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No to resumption of Conditional Cash Transfer Programme

The federal government, last week, announced that it was considering the resumption of its suspended cash transfer programme to vulnerable Nigerians.  The Minister of Finance…

The federal government, last week, announced that it was considering the resumption of its suspended cash transfer programme to vulnerable Nigerians.  The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Wale Edun, said this during a retreat organised by his ministry in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. Mr Edun said although the initial project targeted three million Nigerians, the government intends to increase the number to 12million due to the current hardship.

President Bola Tinubu had in January this year suspended the conditional cash transfer programme and other programmes administered by the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA) after suspending its national coordinator, Halima Shehu, over alleged financial malfeasance. The three other programmes are N-Power, Government Enterprise and Empowerment, and Home Grown School Feeding.

A statement issued by the Director of Information, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Segun Imohiosen, noted, “President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has also raised significant concerns regarding operational lapses and improprieties surrounding the payments to the programs’ beneficiaries. He has, therefore, constituted a ministerial panel to conduct a thorough review of the agency’s operations with a view to recommending necessary reforms of the NSIPA.

“During the period of this suspension, all NSIPA-related activities, including but not limited to all distributions, events, payments, collaborations and registrations, are now frozen. The president wishes to assure the stakeholders and all Nigerians that his administration remains committed to a swift and unbiased process that will ensure that going forward, social intervention programmes will work exactly as intended, to the benefit of the most vulnerable Nigerians.”

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This latest announcement came as a surprise to many Nigerians, especially with everything going on with the ministry that is expected to handle such projects.  The government establishment supervising the NSIPA, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, is not free from the taint of financial scandal. The minister, Betta Edu, has been suspended over allegation of misappropriating N582million, while the pioneer minister, Sadiya Umar  Faruk, is under the investigation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over a N37billion fraud allegation.

None of these investigations has so far been concluded. It is, therefore, disingenuous for the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, who is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the web of corruption in the NSPIA is unraveled, to start mouthing platitudes about resuming the conditional cash transfer programme without revealing the depth of the scandal, how it happened, who is responsible and how to take measures to prevent future reoccurrence. This should be done openly to ensure transparency and accountability.  To consider resuming the cash transfer programme without doing this is tantamount to condoning corruption and playing with the intelligence of Nigerians.

The federal government should also go beyond this investigation and consider other effective avenues of poverty alleviation that will impact on all vulnerable Nigerians.

Since the introduction of the programme by the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari, the number of poor Nigerians has been increasing rather than reducing. It has also been mired in controversy over lack of transparency on the method by which the register of the targeted vulnerable Nigerians was generated. In fact, it appears as if the NSPIA programme and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development have become veritable tools for rich and privileged Nigerians to exploit the poverty of impoverished citizens.

It would be recalled that issues were raised about the authenticity of the initial register used under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, and state governors said they would generate fresh registers. Till date, not much has been heard about that. So, what register will be used for this proposed cash transfer?

In fact, we at Daily Trust reject any plan to resume the transfer of money to Nigerians under any guise at this point.  And in a country of over 200million people, what will cash transfers to 12million households amount to? What we need in Nigeria today is a plan to ameliorate the suffering being faced by the masses, not a group of persons.

What we expect the government to be thinking of is how to come up with a policy that will impact on the generality of Nigerians. This could be in the full or partial return of the subsidy on petrol or the provision of food items that will lead to a reduction in prices across the country. We also expect the government to review its policy on the floating of the naira and come up with something that works, as the current policy, which has allowed the country’s currency to lose value, is not helping anyone.

Furthermore, we reiterate our call for homegrown policies that will address issues that are peculiar to Nigerians. Nigerian households are inter-connected, in that you really cannot separate the rich from the poor. The rich is not insulated from the suffering of the poor. Therefore, there is no way you can, or should be thinking of a policy that will benefit only a select group. And for how long will the government continue to transfer such funds.

We call on the government to return to the drawing board and come up with policies that will improve the current situation; and this should be done immediately.

We emphatically state that the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme is a failed system that has not, and will not work for Nigeria. The federal government should, as a matter of urgency, jettison these International Monetary Fund (IMF)-induced interventions and develop a homegrown system that takes into consideration the reality of our country’s condition.

 

 

 

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