Sunday, February 25, 2024

FUEL SUBSIDY REMOVAL: NEC dumps Buhari’s social transfer register

  • Says it’s ‘fraudulent, phantom, ambiguous’
  • Proposes states-run cash transfer programmes
  • Set to reduce cost of governance

The National Economic Council, on Thursday, dumped former President Muhammadu Buhari’s national social register, opting for a new one to be developed by each state of the federation.

The council described the register under which over N3 trillion was distributed by the previous government as “a fraud, phantom, bogus and ambiguous.”

The council, headed by Vice President Kashim Shettima, is made up of governors of the 36 states of the federation, the Central Bank of Nigeria, with a secretariat at the National Planning Commission.

The Governor of Anambra State, Chukwuma Soludo, led other governors such as Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State and Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, to brief State House journalists after the NEC meeting, supported by the acting governor of the CBN.

The governors said the federal, state and local governments would develop fresh registers to distribute “tax-free cash awards to ameliorate the sufferings of Nigerians.”

They said this formed key highlights of their meeting, adding that “the key issue discussed was on how to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal and harmonisation of the exchange rates.”

Governor Soludo said, contrary to what the previous administration projected, it was not possible to digitally transfer money to the poorest of the poor, the majority of whom were unbankable, adding that “beneficiaries of the supposedly transferred cash could not be identified in the villages.”

He said the NEC resolved that the states should come up with their own registers, using formal and informal means to develop them, assuring that all beneficiaries at the sub-national level could easily be accessed that way.

“We need to face the problem of the fact that we don’t have a credible register,” he said.

Soludo affirmed that NEC deliberated on ways to cushion the impact of the recent petroleum subsidy removal.

He noted that NEC resolved to embark on massive investment in infrastructure, especially selected development of federal highways.

“We have also resolved to knock off the wastes, reduce the convoys and move with the times, as a way of addressing the cost of governance.

“We questioned the integrity of the current social register because the poorest 25 per cent of Nigerians have no access to even telephones. So, sitting in Abuja and asking people to register people did not work. So, each of the state governments will now generate a comprehensive register,” Soludo said.

The council also resolved that each state would now implement a cash transfer programme, after carrying out an enumeration of the cash register in their domains.

Other resolutions reached by the meeting would be to pay civil servants a certain amount of cash for six months, which will be tax-free, and pay outstanding liabilities.

They also resolved to implement policies that “will immediately bring succour, fund the MSMEs with a single digit tax, evolve energy transition plans, particularly the Compressed Natural Gas.

“The long-term vision is to encourage electric vehicles and also agreed to address the issue of minimum wage, in the long run,” he said.

Governor Bala Mohammed, while also speaking on food security, said the government would deploy about 252,000 metric tonnes of strategic food reserves under the CBN, the National Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to Nigerians to ameliorate the prices of food.

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