs, we come across some children who, just by looking at them physically, we know need help. And when we dig deeper, we find out that their parents have passed away, and they live with their relatives.

These are another group of children we work with. We assist them through the relatives they live with. For those who are not attending school, we help them get back into school.

Honestly, when it comes to providing for their nutritional needs, I must say we do very little due to lack of funds.

They appear undernourished, but in our small way, we provide them with some provisions through their caregivers because you can’t talk about children without considering their caregivers.

What has the journey been like so far?

We’ve been working behind the scenes since 2013, and we have many memorable success stories. Actually, every child we help is memorable because when we first meet them, their situation is very sad.

Sometimes it’s so bad that we can’t help but cry, especially when we see their parents’ tears and frustration.

Most parents tell us that their child was born healthy, just like any other child. But around the age of one or two, the child starts losing all their thinking and learning abilities.

The parents feel very frustrated and wonder if it’s some kind of magic or curse from their village. But after talking to them, they start to understand over time.

Despite the financial burden and surprisingly, the negative attitude from the public, we keep going because of the many successes we’ve achieved over the years.

For instance, when we go to some places to raise awareness about this condition, we often face rejection because people think these special children don’t belong there.

But they don’t understand that other children, in fact everyone else should learn how to relate to and treat children with special needs.

These children face discrimination from their own relatives and other children who should be their friends.

Some schools don’t want to accept them, and even when they do, they keep them separate from the other children.

We object to this unfair treatment and try to make people understand that they need to think like the special child does to understand why they act the way they do.

We have an amazing story of a 15-year-old child with Down syndrome. When he first came to us, he couldn’t do anything. We started helping him by teaching him to use the toilet because it was so bad that he would eat his own waste if left alone.

We also did many other therapies with him, and within just a few months, he started improving some of his behaviors. We even managed to help him stop using diapers.

There are other numerous success stories like this one. Indeed, just knowing that we could help a child and ease the burden for their parents brings us a lot of happiness and fulfillment.

What exactly could cause a child who is born without any issues to experience regression?

It is a neuro-developmental issue. It’s similar to when we have malaria and experience certain symptoms. For some children with autism, we notice these symptoms, which we refer to as red flags, as they grow up.

It is a condition that exists within them and influences their behavior, not something caused by external factors like their village people.

Some regressions can be attributed to a lack of essential vitamins or the presence of excessive mercury in their bodies. Others may be linked to low levels of certain microorganisms.

While ongoing research is being conducted, some regressions can be traced back to genetic conditions.

Additionally, problems during delivery, such as improper handling or prolonged labor, can also contribute to regression. The age of the parents can also play a role. Older parents have a higher likelihood of having a child with Down syndrome.

How do you cope with exhaustion while taking care of these children?

The issue of children born with special needs is of utmost importance to address as a matter of public concern. Approximately 10 out of every 50 children born each year are likely to have some form of special needs.

Furthermore, it is expensive and challenging to solely provide care for these children, even for parents with substantial resources.

We face numerous challenges as an organization, but the primary one is the lack of public awareness, which leads to stigmatization.

We require assistance in raising awareness to inform the public that these children with special needs are just as human as anyone else. They have emotions and experience pain.

Additionally, there is a need for improved implementation of policies by the government. While laws and policies exist to prevent discrimination, there is a lack of mechanisms for effective implementation.

Furthermore, we lack sufficient personnel in this field. Several individuals have come to work and volunteer to help the children, but they often cannot stay due to the demanding and strenuous nature of the work. In some cases, it is because the remuneration is not adequate for them, but we can’t help it because of the unavailability of funds.

For me, what prevents exhaustion is the love I have for what I do. If I were not motivated by financial gain, working with children with special needs would still be a job I would choose and strive to excel at. I see them as my own children.

However, I cannot do this job alone; we need stakeholders to assist us in extending these services to rural areas and other hard-to-reach places.

We require funds to train and motivate individuals to join us in the mission of reaching out to these special children, as it is not their fault that they were born this way.

It is also crucial to train parents on how to raise these children.

We must raise awareness in society to create more inclusive opportunities in schools, workplaces, and all other spheres of society.

