The level of social exclusion and inequality in Nigeria is increasing at an astronomical rate perhaps at one of the fastest growing rate in the world. Government seems to show some interest in social welfare delivery services by establishing such institutions as Ministries at the Federal, State and Local Government levels namely, Ministries of Women Affairs, Youth, Child, and Community Development etc. Regrettably, this demonstration of political commitment is not achieving the desired goals owing to these factors; low level of professionalism, lack of enabling laws, poor policy framework, poor understanding of the nature scope and dynamics of social welfare systems.
Also states and Federal Government established institutions of higher learning where social workers are educated but majority of the graduates are rarely employed to work in this sector where they are supposed to be the core personnel. When employment exercises are conducted they don’t specifically look for social workers. In fact, usually they look for people who have studied courses they term as ‘humanities’ or “social engineers”. This has resulted in migration of most social work graduates to other countries.
Again, we have had some laws passed for the strengthening of social welfare delivery services, in the contents of this laws, social work profession is not given its rightful prominence. Some of these laws are: The Child Rights Act, law on disability and the rights of the disabled, Gender Inequality Law ,etc
At the root of all this anomalies is the non-professionalization of social work in Nigeria. The bill on professionalization was first presented to the national assembly by the Nigeria association of social workers during the Olusegun Obasanjo regime it was sponsored by senator victor Lar and it scaled only through the first reading. In the recently ended regime of president Goodluck Jonathan the bill was repackaged by the Nigeria Association of Social Workers NASOW to the National Assembly via the House of Representatives and sponsored by Honourable Nicholas Ossai. The bill has gone through first reading , second reading and public hearing .Today, the bill is awaiting third reading and possible concurrent passage by the upper legislative chamber ,the senate.
The content of the bill is summarised as follows:
Definition and scope of the field of social work.
Regulation of the practice of social work to protect service users and practitioners by enforcement of ethical standard.
The establishment of an agency which shall serve as a regulatory body for social work education and practice, in addition to serving as a major adviser to government on social development policies and humanitarian issues in Nigeria.
When passed it will grant a period of at least five years moratorium to individuals who are working without the prerequisite requirement to update their qualifications.
One of the greatest set-back for social work in Nigeria is the activities of some people who set up social work institutions to mimic the existing tertiary institutions for primordial benefit. This is one of the abuses the bill is set out to address.
Consequently, what has been happening to the social welfare sector is like establishing ministry of health without doctors or other health professional’s ministry of justice without legal professionals, ministry of education without teachers. Secondly, establishing medical schools and not employing doctors, law schools and not employing lawyers when you need them. Furthermore it is like, not regulating the practices of these professions thereby exposing service users to substandard services and rendering government efforts ineffective.