Poverty is a human phenomenon in the history of man which has always been considered as degradation of human dignity, and “extreme poverty extreme degradation”, so said the late Professor Jadesola Akande. Poor people cannot lead a life commensurate with the standard of civilized existence. They are afflicted with hunger, malnutrition, ill-health, unsanitary housing and living conditions and often without such education, they do not have the resources to overcome these afflictions. They also lose their self-respect and ability in any kind of fulfilling social life. In short, they lack the freedom to lead a life with dignity.
Successive governments in the country have made efforts to alleviate poverty through pro-poor policies targeted at helping the poor and raising their living conditions. This task has been recognized as one of the major responsibilities of any government. According to the late Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore, the ultimate test of the value of a political system is whether it helps to improve the standard of living for the majority of its people.
It is based on the poverty reality staring us at the face as a nation that the All Progressives Congress (APC) manifesto proposed to create a phase for Social Scheme to assist certain groups in the population with social welfare payments through a phased programme, starting with young people under 30 and the unemployed, Senior citizens over 70, the disabled and armed service veteran and all remaining categories.
In keeping to the above manifesto of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the President Muhamadu Buhari’s administration immediately initiated National Social Investment programmes, SIP under the office of the Vice President, after taking over the affairs of this country in 2015. The programme is predicated on the need for a more sustained and inclusive economic growth, reduced poverty rates and closing the wide inequality gap between the rich and the poor. The programme is anchored on four pillars which include N-Power, National Homegrown School Feeding Programme, Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) and Government Enterprises Entrepreneurship Programme (GEEP).
It is important to state here that countries like Brazil has in existence similar social investment programme and it is working. One of the programmes was called the Bolsa Escola when it was introduced in 1996, and then replaced in 2003 by a wider rangingand more enriching Bolsa Família programme. These are conditional cash transfer programmes that provide financial incentives for school enrolment andattendance. Depending on the number of children in the family and onthe family’s level of poverty, the government pays between R$22 andR$200 (US$9–US$78) directly to the mother (rather than to the father), so long as all their children aged six to seventeen are enrolled in schooland have a monthly attendance rate of at least 85 per cent. This moneytransfer is meant to alleviate poverty.
As of May 2014, 14 million families have received cash transfers under the Bolsa Família programme. The Brazilian Ministry of Education collects and analyses data on school attendance in order to monitor compliance with Bolsa Família’s requirements. The percentage of young people between 15 and 24 who completed at least six years of primary education increased from 59.9 percent in 1990 to 84 percent in 2012. That is, the percentage of young people between 15 and 24 who failed to complete primary education fell two-fifths, from 41.1 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2012. The Bolsa Família programme has been said to be the foundationof the Brazilian MDG’s success.
Coming back to Nigeria, over N41 billion have so far been spent on the four programmes. N-Power, which is the job programme for unemployed graduates received N26.418 billion, being the single largest spending item out of the four social investment programmes under the 2016 Appropriation, according to Laolu Akande, the spokesperson to the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. And reports said N-Power will be the largest SIP in Africa by the end of this year.
Under the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme, no less than 9.2million children are being fed daily. Indeed, connecting 100, 000 local farmers as food items suppliers and 90, 670 cooks in its National Home-Grown School Feeding is a well thought out strategy of the Federal Government to conquer poverty in the country. And above all, to make it work, EFCC has been casting its eagle eyes on the conduct of the programme. Already, some officials in Benue and Niger States who were accused of dwarfing the programme are facing interrogation. However, the programme is in phases as more states are going to start benefiting very soon.
More beautifully strategic is the fact that the food for National Home-Grown School Feeding is not imported from any foreign land. Nigerian farmers are given opportunities to supply the grains and all that it takes to have decent meals for our children in school. Direct farmer involvement is a well calculated plan by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Similar programme involving small scale farmers is what distinguished Ethiopia in its social Safety Net Programme, in which the government gives food and financial support to beneficiaries in exchange for public work, thereafter, receiving international commendation. Nigerian programme is bigger than that of Ethiopia if it is allowed to prevail within few sequences of time when APC is given the chance again.
At the end of September 2018, the Buhari administration has spent a total N41, 714,793,293 across all the 36 States and FCT implementing different aspects of the four Social Investment Programmes. So far, the APC government has expended the sum of N7.092 billion on the Home Grown School Feeding (HGSFP), N800 million on the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), while N7.301 billion has been spent on Government Enterprises Entrepreneurship Programme (GEEP).
Under the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme, 400,000 Nigerians are now being funded as at last month with the monthly N5, 000 stipend in 9 States and 84 Local Government Areas. The states are Borno, Cross River, Niger, Kwara, Ekiti, Kogi, Oyo, Osun and Bauchi. As at now, sixteen states in Nigeria are now participating in the federal government Conditional Cash Transfer Programme. Additional 4,832 households’ beneficiaries are to be enrolled into the Programme in Benue State making a total of over 5,000 households captured across the state so far.