We need more partnerships.

Children with special needs can grow up to become professionals, although they may lean more towards artistic pursuits and display greater inventiveness. Many celebrated musicians and footballers, such as Ronaldo, were actually children with special needs. Therefore, early interventions are crucial as the brains are still developing.

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Japa Syndrome: Reflection on the Current Situation – Dr. Emeka




In light of the soaring cost of living as a result of petroleum products’ hike in price and other economic woes, many Nigerians have embarked on a quest to leave the country in search of greener pastures abroad. In this interview with Prosper Okoye, the news editor of DAILY ASSET, migration expert Dr.

Emeka Obiezu discusses the intricacies that drive the Japa syndrome.
Dr. Emeka, who is also the Chairman of the Civil Society Migration Network (CSOnetMADE), sheds light on the realities surrounding Nigeria’s migration landscape.

DAILY ASSET: Japa has become a daydream for most people. How has this impacted migration in Nigeria?

Dr. Emeka Obiezu: It is evident.

The entire migration trend revolves around sustaining one’s livelihood and fulfilling their dreams. We refer to this as the driving force behind migration. The primary reason people leave or desire to leave is because they are living in an unfavorable environment and they believe that another place offers better prospects and the fulfillment of what they lack in their current situation. Nigeria has consistently witnessed a migration trend driven by economic motives, such as the lack of opportunities, unemployment, job insecurity, and even threats to personal safety and property. This is not unique to Nigeria; it is a common feature in migration trends worldwide. Out of the 281 million international migrants, 169 million are labor migrants who move primarily due to economic reasons. This means that there are either no immediate job prospects or their current employment is unsatisfactory or lacks job security. It could also involve changing jobs that motivate their move. The trend suggests that if the economic conditions in their home country improve, the migration curve will decline. However, if the opportunities remain stagnant, the graph will also remain stable, and if the lack of opportunities increases, the migration outflow will rise accordingly. Therefore, the concept of “japa” is merely a way of encapsulating the prevailing economic conditions in Nigeria and the lack of opportunities that drive the migration curve upward. Although there are other factors involved, they are intertwined. For instance, the anticipation of the outcome of the 2023 election has already instilled fear and anxiety, leading to uncertainties about the future for many Nigerians. This intensifies the desire to find a better place before the situation worsens or they become trapped here. Unfortunately, the outcome of the election did not improve matters. The implications of the political landscape reverberate through the economy. As you can see, even someone who had no prior plans to travel suddenly wants to leave this week, as the resources they have, including transport fare, are no longer sufficient. This has a ripple effect on every other aspect of life.

DAILY ASSET: What could be the implication of this trend?

Dr. Emeka: There are so many things that could come out of it. One is to look at it in terms of nation-building. If we have a high percentage of workforce outflow, then it would adversely impact the nation-building of the country in terms of jobs and quality of job. What is really disheartening is that the rise in the flow rate is higher for skilled workers and professionals. Like I heard one of the doctors’ associations demanding the new president to declare a state of emergency in the health sector, and that is just them. The labour union is on the street, and so many other sectors are also crying of losing their best. One of the presidential candidates use the term from consumption to production, so I don’t know if the skilled work population leaves whether we would achieve production against consumption. Well, the one sitting now did not campaign on that, so that may not be his concern. There is always a flip-up from the other end, Nigeria benefits so much from the diaspora engagement. We hope, this is a question of hope because diaspora remittances translate to the desire of the diaspora to contribute to nation-building and the availability to do that. We have had a good report in terms of how our diaspora is interested in giving back to the community, and so if we still maintain over $23 billion as our inflow from our diaspora, maybe this number of people that are going out may increase that poll in terms of higher remittances coming back home. If the diaspora also ventures from their different field it can also reflect in nation-building in such a way that it does amount to a complete loss.

DAILY ASSET: How would you evaluate the Nigeria Migration System?

Dr. Emeka: Our lives as migrants and actors of migrants are characterized by dynamics. We live in the moment; in other words, today speaks for itself. Not that we have cut off completely from our past, but we use today to judge how the past was utilized well, and whether the present is active enough or the future is venturing at all.

