Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, has been confirmed as the head of the Economic Community of West African States Inter-ministerial Committee on Social Protection.
The appointment was endorsed by the regional leaders, including Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Dr. Edu spoke on the importance of her new role at the end of a hybrid meeting of the committee in Banjul, Gambia. She urged the private sector and development partners to support the implementation of the ECOWAS regional social protection framework.
She said the framework was vital to tackle the humanitarian and poverty challenges in West Africa, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Social Protection is a fundamental human right and should not be regarded as a privilege. It is a social and economic necessity that has proven to be a stabilizer in times of crises and shock, and it is meant to be provided throughout life circle,” she said.
She lamented the low coverage and expenditure on social protection in the ECOWAS region, which stands at 17% and 1% of the population and GDP respectively.
She, however, praised Nigeria’s efforts in providing social protection benefits to 15 million households and 61 million individuals through conditional cash transfers.
“Nigeria has a National Policy on Social Protection developed and other ancillary policies that will facilitate its operationalization, like the Cash and Voucher Assistance policy in Humanitarian context have equally been developed to guide actors in providing cash transfer assistance to the persons of concern in humanitarian setting.
“Also in terms of structures, we have Several Agencies and parastatals dedicated to providing various social protection assistance to different categories of the population of Nigeria to lift millions out of poverty through different Social Investment and intervention programs under the watch of the ministry of humanitarian Affairs and poverty alleviation.
“All interventions including humanitarian interventions are now redesigned through the lenses of the Humanitarian-Development-Peace nexus to ensure sustainable response.
“Most importantly, a Humanitarian and Poverty Alleviation Trust Fund has equally been approved by the Federal Executive Council to ensure the mobilization of resources for social protection interventions,” she said.
Dr. Edu also called for immediate action, emphasizing that the Social Protection Framework for West Africa aims to provide comprehensive guidelines to ECOWAS and member states for designing and delivering social protection interventions.
The meeting was attended by ministers from eleven countries and regional heads of organizations such as UNICEF, IFAO, and WFP. The Vice President of The Gambia, Muhammad Jallow, commended the participants at the closing ceremony.