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CS-SUNN Convenes Legislative Engagement on Prioritizing Nutrition: A Pathway to Human Capital Development.


From June 26th to 27th, 2024, CS-SUNN hosted a high-level legislative engagement in Lagos State, focusing on increasing nutrition investments across 13 focal states: Lagos, Kano, Kebbi, Kaduna, Jigawa, Niger, Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Bayelsa, Gombe, Sokoto, and Cross River. Themed “Prioritizing Nutrition – A Pathway to Human Capital Development,” the retreat convened over 130 participants, including State House Speakers, Deputy Speakers, Honourable members, Chief Whips Clerks, State Nutrition Officers, Permanent Secretaries, Heads of Service, State Chapter Coordinators and Staff from CS-SUNN, Representatives from Alive and Thrive, Save the Children, UNICEF, the Media, and more.

It aimed to underscore the critical role of nutrition in human capital development (HCD), explore strategies for enhancing nutrition policies and implementation, engage legislators in prioritizing nutrition, and foster inter-state collaboration on best practices and effective nutritional interventions.

The engagements emphatically highlighted the following:

  1. Importance of Nutrition: Emphasizing nutrition as the foundation for healthy living, its impact on education, productivity, and economic development, and the link between nutrition and Human Capital Development.
  2. Policy Frameworks and Legislative Actions: Reviewing current nutrition policies and gaps in the 13 focal states, advocating for the implementation of six-month paid maternity leave, and highlighting the need for robust legislative frameworks to support and enforce nutrition-related policies. Successful legislative actions from other states, countries and regions were also explored.
  3. Funding and Resource Allocation: Reemphasizing the importance of adequate funding for nutrition programs, urging states to prioritize the Child Nutrition Fund (a counterpart fund by the state government and UNICEF with a 1:1 ratio), and recommending strategies for mobilizing resources from government, private sector, and international partners.
  4. Multi-Sectoral Collaboration: Highlighting the role of various sectors, including health, agriculture, education, and other key sectors in addressing malnutrition. Case studies on effective multi-sectoral approaches to nutrition improvement were showcased.
  5. Community Engagement and Awareness: Discussing strategies for increasing community awareness and participation in nutrition programs and the role of media in (traditional and social media) improving visibility for nutrition.

Official Opening:

In her opening remark, Dr. Mbang Koffreh Ada, Chairman of the CS-SUNN Board of Trustees, noted that the two days would be spent brainstorming on nutrition as a pathway for human capital development. “The focus is on whether we are investing enough in nutrition given the challenges in our constituencies. Stunting rates are alarmingly high in our states, which is a key marker of development. Let us work together during this engagement and aim to develop sustainable strategies to improve nutrition in our states,” said Dr. Ada.

Some key stakeholders presented goodwill messages on behalf of key actors in various sectors. Speaking on behalf of all Permanent Secretaries present, Ramatu Umar, Permanent Secretary, Niger State Planning Commission, said, “We’ve changed the narrative and made a significant impact on reducing malnutrition in the state, but there’s more work to be done. Nutrition is the foundation that supports human capital development. We’re proud of gatherings like this, which bring together legislators to focus on this crucial issue. We remain optimistic that nutrition will be prioritized and continue to improve.”

Abigail Waya, Head of Service, Nasarawa State, who spoke on behalf of all Heads of Service in attendance, said, “Nutrition is very important. Legislators are role models, influencers in various states. We need to be seen as considering the interest of all the people that we represent. You can do a lot to influence nutrition. I am looking forward to what I am going to learn here and the impact I can make in the civil service of Nasarawa. The future of Nigeria has a lot to do with nutrition. What kind of leaders will we have in the future if our children are malnourished? The government needs to be mindful that children must be brought up with nutritious food, and we all have a role to play using our various offices.”

