Why Buhari should review social schemes

President made a strong promise in his inaugural address for his second term in office on June 12, 2019. He promised to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. He said his administration would henceforth begin to lay the foundation for accomplishing the poverty redemption goal by offering leadership with a sense of purpose. “With leadership and a sense of purpose, we can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years,” the president declared.

In the same vein, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, reiterated at the 2019 annual conference of Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, that the Buhari administration was determined to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty using policies and programmes aimed at promoting financial inclusion and strengthening Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

Osinbajo who referenced President Buhari’s June 12 speech on poverty alleviation said:, “Financial inclusion of course is the key to realising so much of what we expect as an economy and the President promised in his June 12 speech to lift 100 million people out of poverty in ten years, that is the commitment of the government of Nigeria.

If the Buhari administration’s promise is something to hope on, it requires critical thinking on implementation strategy for service delivery. With recent happenings to social intervention programmes of the Buhari administration, one would wonder if the presidential declaration to lift out 100 million Nigerians out of poverty is just a declaration or a declaration with action.

It was expected that serious action would follow the declaration, it was also expected to be an advanced programme to the Obasanjo’s National Poverty Eradication Programmes or the Jonathan’s Subsidy Reinvestment programmes. However, the Social Investment Programmes of the Buhari government, including the N-Power which has gulped over N500 billion in the last four years, have, so far, no significant effectiveness in the fight against poverty.

The Federal Government of Nigeria established the National Social Investments Programmes (NSIP) in 2016, to tackle poverty and hunger across the country. The types of programmes under the NSIP focus on ensuring a more equitable distribution of resources to vulnerable populations, including children, youth and women. Since 2016, the programmes combined claimed to have supported more than 4 million beneficiaries country-wide.

The N-power programme is designed to assist young Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 35 to acquire and develop life-long skills for becoming change makers in their communities and players in the domestic and global markets and given a stipend of N30,000 monthly. The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme directly supports those within the lowest poverty bracket by improving nutrition, increasing household consumption and supporting the development of human capital through cash benefits to various categories of the poor and vulnerable. 

Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) is a micro-lending intervention that targets traders, artisans, enterprising youth, farmers and women in particular, by providing loans between 10,000 and 100,000 at no monthly cost to beneficiaries. The Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSF) aims to deliver school feeding to young children with focus on increasing school enrolment, reducing the incidence of malnutrition (especially among the poor and those ordinarily unable to eat a meal-a-day), empowering community women as cooks and by supporting small farmers that help stimulate economic growth.

That President Buhari created the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development,

warehousing all SIP such as N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfers, National Home-Grown School Feeding and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programmes (GEEP) and appointing a substantive minister with the full complement of civil service structure is a statement of President Buhari’s commitment to pulling millions of Nigerians out of poverty. However, one is not surprised that the ministry is still finding it difficult to run the programmes not because of the inadequacies of the minister but because of the administrative error of the government. 

Government ministries are meant to make policies for agencies to implement, under the supervision by a minister who is also saddled with the responsibilities of representing all agencies under the ministry at the Federal Executive Council. In the case of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, the minister is currently implementing, supervising and reporting at the same time. The NSIP and other social intervention programmes of the Buhari administration are faced with criticism from various quarters in the country. The SIPs report is currently under scrutiny in the National Assembly with various discrepancies observed through the investigation carried out by the house committee on public procurement.

The recent decision of the government to employ 774,000 people was also criticised in the National Assembly not only because it will have no impact on poverty alleviation but because of the mode of implementation proposed by the Minister of State for Labour, Mr Festus Keyamo. The minister had claimed that he has the presidential approval to implement directly, which usurps the powers and the Act that establishes the National Directorate of Employment as an implementing agency.

The current programme of the NIRSA of the CBN has equally faced criticism not only because of lack of transparency of the programme but the corruption allegations that trailed the managing director. Various crises facing most of the federal government’s programmes are pointers to the need for President Buhari to rekindle his efforts on poverty allievation and the strategy deployed to achieve his dreams of leaving a lasting legacy of poverty allievation in Nigeria.

Folarin writes from Abuja

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