Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said that the state government, through her people-oriented policies, has ensured that the people lead better lives and are exposed to more opportunities to develop themselves and grow the economy, noting that such poverty reduction policies will continue to receive priority attention in the state.
Obaseki disclosed this at the end of the Sustainable Mechanism for Improving Livelihood and Household Empowerment (SMILE) project dissemination meeting, held at Government House, Benin City, Edo State.
The governor who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Philip Shaibu, said his administration has resolved “to make poverty history in the state,” adding that “The journey to make poverty history actually started in 2008 and this administration has consolidated on the promise. All we are going to do for our people is to create the enabling environment for them to create wealth.
“That exactly is what we are doing with the SMILE project. We will continue to do that. That is the way forward. The only way our promise can be tangible is when we have that collaboration and understanding, and I want to thank SMILE for that collaboration,” Obaseki added.
He commended USAID, Catholic Relief Services and other partners for their commitment in ensuring that the project achieved its goal, adding that the state government is open to partnership as part of the resolve to eradicate poverty in the state.
SMILE, a five-year project implemented in five states, including Edo, Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, is jointly funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Action Aid Nigeria and Catholic Relief Services.
The Chief of Party for the SMILE project, Dr. Emeka Anoje, said over 11, 904 households in Edo State benefitted from the project which was implemented in collaboration with the state government.
Dr. Anoje noted that the SMILE project was meant to build capacity of local government welfare department and civil society groups, with a view to empowering the most vulnerable in the benefiting communities.
He added that the programme was carried out in eight local government areas of the state, noting that “SMILE successfully provided support to 46,173 vulnerable children who were drawn from about 11, 904 households.”
According to him, SMILE also supported agricultural value chain, vocational skills training, child protection services as well as nutrition and food security services, among others in the communities.
“The intervention of the project included: improve access to HIV care services and a range of households’ economic strengthening activities, which comprise unconditional cash transfer targeting over 5,000 households in Edo State with each household getting a lumpsum of N20,000.
“We also piloted an adolescent girl’s programme which was aimed at reducing the risk of HIV transmission among adolescent girls through education and psychosocial empowerment, improve parental relationship and structure HIV prevention messaging,” he added.
A beneficiary of the project, Mrs. Mercy Ogiria from Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area, hailed the coordinators of SMILE, adding that she is happy that the project has changed her life for good.
Ogiria said she benefitted from the conditional cash transfer, noting that “I was giving N20,000 twice which I added to my business. My neighbours at a point in time were wondering where I got money to expand my business. Before then, I was laughed at for running a small business.”