Save the Children Nigeria commended CS-SUNN for initiating this engagement  and bringing key stakeholders dedicated to advancing nutrition. They noted that the outcomes of the meeting would contribute to addressing the critical need for tackling malnutrition affecting millions of children. For UNICEF Nigeria, “UNICEF is committed to improving and maintaining good health for everyone. Without investments, we will not be able to implement these strategies that will improve our nutrition and health. UNICEF has been working with CS-SUNN to achieve better nutrition outcomes for Nigeria, and this collaboration will continue to yield impact.” Alive and Thrive Representative said “malnutrition continues to hinder human capital development. Each of us has the power to create positive change, which is why we have partnered with CS-SUNN to unite legislators in this effort.”

Status of Legislative Nutrition Commitments:

CS-SUNN Executive Secretary presented a Gantt chart of Past Year Legislative Retreat Commitments for nutrition, showing the level of progress made so far. CS-SUNN observed positive progress in fulfilling these commitments and a passion to address those yet to be fulfilled ahead of the next legislative retreat. Some commitments include renaming House Committees on Health to House Committees on Health and Nutrition, inclusion of MMS in the essential medicines list, review of existing 3-month maternity policy to 6-month paid maternity leave and 2-week paternity leave to encourage exclusive breastfeeding, prioritization of the creation of Nutrition departments or state-specific nutrition agencies, among others. The House jointly reviewed and agreed on the tracker illustrated below:

CS-SUNN Executive Secretary presenting Legislative Retreat Commitments Tracker

A presentation on the Status Update on Nutrition Interventions across the Focal States by Prof. Kola M. Anigo, National Coordinator Scaling Up Nutrition Academic Research Network, noted that nutrition is a key component of the human capital index (HCI). He said factors affecting progress in addressing malnutrition include inadequate investments, coordination for delivering interventions, coverage, focus on the life course, focus on social determinants, and nutrition governance. See below the status of the Distribution of Mortality Rate and Prevalence of Malnutrition in Focal States:


Prof. Anigo advised legislators to encourage their governments to adopt and/or strengthen a multi-sectoral approach to nutrition—ensuring all relevant sectors have integrated nutrition objectives and contribute towards delivering a costed multi-sectoral nutrition plan; ensure the allocation of an adequate budget to achieve national nutrition targets and/or scale up the nutrition allocation in official development assistance (ODA); monitor that this funding is disbursed to relevant ministries, departments, and other stakeholders; promote and implement policy, legislative, and regulatory measures to tackle malnutrition; and encourage their governments to make ambitious policy and financial commitments at the Nutrition for Growth Summit and use parliamentary oversight mandates to hold governments accountable for delivering on their commitments.

In a keynote presentation on “Advancing Sustainable Human Capital Development Through Improved Nutrition: The Role of the Legislature,” Victor Ajieroh, Lead Consultant and Founding Director of Praisegate Services & Consult, outlined possible big bets for advancing legislative action for nutrition. He recommended a clear theory of influence for advancing food systems transformation and nutrition through the National State Assemblies, a National ‘Marshall’ Plan for Food Systems and Nutrition (36 States, 774 LGAs), a Presidential Initiative on Food Systems and Nutrition, an innovative partnerships framework with the private sector (Food and Beverages Manufacturers that enable enforceable commitments to promoting healthier diets in Nigeria across the lifecycle), remodeling infrastructural policies and funding to prioritize food, health, and social protection systems infrastructures, and commissioning an audit of food and nutrition-sensitive legislations in the State, and reviewing, revising, and re-enacting them to strengthen the provisions for effective enforcement, among others.

UNICEF’s Representative revealed that five states have released NGN 700 million as part of a 1:1 match Child Nutrition Fund. Jigawa – NGN 250,000,000, Katsina – NGN 200,000,000, Adamawa – NGN 100,000,000, Gombe – NGN 50,000,000, and Niger State – NGN 100,000,000, calling on the remaining states to urgently draw on this unique opportunity in 2024.