Having been in the migration sphere in the last few years, I could, in fairness, identify progress in the management of migration in Nigeria. In other words, there are more conscious efforts by actors to come together. The coming together of different stakeholders to think through what could be the best options for situations around is helping us to gain more insight and experiences from people who have worked in different spaces of migration outside our own space. It also helps us to squarely address the issues at hand. Nigeria has also come up with instruments to help in the management of migration. The policies that were made before 2018 are being reviewed, and some action plans have been developed for their implementation. Some have even gone a step further by establishing memoranda of understanding and operating procedures that would guide implementers. Migration governance instruments are a key element in managing migration. When we have all those instruments that we can fall back on, it helps both the implementers and the advocates to have something to refer to, either to push for more things or to measure what has been done. So, in that direction, I would say yes we have made progress. But, have we done enough to say that we have our migration issues under control? Not yet. I think what needs to be desired in that direction is what I call committed ownership of the migration issues in terms of framing the question, designing the plan, and following through with the implementation. Somehow, it would be fair to say that our migration governance is reactive. The reason I say that is because what we do now is spurred by what others do, particularly international partners, either governments or international organizations, who raise issues and we follow suit. For instance, the major trend in migration governance up until now has been the issue of return, readmission, and reintegration. This is because the Western world is trying to clean their environment of what they call unwanted persons, that is, migrants who are in irregular status. Because they want to push them away, they get in touch with us saying they want to return our people and ask what they should do to accomplish that. Then we tell them to design a package that when they come back, it will help them reintegrate into economic activities and others. They buy into it for their own interest and begin to design various projects and programs around it. That is what we have been pursuing for a number of years now, which is why I can say that it is reactive. Another reactive aspect of it is when our people are stuck in Libya or some other place, and then we rush in to see what we can do about it. However, we could have taken proactive migration governance that looks at the development issues that are the root causes of this movement. We have not done enough because it requires political will, which has to translate into the financial budget. We have experts who design policies, but they end up in the political space because there is no political will to implement them. Somebody says political will is simply defined as putting your mouth where your money is or putting your money where your mouth is. In other words, if I say this, there is something to back it. I would want to see an intentional act done by Nigeria’s migration governance, to say in the next quarter, we are going to do intentional advocacy or policy that will align with the government’s national development policy plan to say, “Do this or do that,” and we can observe the number of people it would help prevent from migrating. For instance, we can consciously create specific job opportunities targeting demographics that we know are prone to migrate and provide them with those opportunities. By doing so, we can assess how many would benefit from it and how many would choose not to leave. If we begin to implement such measures, we can say that we are holding our migration governance to a radical, proactive approach that allows us to design it instead of merely following the fallout from other places.

DAILY ASSET: There appears to be a deliberate effort by certain countries to keep Nigerians away from their country. What are your thoughts on this? And how can one leave wisely, as you always advise?

Dr. Emeka: I can explain that with a simple example. If you want to visit a friend, what would be the wise thing for you to do if I ask you that question?

DAILY ASSET: I don’t answer questions (chuckles).

Dr. Emeka: Alright. The wise thing to do is to call up your friend and confirm if they are available. Then the person will inform you how to get to their house and any specific instructions, such as having dogs in the house and how to ensure they don’t come after you. You would also discuss the duration of your visit and the purpose of your visit. All these details should be discussed and agreed upon before you embark on your journey. That is the right way to visit someone, even if it is a family member.

Migration is a human right for every person. You can move whenever and for any reason you want to move. However, entering the place you are going to is also the human right of another person. They need to know who is coming, what they are coming to do, and how long they intend to stay. Therefore, for this action to be completed, there must be a relationship between the person who is moving and the person receiving them. That is why we advise that the wise way to move is to obtain all the necessary documents that will enable the migrant to do so legally and safely.

So, how do you begin? Firstly, you need to identify yourself by obtaining a passport. With your passport, let’s say you, as a Nigerian, want to go to Country B. In order to enter Country B, you need to inquire about the requirements set by Country B for entry and the purpose of your visit. Based on that, they may inform you that you need a work visa, for example. To obtain a work visa, you will be given the requirements, and once you fulfill them, you can obtain the visa at the embassy of Country B.

