As part of the Social Investment Programmes (SIP) promised by the All Progressives Congress (APC) led government to cushion the high level of poverty bedevilling the nation’s vulnerable people, the social safety net scheme has kicked off in nine states of the federation.
The SIP covered N-Power scheme beneficiaries getting N30,000 stipend per month, the N5,000 payment for the poor and vulnerable people and Micro-Credit scheme for about 1.2 million in that order. The scheme arranged with Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) targeted one million Nigerians to be paid N5,000 payment monthly as social safety net for the poorest and most vulnerable.
To a large extent, the idea behind the welfare package for Nigerians is a welcome development, particularly as it focused on alleviating poverty among the poorest of the poor in the country. However, the current administration has to take note of the fact that previous government’s poverty alleviation programmes ended badly because of politicisation of those schemes.
It should be recalled that politicians usually hijacked such scheme to their benefits and put their candidates as the beneficiaries instead of targeted groups.
The SIP is a pointer to the much anticipation, hope and joy which culminated the 2015 general election in favour of the ruling party. The scheme was scheduled to address issues related to poor people that cannot afford three square meals.
According to the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the Vice-President, Laolu Akande, funds for the stipends were provided in the 2016 budget.
Similarly, the World Bank project partnered the Nigerian government on the social intervention fund was reportedly paid in June, 2016, yet the scheme was delayed to December 30, 2016. The question on the lips of Nigerians is what are the modalities, frameworks and conditions used by government to determine vulnerable people in Nigeria?
Reacting, Presidency stated that the beneficiaries of the N5,000 stipend in the Social Investment Programmes were picked through a credible method and non-partisan approach. It said officials at the federal levels, worked with the state officials to identify the poorest local government areas, using an existing poverty map for the states. Also, local government officials were contacted to identify the poorest communities in the respective councils. Akande said Community-Based Targeting, CBT, model of the World Bank was used two years ago to identify most of the beneficiaries in the pilot states of Bauchi, Borno, Cross River, Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Osun and Oyo.
He said: “World Bank was an active agent in the entire process. There is no way anyone can describe the selection of the beneficiaries of the CCT as partisan as the beneficiaries from eight of the nine pilot states were picked even before this administration came into office.”
The process according to him is thorough as government select members of the team to include the NOA, local government areas and community officials from the CBT team that adopted different poverty criteria to compile names of beneficiaries for the stipend, opening bank accounts and biometric capturing data of poorest and vulnerable people.
However, many Nigerians had challenged federal government to provide statistics and modalities used to select the beneficiaries of the scheme across the country.
For Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, he described the government’s N5,000 payment to the poor as mere propaganda. In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr Idowu Adelusi, Fayose said there was no evidence of the payment in his state, which is one of the states the Federal Government claimed the exercise had commenced, calling for the publication of the number of people and accounts of current beneficiaries of the N5,000.
Meanwhile, Kwara State government confirmed that the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) beneficiaries in the state had received bank alerts to allay the anxiety describing the scheme as mere propaganda. Already Borno, Kwara and Bauchi states beneficiaries are getting their stipends.
The Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) was officially mandated by the government to validate payments of all social intervention programmes which already had funds for the commencement of the payments in four states and the remaining five states to complete the first batch.
Apart from the already identified nine states, the scheme must be extended to the remaining 27 states and the FCT as all Nigerians have equal rights to enjoy the stipend package of the government for poverty reduction.
Economic confidential checks revealed that poverty ratio in some of the yet to be mentioned states are more than those already enjoying the programme.
The statistics of poverty ratio in the country is above 100 million people, out of 25 million previously selected. Government has however planned to select one million beneficiaries, but the issue of political influence and hijack of the scheme by civil servant is immeasurable.
Social welfare schemes are not new in the developed world. In the UK and the US, the elderly people, unemployed graduates and vulnerable adults are included in such programmes, such that their wards get accommodation and other stipends by the age of 16-18.
Experts have noted that the stipend, despite being a necessity in this trying period where inflation is on the high side with the current economic recession, will help address the problems of the beneficiaries.
Nigerians are calling on President Buhari-led administration to separate the process from politics to realise the objective of the scheme. Nigerian citizens are requesting for the modalities used to determine the selected poorest people that formed the actual targets for the scheme or permitted its officials to use their normal process adopted in the civil service recruitment process in the country.
As part of government’s promises to fight corruption and other challenges bedeviling the nation’s economic and political development, Nigerians are interested in getting facts about how poor people were registered to be assured that they are not mostly ghost beneficiaries common to civil service or political processes.
Analysts pray the government to make the entire SIP initiatives open to the targeted beneficiaries by preventing selfish politicians and civil servants to use the scheme to for their personal gains. Nigerians are closely monitoring the exercise to ensure that the hardship and poverty level in the country is alleviated for the common man rather than compounding it.