Panel Discussion and Experience Sharing:

Panel and experience-sharing sessions by State Legislators on nutrition interventions and funding in their various states were held.  Participants discussing best practices from other regions and countries and how they can be adapted to the Nigerian context. They shared their experiences in implementing nutrition policies, mobilizing resources, and engaging communities in nutrition programs.

Cross section of legislators in a Panel Session on : Improving nutrition outcomes through
Legislative Actions

Hear from the Legislators:

Hon. Ali Baba Manu, Chair of the Appropriation Committee in the Gombe State House of Assembly, facilitated a session discussing the substantial influence legislators wield in effectively combating malnutrition. Please see below contributions, calls to action, commitments, and recommendations made by legislators during this session.

Legislators expressed their renewed commitment to prioritizing nutrition in their respective states. They pledged to work collaboratively with stakeholders to develop and implement effective nutrition policies, ensure adequate funding for nutrition programs, and promote community engagement in nutrition initiatives.

Hon. Okechukwu Aneke

Honorable Okechukwu Aneke, House Committee Chair on Health, Enugu State House of Assembly, said, “I commend CS-SUNN for this wonderful meeting. This is my first time attending this meeting about prioritizing nutrition. I look at this issue from the perspective of poverty and scarcity of food. When we don’t have enough food in the country, it will obviously affect everybody. It is no longer productive to farm on a small scale in Nigeria due to inflation. We need to do something about the security situation to enable farmers to go to farms and produce great yields. I have seen the gaps for Enugu in the commitment tracker, and we will work on this and come out stronger for nutrition during the next legislative retreat.”

The Speaker of the Jigawa State House of Assembly remarked, “I have a serious role to play. We can budget and ensure that the funds are released. We have all these roles; as legislators, oversight is one of the fundamental functions, and release of funds is part of that oversight. It is our responsibility to ensure that those funds are released. I will make sure to create a committee called Nutrition and Food Security without merging it with Health to give it utmost importance. We will double our efforts. I am appealing to my colleagues to not only budget but also follow up and ensure that nutrition funds are released.”

The Chairman Appropriation Committee, Kano State House of Assembly shared that, “Nutrition is so important to health and well-being of our children. Nutritious children will be healthy and more productive when they grow up and will contribute to the economy of the nation. In Kano state, 16.5% of the 2024 budget is allocated to health sector far above the Abuja declaration of 15% showing the importance we attach to health issues in kano state. The House needs to improve in its mandate of oversighting to ensure that the monies channeled into nutrition are adequately spent”.

On the part of the Majority leader of Benue State House of Assembly representing the Speaker of the Benue Assembly “The Rt. Hon. speaker attended CS-SUNN’s first programme and came back and created a Food and Nutrition Committee delivering on CS-SUNN’s first assignment. For Benue, we will take charge to make sure that we overcome this fight and become a malnutrition free state. As the food basket of the nation, Benue’s position is not yet excellent and we have taken it as a challenge. We will take up advocacy with our state governor in line with all the resolutions reached here and we believe he will key into this. We have resolved inform the governor of the need to create a special agency for food and nutrition. We have created the Benue State Orientation Agency, it is awaiting the Governor’s consent but nutrition will be one of the headlines they will keep flagging. I believe CS-SUNN and Nigeria will win this fight against malnutrition”.

Legislators Re-echo calls for the establishment of Nutrition Ministry and Agency across states:

Chaiman Finance and Appropriation, Nasarawa State House of Assembly spoke saying “I commend CS-SUNN for a wonderful job. This engagement widened my horizon and knowledge in nutrition issues. In our curriculum of education, nutrition should be given a subject of its own right from the elementary stage. Nasarawa has a full-fledged department on nutrition, when we get back, we will invite this department and discuss with them on the way forward on the establishment of a nutrition ministry in the state”.

