Nothing quite casts a gloom over the overall social and economic wellbeing of a nation more than the barefaced evidence of pervasive poverty among the citizens and this is especially true of Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria.
According to available data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) as recently as May 2020, well over 80 million Nigerians live in poverty and most get by without a single decent meal every day. To put this in context, three in every five Nigerians cannot afford to eat at least one good meal each passing day.
The Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration has seen the most in terms of depreciation in the social and economic situation of Nigeria and for the most part, the deterioration in the quality of life of the average Nigerian. It has also since its ascension to power in 2015, undertaken a broad-based approach to tackling poverty and its many debilitating effects on Nigerians.
Many of the efforts of the administration have focused essentially on ameliorating the impacts of the worst forms of poverty especially as are manifested in the daily lives of the society’s most vulnerable including the poorest of the poor and children from the most socially disadvantaged parts of the country.
The National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) has been regarded by many as the most robust and comprehensive poverty alleviation programme of any government and one is tempted to say the most ambitious interventionist programme till date.
NSIP has stretched the visage of social intervention and poverty alleviation beyond the boundaries, which previous programmes had set.
Its many sub schemes including the N-Power Programme focused on youth empowerment, the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme devoted to providing lunch for schoolchildren from less privileged homes; the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme for the poorest of the poor; and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme which provides farmers and traders with stimulus packages to drive their businesses.
Now while the NSIP has sought to adequately capture the expanding bandwidths of the numbers of socially-disadvantaged persons in the Nigerian society, it is very clear to the discerning and foresighted that this is yet another ambitious government programme that is threatened by imminent failure.
Nothing within the implementation plan of the programme suggested a deliberate plan and willingness of the government to take a different approach to ensuring the overall sustainability and success of the programme, especially in the face of the abysmal failure of the many predecessor poverty alleviation programmes.
Whatever sincere efforts and intention that the government had towards tackling poverty, was sooner over-ridden by the same menace of poor management and execution of the programmes, influenced, of course by the inefficiency of the public service sector.
There is a striking disconnect between the ideological and strategic focus of the National Social Investment Programme and its implementation and management as evidenced in the many scandals that has hallmarked what is perhaps the most audacious poverty alleviation programme ever. Love or hate him, his shortcomings notwithstanding, the President has never hidden his deep concerns and worry for the deplorable economic situation of Nigeria and Nigerians and devoid of any feeling of sentimental inclination, partisan and otherwise, it is clear that Mr. President and his administration have placed a preponderance on improving the social and economic welfare of Nigerians and he has sought to match words with actions, hence the many changes and rejigging of the management and implementation of the NSIP.
The Buhari administration on the heels of its reelection took a purportedly corrective, yet, ill-advised step to curtail the chaotic mess that inefficiency had wrought on the NSIP. Upon announcing his newly constituted cabinet, President Buhari instructed the immediate relocation of the NSIP Coordinating Office to the newly formed Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. It was only a matter of time before the same circumstance that occasioned a move would bare its ugly fang again, this time in more virulent forms. A nasty power play between forces intervened in the shift space of collective synergy and rather than seek for ways to repair the damages that had been dealt the programme, even more chaos was wrought upon the system.
As if to make matters worse, the outbreak of the COVID -19 global pandemic did little to assuage the already tensed atmosphere pervading how the programme had been handled since its relocation in September 2019. If the mismanagement of the NSIP was anything to go by in the years preceding the outbreak of the pandemic, nothing comes close in comparison to the poor handling of the disbursement of the COVID- 19 palliative rolled out by the government to cushion the effect of the lockdown informed by the pandemic.
In essence, one is not amiss to state quite unequivocally that the NSIP and its handling has in many respects failed and only a sincere and committed government may help to salvage what is left of the programme.
Okoruwa writes in from Abuja