UNICEF and the sixteen other states have organised a social protection tour of the state which will last for about four days.
UNICEF and the sixteen other states have organised a social protection tour of Osun which will last for about four days to enable them understudy the social protection initiatives being implemented in the state.
The programme will also enable them to study the impact of the wellbeing of the children and women and draw lessons to formulate policies on social interventions programmes of the organisation and the participating states.
Visiting officials were drawn from Abuja, Bayelsa, Bauchi, Enugu, Lagos, Katsina, Ondo, Sokoto, Rivers, Zamfara, Akwa Ibom, Kebbi, Anambra, Benue, Delta in addition to UNICEF staff from various field offices in Nigeria.
Speaking at the programme organised to welcome the participants in Osogbo, Governor Aregbesola commended UNICEF for the great work it is doing in Nigeria, which informed the tour to Osun as a model to be studied and recommended for other states.
He held that the tour of Osun is very humbling, stating that when the state sets out to implement social protection programmes, her primary consideration was to take care of the people.
The Governor added that his administration never thought that many of the state’s novel programmes would be considered models worthy of emulation.
According to him, "When my administration was inaugurated, we said that the biggest challenge at the time was the army of unemployed and disoriented youth that constituted a menace to society and to themselves.
"We then set up the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) in less than 100 days to engage 20,000 youths in public works. The cadets were drawn from all the local governments in the state, without consideration for their political, ideological, ethnic and religious backgrounds.
"We also insisted that their uniforms are sewn by tailors in the states, through their guilds and their equipment like cutlasses, hoes, rakes, booths etc. were purchased directly from markets in all the local governments in the state. We have had two cycles of OYES and we still have the cadets at work.
"The N10,000 monthly allowance we pay them percolates into the local economy in house rent, feeding, transportation and household items, thereby boosting the state’s GDP. The direct benefit of OYES was that crime and unemployment rates dropped drastically in the state," he emphasised.
Aregbesola told UNICEF and participants that for his government to have integration in the various empowerment programmes, it set up an inter-ministerial agency, the Osun Rural Enterprises and Agriculture Programme (OREAP), which comprises the ministries of agriculture, lands, commerce, rural development, finance, health, works, among others.
He noted that the policy has attracted more people, especially women and youths to farming, stating that one flagship programme of empowerment in the state is the home-grown school feeding programme, tagged O’MEALS.
Aregbesola said, "This is an integrated policy of feeding Elementary 1-4 pupils healthy and nutritious meals every school day.
"We engaged the services of 3,007 community caterers to prepare the food for the pupils as hygienically as possible.
"To be able to achieve this, the caterers were first medically screened and certified fit and proper, retrained on the rudiments of cooking and particularly made to understand the importance of, one, hygiene in disease prevention and secondly, good nutrition to healthy living.”
Director General, Office of Economic Development and Partnerships and Coordinator in Osun, Dr. Charles Akinola, said the purpose of the visit was to provide a platform for interaction on the protection, care and empowerment of children, women and marginalised groups through social protection initiatives of Governor Aregbesola.
"It is our great pleasure to have shown the participating states and the top officials of the UNICEF some of the successes which the present administration had accomplished since inception.
"What we have today is the result of the interaction which the state have had with the UNICEF on the social protection programmes of this administration."
Earlier, UNICEF's Chief of Field Officer and Coordination, Dr. Annefrida Kisesa, commended Governor Aregbesola for being committed to human and capital development of his people in spite economic challenges.
Kisesa said UNICEF was proud to identify with the state's achievement and impact in raising the standard of living of the people of the state through its commitment to social intervention policies and programmes.
The Chief said the international organisation was privileged to partner with the state in its bid to learn on how to harness its potentials to further impact in the general wellbeing of the people in the world.
According to her, "It is amazing that the team of UNICEF officers as well as representatives from the 16 states of Nigeria are here to learn on how to learn and adopt Osun social investment scheme that had impacted greatly in the lives of the citizenry.
"To us as UNICEF, it is our collective beliefs that the only way the larger number of people could be reached with our policies and programmes that centre on the need to eliminate poverty and hunger was to partner with Osun state government that has already succeeded in its social protection initiatives and policies.
"In our quest to achieve this objective, the organisation deemed it fit to collaborate with Osun government through which about sixteen states in Nigeria were carried along to have a plenary session in the state on the need to study the success of the state on many of its social investment scheme," she added.
Speaking, representative of Federal Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, Dr. Samson Ebimaro, lauded the efforts made by the Aregbesola's administration in turning Osun to a model in all sectors of the economy.
He said the Ministry was surprised that a small state like Osun has turned to be a pacesetter through which many of her policies and programmes are being adopted and domesticated by her peers and Federal Government.
Dr. Ebimaro disclosed that the National Social Protection Policies, an economic ideology drawn from Osun by the Federal Government had been unanimously endorsed by all the federal ministries and their ministers.
According to him, social protection policies remained a mix of policies, programmes and projects designed for individuals and households throughout lifecycle aimed at ensuring that poverty, hunger among other social challenges are eliminated in the society.
"It is for this singular reason that Osun state government deserves commendation as it has successfully championed this cause at ensuring that government and governance are centred on the people.
"Though this is surprising because no one could have thought that a state like Osun within the few years of creation coupled with her resources, could turn to be a model to which others adopt to succeed in governance.
"On our part, the National Social Protection Policies designed to rescue Nigerians out of poverty and vulnerability, would further help to restore abundance in the general wellbeing of the citizens as lives would be positively impacted through this scheme".