The Speaker, Niger State House of Assembly said “CS-SUNN, we applaud you again, you have made us very proud, for whatever reason you have chosen to identify with state houses of assembly. As state legislators we can influence and facilitate! For the 4% budgetary provision for nutrition and food security in our respective budgets, that will not be a problem for us. We will find a way with the house committee on appropriation to have it envisaged in our forth coming budget. The issue is the challenge of accessibility of the funds; it is not within the purview of our work to do this, CS-SUNN needs to collaborate with the governor’s forum to do this. There is the need to create a new office for nutrition; the Ministry of Nutrition and Food Security. We need to take these messages to the Executives, the governors!”.

L-R: Speaker Niger State House of Assembly and Chair, Appropriation Committee, Gombe State House of Assembly

On the part of Hon Bello Idris, Majority Speaker, Sokoto state house of assembly “I appreciate CS-SUNN and other developmental partners here. I assure you that we have learnt a lot. I have learnt one fundamental thing that I did not know before now that malnutrition is not only caused by poverty because you can be rich and also malnourished. I understand that it’s not only expensive food that contribute to malnutrition and that nutritious foods must not necessarily be expensive, some nutritious foods are very cheap and this is giving me ideas in making some suggestions to the house on how to address malnutrition in Sokoto. I would like to invite CS-SUNN to collaborate with us in establishing a supportive framework to ensure the creation of not only nutrition units and departmental ministries but also a dedicated nutrition agency that will work towards eliminating malnutrition in Sokoto”.

In the words of Chief Whip and Chair, Health committee, Cross River state house of assembly Hon. Hilary Bisong, “this 2024 budget allocation of Cross River has the highest allocation for nutrition with over 200 million across all the key MDAs that are tackling malnutrition and about 50% of that money has already been released. We will reactivate the breastfeeding bays that we have in our state. By 2027 Cross state wants to have the healthiest citizens in Nigeria and from State Economic Empowerment and Development Plan, Nutrition is key to this, we are working to match it”.

The Representative of the of Bayelsa Speaker and Chair house committee on health, Hon Onyike Godbless, said “I want to thank CS-SUNN for the opportunity to educate us because it is difficult to convenience politicians to invest in projects that are not physical for people to see. I urge CS-SUNN to expand its advocacy efforts beyond the legislature to include the executive branch, given the challenges of internal democracy where governors often wield significant decision-making power. Rest assured, we are committed to our part. We have set a target of allocating 4% of our budget to health in Bayelsa State. Additionally, we will establish a Food and Nutrition Committee, as already proposed by our Speaker”.

Cross section of some key participants at the Legislative Engagement

Legislative Resolutions:

The retreat concluded with a Communique signed by a 14-man committee, including legislators and civil society members, with the following resolutions:

Policy Enhancement: Legislators to review and strengthen existing nutrition policies, develop state-specific action plans, and foster collaboration through joint meetings.

Increased Budgetary Allocation: Legislators to advocate for increased budgetary allocation to nutrition programs, ensure timely disbursement of funds, and commit to funding nutrition interventions through constituency projects.

Legislative Advocacy and Oversight: Legislators to actively advocate for nutrition, conduct regular oversight to ensure effective implementation of programs, and include nutrition in standing committees.

Collaboration and Partnerships: Legislators to promote partnerships between government, civil society, private sector, and international organizations, and establish inter-state working groups.

Public Awareness Campaigns: Legislators to launch extensive public awareness campaigns and utilize various media platforms to disseminate nutrition messages.

Wrap Up:

The high legislative retreat successfully brought together key stakeholders to discuss and strategize on improving nutrition across Nigeria. The collaborative efforts of legislators, government officials, and civil society organizations like CS-SUNN will play a critical role in addressing malnutrition and advancing human capital development in Nigeria. In the upcoming days, CS-SUNN will unveil a documentary video and a collage featuring graphic quotes of legislators’ commitments made during the retreat. This aims to highlight and reinforce their pledges. CS-SUNN will continue to escalate advocacy efforts to uphold accountability and ensure legislators honor their commitments. With continued commitment and action, Nigeria can achieve significant progress in improving nutrition outcomes and contributing to better HCD outcomes.