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International Colloquium on Thirty Years of Social Services in Nigeria 26-28 March 2012

The Department of Geography and Regional Planning, University of Benin and the Centre for Population and Environmental Development put together an International Colloquium to:

i) Critically reflect on the history and character of social services provision, delivery and management
ii) Review and build on the major contributions of Professor Emeritus Andrew G. Onokerhoraye to the study of social services provision and management, particularly through the book ‘Social Services in Nigeria: An Introduction’ published by Kegan Paul International in 1984
iii) Critically reflect on the current state and trends of social services provision, management and delivery
iv) Chart the path for the future of social services provision and management.

The Colloquium was held from Monday, 26th to Wednesday 28th March 2012 at Precious Palm Royal Hotel, Lagos‐Benin Express Road, Benin City. The opening ceremony was chaired by Chief John Odigie‐Oyegun, former Executive Governor of Edo State and was attended by distinguished persons including 4 Vice Chancellors, representatives of the governors of Edo State and Ondo State, representative of the Minister of Works, representative of the President of the Customary Court of Appeal in Edo State, a former Minister of Information and Culture, royal fathers and chiefs from the Benin Kingdom, professors and administrators from various universities within and outside Nigeria.
A book on ‘Critical Issues on Nigeria’s Development’ edited by Professor Francis Okafor in honour of Professor Emeritus A.G. Onokerhoraye was presented at the opening ceremony. It was reviewed by Professor Eghosa Osaghae, Vice Chancellor, Igbinedion University and presented by Professor Eric Arubayi, Vice Chancellor, Delta State University and Professor Sam Oyovbaire, former Minister of Information and Culture.

Thirty two (32) lead papers were presented by commissioned authors who are distinguished professors in various disciplines while 35 other papers were presented by academics from universities across the geo‐political zones in Nigeria. In all 24 universities in Nigeria, two in South Africa, one in Canada and two International Organizations/non‐governmental organizations were represented.
The papers were presented in the following sub‐sectors: Education, Health, Infrastructure, Transportation, Environment, Housing, Urban Planning, Energy, Water, Poverty, Justice, Social Work, Employment and Income Generation, Museums and Tourism. Papers also focused on the goals and strategies of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), Private sector roles, Public–Private Partnerships, governance, regulatory frameworks and geospatial technology.

At the end of the colloquium, the following communiqué was issued.

1.The Role of the State in Social Services Delivery

The colloquium believes that a primary responsibility of governments is the adequate provision, effective delivery and efficient management of social services. In addition, governments have a responsibility to maximize the welfare of citizens, alleviate their sufferings and improve their livelihoods. Some governments tend to be reneging on this primary responsibility by inaction, insensitivity, vacation of space, poor commitments and poor funding.

2. The State of Social Services Delivery

The last thirty years have witnessed deterioration and decline in social services provision and delivery. The state of social services is characterized by inadequacy, poor quality, shoddy services, escalating costs and poor client satisfaction. The management of social services is characterized with poor planning, weak administrative and institutional capacity, poor consultation, poor work attitudes, indiscipline and lack of transparency. Nigeria is far away from the achievement of the MDGs in almost every area including health, housing, employment, education, and poverty.
However, there have been pockets of progress in recent times in some states of the federation particularly in terms of roads, health care, education and poverty alleviation.

There are persisting challenges of ineffective utilization of funds to achieve set goals, poor budgetary provisions and funding, inappropriate and obsolete technology, equipment shortages, spatial inequality between rural and urban areas, and between and among states. Others are poor access to services, poor and inadequate manpower, inappropriate policy, planning and institutional frameworks, short term planning, poor monitoring and poor information dissemination.

Insecurity, violent conflicts, increasing criminality and poor policing are further threatening the existing social services infrastructure. In some sectors such as tourism, there has been almost a complete breakdown.

Government has failed clearly to provide social services in terms of adequacy and quality. The governance of the social services sector has not been driven by political commitment, citizen and pro‐poor driven concerns and transparency.

As a consequence of inaction, inadequacy and poor quality, citizens, groups and corporate bodies have been pushed to occupy the space vacated by the state. The quality of life and livelihoods have declined massively just as socio‐economic inequalities and vulnerabilities have been heightened.

4.Emergent Strategies of Social Services Delivery

There are doubts about the sincerity of the emerging strategy of public‐private partnership and the non‐involvement of citizens in the conception and implementation of partnership projects.

5.The Pathway to Better Social Services Delivery and Management
The efficient provision and delivery of social services would check illegal migration, human capital flight, human trafficking, criminality, unemployment, low productivity and poverty. There is therefore an urgent need for greater commitment of governments towards social services delivery through:
> The payment of counterpart funds for which many governments are in default.
> Innovative ways of funding social services delivery, particularly urban and rural infrastructure that are citizen and beneficiary friendly.
> Adoption of sound methodological and technological approaches that could estimate and facilitate tax generation
> Consistent and stable social services delivery policies
> Effective combating of corruption and lack of transparency among political and bureaucratic leaders.
> Maintenance and optimization of existing social services
> Effective use of technology and communication skills in the management of social services delivery
> Development and effective implementation of pro‐poor social services policies
> Broad involvement of stakeholders in the conception and management of social services delivery

Further research, publications and advocacy are required to clarify issues, provide understanding, identify problems and point the way forward.