BY DANLITI GOGA
The steady progress in the implementation of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) since it was moved from being one of several miscellaneous projects under the general supervision of the Vice President’s Office and upgraded into a core component of an entirely new ministry charged with humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development is remarkable, to say the least.
Just last week, at the flag-off training of 5000 Independent Monitors for the programme in schools, households, and market clusters towards ensuring achievement of objectives, it was revealed that 13 million citizens across 36 states and the FCT are benefiting from the programme, comprising NPOWER, National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), Conditional Cash Transfer Programme (CCT), and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP).
With so many federal government interventions to restore hope and empower the majority unemployed youth population and other categories of Nigerians-in-need, it was hardly surprising that there was not much progress in implementation under the Vice President’s Office, already weighed-down by the number of agencies attached to it. This should have prompted a more decisive response towards a focussed and efficient implementation of the programmes in view of the urgency of diffusing the tension over rising youth unemployment and restiveness.
Curiously, the period of bureaucratic lethargy that paralysed programme implementation went largely unnoticed by the cabal of media critics that descended on the new minister, Hajia Sa’adiya A Umar Farouq even as she took on the arduous challenge of setting up a new ministry from scratch and executing a smoothly-coordinated transfer and revitalization of the social intervention programmes and agencies with impressive results in a timely manner.
As if energized by the politics of media criticism, the new minister drew inspiration from the clamour from youths witnessing the rapid rise in enthusiastic beneficiaries of revived schemes like N-POWER and prospective beneficiaries of innovative initiatives like National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), Conditional Cash Transfer Programme (CCT) and the Grant for Rural Women programme currently giving thousands of impoverished rural women in Nigeria N20,000 cash like manna from heaven! Its all thanks and praises from beneficiaries for whom receiving is believing.
The fact that these programmes are jointly implemented with state governments and international development partners, involving hundreds of Nigerians in various stages is irrelevant to the media critics who persistently single out the minister for unsubstantiated corruption allegations to black out significant achievements. In addition to involvement of EFCC and other built-in measures to curb malpractices and uphold transparency in all transactions, the 5000 independent monitors now undergoing training represent yet another bold step to insulate programme implementation from avoidable abuse and sabotage which, at any rate, is not peculiar to the ministry and enhance optimum impact on target groups of beneficiaries.
It also worth restating that apart from the composition of stakeholders, including development partners, applying international best practices and anti-graft agencies, the introduction of hand-to-hand direct cash grants to beneficiaries in states without bureaucratic intermediaries is already eliminating “red-tape” opportunities for exploiting unsuspecting rural beneficiaries and other beneficiaries of cash grants.
Contrary to the frequent devaluation of the cash grants by elite critics, a reality check will confirm that the bulk of those who seek and eventually receive the grants are among the poorest of the poor whose poverty can be ameliorated by the grants ranging from 5,000-20,000 naira, particularly if invested in petty trading. Moreover, the genuinely-excited expressions of gratitude and fervent prayers for President Buhari by beneficiaries testify eloquently that the grants represent their first personal receipt of tangible direct dividend of democracy in two decades of democratic rule !
The historic decision to dedicate a ministry to humanitarian intervention by the Buhari administration is therefore a master-stroke that was strategically actualized by the well-considered appointment of Hajia Sa’adiya A Umar Farouq, a career care-giver technocrat, with a passion for bringing succour to the homeless, helpless and hapless groups that the world leaves behind amid human and natural mishaps.
The vision of Mr. President to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next ten years is welcome, noble and achievable especially when we take cognisance of the fact that there has never been such a bold and focussed government policy coupled with impactful and innovative programmes exclusively dedicated to touching the lives of our legendary silent majority of poor and vulnerable citizens. Let it be!