However, having a visa to enter the country does not automatically guarantee your entry. The immigration officer at the border needs to confirm your identity and the purpose of your visit. They may also specify the conditions and duration of your stay. For instance, if you are given a 30-minute stay, it is your responsibility for the sake of your dignity and credibility to leave once the time is over. If, for any reason, you decide to overstay, thinking that the place is comfortable and you prefer to stay a bit longer, you would be violating the agreement and entering an irregular status.

The issue of a deliberate effort to prevent people from entering certain countries is one of the reasons why irregular migration thrives. If I want to enter your country and you don’t want me to, I may be unable to obtain a visa or face harsh conditions if I do. In such situations, someone may approach me and suggest an alternative way to enter the country without going through those procedures. This creates opportunities for individuals engaged in smuggling operations. However, it doesn’t benefit anyone. It doesn’t benefit the country, nor does it benefit the migrant involved. It exposes the migrant to various dangers and makes it difficult for the country to manage its resources.

As migration actors, we urge countries and everyone involved in the migration issue to make the pathways for regular migration as accessible as possible. Furthermore, we appeal that for those who are already in a country and are in an irregular status, instead of detaining or deporting them, opportunities should be created for them to regularize their status. This approach preserves their dignity and enables them to contribute positively to their home country and help those they left behind.

DAILY ASSET: Are there strategies in place by the government or civil society associations to assist those affected by conflict and victims?

Dr. Emeka: One of the primary elements of migration governance is to protect migrants throughout the entire migration process, from their decision to leave to their eventual return. The human rights of migrants are of utmost importance, and we work towards ensuring their protection. This is because they are human beings and every individual’s rights should be safeguarded regardless of their status. There are several measures in place. For refugees, there is the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees that provides protection. For migrants, there is a convention on migrants’ rights and the rights of their families. The International Labour Organization has established labour policies to prevent discrimination and promote fair recruitment, among others. Nigeria has also signed international conventions and developed national policies and programs to protect migrant workers. One example is the establishment of NAPTIP (National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons). Their responsibilities include combating human trafficking, rescuing and protecting victims, and prosecuting offenders. Some instrumental policies include the National Migration Policy and the National Policy on Labour Migration. These initiatives provide opportunities for protecting migrant workers and preventing exploitation in various ways.

DAILY ASSET: How effective are these policies?

Dr. Emeka: The effectiveness of these policies depends on the individuals and entities responsible for their implementation. The challenge we face with policies is their execution, and this is not unique to Nigeria. It is a global governance issue. Some actors may argue that policies are put in place by the government but do not lead to any tangible outcomes. However, as advocates, we see these policies as a means to hold the government accountable. We persistently push for their implementation until at least one migrant receives the intended protection. To some extent, the Nigerian government is improving its efforts to protect migrants, particularly those who are returning. We are establishing bilateral relationships with other countries to ensure that there are no detentions, reduce deportations, and provide opportunities for voluntary return with dignity. Therefore, the implementation of these policies is gradually taking shape.

DAILY ASSET: The increasing number of returnees is a cause for concern. Does your organization engage in any initiatives to support their reintegration into society?

Dr. Emeka: The reason why numbers are highlighted in the media is because there is now a structured process in place for documenting and managing these returns. These efforts are aimed at organizing the return processes. Reintegration is a crucial component of the return process, enabling individuals who have completed a migration cycle to reintegrate into their local communities in a sustainable manner. The goal is to ensure that they do not face the same fears or economic and political pressures that compelled them to migrate in the first place.

This is known as sustainable reintegration, and it begins even before the person returns. They are made aware of the conditions in their country of return and are provided with orientation and available opportunities. These opportunities may include education, vocational training, and business training. We focus on both individual and community reintegration. Individual reintegration addresses the specific needs of each person and follows their journey until they are able to rebuild their lives in a sustainable manner.

Community reintegration involves bringing together a group and engaging the receiving community. The community plays an active role, designing and managing projects that address the needs of potential migrants and aim to reduce irregular migration.

