Much ado about FG’s N5, 000 stipend for the poor

Much ado about FG’s N5, 000 stipend for the poor

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After months of uncertainty about one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2015 electoral campaign promises, the payment of N5,000 monthly stipend to poor Nigerians, the Federal Government announced recently that the payment of the stipend had kicked off in nine states of the federation.

According to government, the stipend is for the poorest and the most vulnerable in the country and is scheduled to be paid through the Conditional Cash Transfer of the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programmes. Under the CCT, one million poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians will receive N5, 000 monthly as a form of social safety net.

In the first batch, which reportedly commenced a few weeks ago, nine states were said to have been covered, while many of the beneficiaries were said to have acknowledged receipt of their first payment by Friday, December 30, 2016.

A statement released by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the Vice President, Mr. Laolu Akande, said that the funds for the commencement of the programme in four states were released by the end of December 2016 to the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System, the platform that hosts and validates payments for all government’s social intervention programmes.

The VP’s spokesperson also indicated that another set of five states would get funds to complete the first batch soon. Though the sequence for the payment of the stipend would be operationally managed by the NIBSS, beneficiaries in Borno, Kwara and Bauchi states were said to have started receiving the money. The other states in the first batch to commence the CCT payments, according to the government, are Cross Rivers, Niger, Kogi, Oyo, Ogun and Ekiti states.

“The nine pilot states were chosen because they had a social register that successfully identified the most vulnerable and poorest Nigerians, through a tried and tested community-based targeting method, working with the World Bank. Other states had already begun developing their social registers and would be included in subsequent phases of the CCT implementation,” Akande disclosed.

As cheering as the news may be, it is important to ensure that due diligence is observed in the selection and payment processes.

Already, the development has generated a lot of heat in several fora. And the government, deservedly so, has drawn commendations from some quarters for initiating the payment of the N5, 000 stipend to the poor, even when this is coming long after many commentators had described it as mere political gimmick packaged to hoodwink the electorate into voting for the All Progressives Congress.

However, while we note that the country had not experienced such social security scheme before now, we believe that the payment would only create more economic woes for Nigeria than fortune.

Instead of the payment, which may be misappropriated like the National Identity card, subsidy and arms’ deal funds, it is our belief that the money would do more good to the nation’s economy if channelled to create more jobs or invested in skills acquisition programmes for the teeming unemployed youths.

Besides, the poor do not need an amount as low as what the government is giving to change their status, but entrepreneurial expertise and tools to get liberated from poverty. Many disadvantaged people have the entrepreneurial skills that could make them rich, provided they have access to adequate funding.

The data collected from the tried and tested community-based targeting method of the World Bank, which is being used to identify deserving recipients at the moment in some states, may be reliable to a certain extent, but we expect the Buhari-led administration to be more painstaking with its selection processes.

For instance, the National Bureau of Statistics ought to be empowered to collate data as regards the status of most Nigerians, without relying on information from the World Bank. Government would also do well to ensure that the names of beneficiaries are published before hand, so as to establish that money is not going into the wrong hands.

Put succinctly, government must ensure that the stipend gets to the ‘needy’ and not their political faithful? More importantly, however, as the Federal Government tries to sustain the latest payment scheme, concerted efforts must also be made to ensure that poor Nigerians have access to quality education, reduced cost of living, good infrastructure, regular supply of power to grow Small and Medium Enterprises and a quality health care system.

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