The Federal government, in collaboration with UNICEF and other partners, is to introduce the Universal Child Benefit and increase public spending on social protection by 2 percent, aiming to reduce multidimensional poverty and promote equitable development.

The Universal Child Benefit is to provide financial support to all children, reduce childhood poverty, promote equitable development opportunities, and accelerate access to basic social services, including health.
Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economy, Mr Wale Edun, declared that the goal is to create a comprehensive support network that addresses the multifaceted needs of children and families, ultimately leading to improved outcomes in health, education, and overall well-being.

UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, on behalf of the Social Protection Development Partners Group, stated that social protection is crucial in realising the rights of every child. Child-sensitive social protection is key to ensuring that every child reaches their full potential.

“We commend the government for significant strides in the development of several programmes and a single registry. However, there is a need to ensure stronger linkages between social protection and essential social services with focus on health, education, and nutrition,” she added.

The pact, a statement signed by Blessing Ejiofor, Communication Officer, United Nations Children’s Fund, said was reached during the third edition of the Social Protection Cross Learning Summit (SPECS) in Abuja.

The statement further reads, “Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, faces significant challenges in human capital development and deprivations in health, education, nutrition, water, hygiene, sanitation, and child protection. This situation underscores the urgency for comprehensive and effective social protection strategies.

“In response to these challenges, the Government of Nigeria introduced a cash transfer programme, providing 25,000 Naira over a three-month period to poor and vulnerable households. This initiative aims to alleviate immediate economic pressures and mitigate the socio-economic impact of recent economic reforms.

“Despite advancements, social protection coverage remains low, with only 7 percent of children covered. Coordination mechanisms are weak, leading to fragmentation and inefficiency. Therefore, the summit aims to generate actionable insights and foster collaboration among key players to enhance coverage, coordination, and financing of social protection interventions,” it added.

Other action points at the Social Protection Cross Learning Summit (SPECS) outlined in the communiqué include resumption of the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme to ensure that children, particularly from vulnerable households, receive nutritious meals that support their education and health.

In addition, there is an extension of social protection to workers in the informal economy, including farmers, to enhance their resilience and economic stability, and scaling up ‘cash plus’ approaches to tackle gender inequality and shift harmful and discriminatory gender norms.