As a civil society organization, our network comprises over 240 organizations, many of which are grassroots actors. These organizations implement various projects, such as providing shelters. In fact, the first male shelter designed to receive returnees was built by a member of our network, the Patriotic Citizen Initiative. Our members collaborate with the government based on their areas of focus. Some provide psychosocial support, guidance, shelter, family tracing, and monitoring of the reintegration process. Together, they form the return and reintegration working community within Nigeria’s migration governance framework. This collaboration occurs at different levels, including the federal level, monitoring and evaluation groups, and other governance structures that bring actors together to coordinate our activities.

DAILY ASSET: There have been allegations that shelter homes for returnees in Nigeria are poorly managed, and that individuals who leave these shelters are worse off than when they entered. What is your honest assessment of the shelter homes in Nigeria?

DR. Emeka: If these are mere allegations, they should be treated as such unless there is substantial evidence to support them. Therefore, I won’t comment directly on those specific allegations. However, it is important to recognize that institutions are operated by human beings, and there may be instances where human weaknesses such as neglect or abuse occur. It is crucial to ensure that both civil society organizations and government actors maintain oversight of these centers to prevent any form of abuse or compromise of the beneficiaries. From my personal experience, the shelter homes I have worked with have been exceptional in their operations.

DAILY ASSET: Alright, is the Nigerian Migration policy keeping pace with the current migration reality?

Dr. Emeka: The Nigerian migration policy was formulated in 2015, and it did not anticipate the specific circumstances of 2023 since it could not predict the future. Therefore, it served the purpose at the time of its creation. However, the policy was not designed to be permanent and unchangeable. It included provisions for review, allowing for adjustments based on evolving policies. The review process is currently underway, taking into account the present experiences and dynamics of migration trends. This review has involved a wide range of actors contributing to the development of different processes. The ultimate aim is to address both evident and underlying issues related to migration. It is important to acknowledge that as human beings, our actions are limited by our knowledge and vision. Nonetheless, we strive to do our best and ensure that our policies align with the realities we are encountering.

DAILY ASSET: Finally, what would you recommend that the new administration prioritize?

Dr. Emeka: My advice is for all Nigerians, whether it’s the government or individuals, to work towards building a better Nigeria. The current state of migration reflects the fact that Nigeria is not favorable for many people, and we cannot deny this reality. It is not unpatriotic to acknowledge that Nigeria is not favorable to many individuals. Having experienced Nigeria outside of the country, I have witnessed the longing and regret in the eyes of those who left and wish they had stayed. They left because Nigeria is not favorable to them. It is the responsibility of everyone, whether in private or public spaces, to contribute to creating a favorable environment. Key aspects to address include security, job opportunities, social life, social services, social insurance, and everything that ensures basic comfort for individuals. This is my suggestion and recommendation to all Nigerians. We cannot achieve this overnight, but if people observe a clear direction of progress, it will be encouraging and may dissuade some individuals from undertaking forced migration. Our ultimate goal is to make migration a choice, not a necessity. Currently, it is viewed as a necessity because people feel trapped and believe that if they don’t leave, they don’t know what will happen. We are desperately seeking any opportunity to escape the limited space we feel confined in.

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Next Plateau Governor must Epitomize Gomwalk – Tanko




As political activities leading to the 2023 General Elections are on top gear in Plateau State, Honourable Sati Tanko, Special Adviser to Governor Simon Lalong in this Interview with Jude Dangwam gave a hint on the kind of a new governor the state needs come 2023. He expressed worry that the State falling into the hands of political godfathers

Plateau State has seen different qualities of governors.

What kind of Governor did you think the State needs come 2023?

Plateau State should be expecting a leader that will be tolerant, not fanatical about tribe or religion and must be a leader that will carry all the tribes in the state along.

I said this because this idea of minority, majority dichotomy has always shown it’s ugly heads in the various leaderships we have had over the years as a state and it has not done us any good.