In June this year, the Federal Government announced its readiness to introduce the “TraderMoni” scheme as part of its Social Investment Project (SIP). The scheme was activated on September 6, 2018. It gives out an interest- and collateral-free loans of N10, 000.00 to the lowest level of market traders such as market women and artisans, with a view to upgrading those who pay back up to N50, 000.00. The programme is designed to help petty traders expand their trade through the provision of collateral free loans of N10,000.00. The loans are repayable within a period of six months. In addition to the 30,000 loans per state, states with larger populations like Lagos and Kano are expected to get more than 30,000 loans slots.By way of explanation, Tradermoni is a sister scheme to MarketMoni which is another cash transfer loan scheme of the Federal Government under the same Social Investment Programmes. Each is a scheme in itself. While Marketmoni loans start at N50, 000 and target medium-scale traders, market women, artisans, and youth in market associations. Tradermoni loans on the other hand starts at N10, 000 and target petty traders and petty artisans.
The Vice President Osinbajo has been touring the states to inaugurate the scheme and assess the level of implementation. 2 million targets are expected to be attained on or before the end of this year, with petty traders in Lagos, Kano and Abia States as first set of the first round of beneficiaries to draw the collateral free loans. The scheme has already been launched in 33 states. The scheme is currently being implemented in more than 10 states. Thus far, the Vice President has visited states like Cross River, Ogun, Kaduna, Imo, FCT, Osun, Kogi, Katsina, and Oyo states, for the inauguration of the programme. He is still on such tour.
Commenting on the efficacy and relevance of the programme, the Vanguard Newspaper Editorial of November 13, 2018 stated that “this is the first time the Federal Government is involving the very bottom of Nigeria’s economic pyramid for direct financial stimulus aimed at creating wealth within the informal sector of the economy.” The editorial added that “Previous regimes had targeted mostly big economic players, as in Corporate Nigeria and the middle class during the Olusegun Obasanjo regime. The Goodluck regime benefitted graduates and young aspiring entrepreneurs through its You Win and Sure P programmes. Trade Moni is a laudable development because every sector of the economy needs the support and assistance of government to grow.”
Usman Yakubu and Muhd-Sani Abdullahi sent in this from Abuja.
In addition to the above efforts of the Federal Government at tackling poverty, most of the APC controlled states have initiated prototype programmes to the N-Power in their states to alleviate extreme poverty. For example, Lagos State Employment Agency empowers 8000 MSMEs with N 6BN. Kaduna govt had by January of this year earmarkedN200 million soft loan for women in the State. On its part, Katsina State has disbursed over N300M to 3,000 women just this October under her S-Power programme, placing 5,000 people with teaching qualification at N30, 000.00 monthly salaries. Similarly, Ondo state government has empowered over 200 traders in fish business.
More so, Governor Obaseki’sTech Revolution; Edojobs has hosted 500 local businesses and launched digital marketplace for Edo artisans. Edojobs is about to train 1,296 youths on digital skills. On its part, Zamfara has spent roughly N1b on Conditional Cash Transfer Programme. In Osun state, the OYES Programme has recruited another 20,000 youths just recently. This is in addition to the already over 20, 000 youths recruited under the programme. So far, Osun state hasspent N30Bn on Social Investment Initiatives. Similarly, 3,000 people have receivedN250, 000 each in Osun state. Osun State has equally empowered youths with tailoring skills. The Kano State government has empowered 8, 800 youths with N275M. In Kogi State, over 4,404 youths have benefited from the PWF programme. This is in addition to about 99, 000 small scale farmers empowered by the same Kogi State Government.
Similarly, Jigawa State empowered 220 small scale businesses within the state in January of this year. More is being done. In Borno State, Governor Shettima, in spite of challenges posed by insurgency has been able to complete 11,180 homes, schools for return of Bama and other communities IDPs. The Governor has equally embarked on various programmes aimed at tackling poverty in the state. The Bauchi State Governor’s wife just recently empowered about 1,600 women under the auspices of the state government. Similarly, NigerState Governor’swife has empowered 3,000 women in 25 Local Governments inrural financing. Niger State government has givenN1B to small business owners.
This is not all. Oyo State has trained over 4,000 rural dwellers in 9 Local Government Areas. While Adamawa State government has empowered 10,000 youths. Ogun State government has empowered women in Ijebu-ode Local Government on skill acquisition. The above are the genuine initiatives of the APC government both at the Federal and States in tackling poverty. The outcome is coming out as the government is still expanding the programme capacity.
No doubt, APC government, at Federal and State levels, has been making frantic efforts to untangle the grips of poverty in the country. In the past, all efforts at rescuing ordinary Nigerians ended up enriching the rich, as they eventually turned out to be cesspool of corruption thereby denying those they were meant to help. APC government is however doing it differently, as its poverty alleviation programmes are truly addressing the plights of the poor.