During the Chief Solomon Lar period when we were together with Nasarawa State, we didn’t see such division along tribes or religion, the dichotomy was about the Southern and Upper Plateau, there was no primodial sentiments as it is now.
Unfortunately, when Solomon Lar left power unceremoniously, because of the coup that toppled him, led by the current President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari.
Plateau State has been devastated by a lot of crises. We have lost a lot of properties; we have lost our senses; we have lost our unity; we have lost the umbilical code that bound us as a people. Why? Because tribalism has eaten deep into the fabric of our politics. Religion has eaten deep into the fabric of our politics. We have preferred primordial interest to state interest that will unit us and build our economy.
The kind of leadership I will want is a combination of all the leaders that we had. We must have a leader with the spirit of J.D Gomwalk. Why did I say so? It is because the leadership spirit of late Gomwalk was to go out there and get. It was a competitive spirit that struggled within the then 12 states of the Nigerian nation.
That is why he brought the now University of Jos; he brought Benue Plateau Radio; The Nigeria Standard Newspaper among others. Yhat was the spirit. Solomon Lar came and had the maturity of tolerating all the various tribes of the former Plateau, covering the present day Nasarawa State. 
Virtually everybody was contented. He was able to bring all the tribes through his programme of emancipation that he developed and he succeeded in emancipating all the downtrodden tribes of the Plateau. Those tribes that were suppressed by feudal lords were emancipated and that was maturity.
We had Ambassador Fidelis Tapgun whom I consider as a stateman in his own right. He was coming from the bureaucratic setting, as a Permanent Secretary who had worked with so many military governments in the country. So, he knew Plateau State inside out because he was a student of Solomon Lar and he was able to marry some of Lar’s programmes by building schools, and paying the SSCE registrations fees for students among other things in the larger Plateau State and people appreciated those programmes because of the poverty level at that time. 
It got to the time of Joshua Dariye who was coming from the economic background as an accountant. He came in with his welfarist package and there was no hunger in the land, lifting up the standard of living of the citizens and I think he did well. The building and commencement of academic activities at the State University Bokkos is a credit to him, an institution that has raised so many people today. 
When you talk of Baba Jonah David Jang, he is stubborn to some extent. Stubborn in the sense that he did not allow other factors make his thinking overlap. He remained focused on what he want to achieve. So those factors that wanted to not just pulled him down per say but to change his thinking saw him as a very stubborn leader.
Infact he is a man that came with a kind of programmes for Plateau people. But because of the forces that were and the insecurity that time, Baba Jang became a fighting bull with the Federal authority given the power that be at that time and they tagged him recalcitrant, but to the masses of Plateau State I think he did his best too because he was able to introduce a kind of nationalism that today you find it in the minds of natives of Plateau State.
Lalong came with his peace mantra and I think, to a greater extent he has succeeded because there are no more ‘No Go Areas’ as we had before now. Business and social night activities are going on now than it used to be. Although there are pocket of attacks in hinterlands but the Lalong administration has been able to stabilize the security situation within the Jos-Bukuru metropolis.
So, the kind of leader that I would want in 2023 is someone with the combination of all the attributes of these leaders that saw each playing his part in the best way he can. But above all, somebody that can bring us unity is important, somebody that can tolerate, somebody that can build infrastructures and bring out the best in our institutions in the way they function that’s the kind of leadership I desire.
I want a leader that will focus on peace, somebody who will address our education, the agriculture, somebody who will give the desired energy to our commerce by building our economy to make Plateau economically viable. We have always been considered as a civil servants state, so I want a leader that will come and change that narrative.

Across political parties, do you see such an ideal leader amongst the aspirants for the governorship seat come 2023 in Plateau State?

For the first time in the history of Plateau State, I can see from the array of aspirants both in the ruling party and the opposition parties who can bring this to bear. Because I can see that they have a very rich credentials, and to be fair to them, there is no one that can not govern Plateau State given their credentials. 

What are your fears in the whole politicking leading to the choice of the ideal leader come 2023 considering the arrays of aspirants?

My fears is about the money bags! We don’t want money bags to hijack our political system. Where people will plant surrogates and psychophants or cohorts, at the end of the day they will be answerable to their godfathers and not the people of Plateau State. That’s my fear about the kind of leadership that is emerging. I rather want a leader that will emerge from the true reflection and the aspiration of the people of Plateau State! 

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