Governments have come and gone, still the common and most prevalent yearning of the common man in Nigeria, is to have a government that actually cares for them, a government that thinks about them, and one that is actually a government for the people.
Considering our diverse ethnic diversity, ethnic and religious sentiments have always come into play whenever it’s time for elections in this part of the world, and President Buhari is one man who in the past has suffered from such and even currently suffers from such sentiments, even as the elections in 2019 approaches.
Buhari is one president that has suffered a whole lot of criticism, some entirely baseless and hinged on fake news, ethnic and religious bigotry and so on. That is not to paint a picture of him being the messiah that’s blameless; there are genuine flaws and lapses in his government.
However, as the flaws exist, there are also achievements worthy of mention that the Buhari government has earned. An example of such is the Social Intervention Programmes (SIP) of the government.
The SIP encapsulates schemes like N-Power, Household Uplifting Programme (Conditional Cash transfer), National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme. These programmes have individually touched the lives of the common Nigerian, and have cut across all demographics.
The Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on the National Social Welfare Programme; Maryam Uwais was in Lagos in February 2018, briefing journalists and media stakeholders about SIP, fortunately I was one of the media participants. It was there I initially got to know about the programs, and to be honest, I was impressed for many reasons, which include – The Idea of having the SIP, the work that went into the implementation (She stated clearly that they had studied the past initiatives from previous governments, that failed, and learned from the mistakes), also I was impressed by the vastness of Mrs Uwais, she spoke so passionately and was reeling out information about the schemes from the top of her head, which proved to me that she’s the type of leader that puts her heart into the job, she also cited examples form her visits to the fields, meaning she’s fully involved in the programmes.
It should be noted that the SIP is one of the campaign promises this present government promised Nigerians when soliciting for votes in 2015. Despite budgetary constraints, the Buhari government has found a way to deliver immensely on this promise.
On budgetary constraints, it’s important to note that from 2016 till November 2018, only a total of N250bn had been spent on the Social intervention programmes, and according to Mrs Uwais, N500 billion was requested by the Social Investment Programmes Office for Social investment in 2016, 2017 and 2018 budgets.
Home grown school feeding programme
Delving into the programmes, I must say that the school feeding program is my favourite, simply because it’s home grown, and also has a direct impact on the education of kids in Nigeria. Home grown means the raw materials are sourced locally from farmers, cooked by local cooks within the locality of the school, eaten and enjoyed by Nigerian kids, to their nourishment. It’s a whole economic chain that involves different stakeholders who benefit from the scheme. This means Mr Kolejaye who’s a farmer, supplies his produce to Mrs Kolejaye who’s a cook, and is enjoyed by Mr and Mrs Kolejaye’s kid in school.
Many other countries have since keyed into the school feeding program around the world, especially 3rd world countries. The Government of Chile has provided a school feeding program for over 40 years through the National Board of School Assistance and Scholarships through a public-private partnership. This program involves technology that allows food to be centrally mass-produced and then distributed across the country. Additionally, the Government of India has supported school feeding programs since 2001, when the country recognized Indians’ Constitutional Right to Food.
Mrs Uwais said over 9,300,892 children in 49,837 government schools in 26 states are being fed under the School Feeding Programme.
“We have also engaged 96,972 cooks with over a 100,000 small-scale farmers being part of the value chain, supplying locally sourced ingredients. It is noteworthy that currently, public schools require 6.8 million eggs, 594 cattle and 83 metric tons of fish to be supplied to the cooks, every week.
Household uplifting programme, conditional cash transfer (HUPcct)
One of schemes of the social investment programs of this administration that caters for the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians.
According to Wikipedia, Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs aim to reduce poverty by making welfare programs conditional upon the receivers’ actions. The government (or a charity) only transfers the money to persons who meet certain criteria. These criteria may include enrolling children into public schools, getting regular check-ups at the doctor’s office, receiving vaccinations, or the like. CCTs seek to help the current generation in poverty, as well as breaking the cycle of poverty for the next through the development of human capital. Conditional cash transfers could help reduce feminization of poverty.
In June 2018, A report by The World Poverty Clock, named Nigeria the poverty capital of the world, with close to 87m people living in extreme poverty, followed by India with about 73m people. This is not to say Nigeria has experienced an increase in extremely poor people, in fact in 2012 a WHO report revealed we had over 120 million poor Nigerians, today we have 87 million extremely poor Nigerians. India once topped the list of extremely poor people, but compared to Nigeria, they’ve done a lot over the years to reduce this numbers, compared to Nigeria.
These unfortunate poverty statistics reinforces the importance and usefulness of the HUPcct which currently gives out 5,000 Naira monthly to 297,973 households in Nigeria, and currently being implemented in 20 States. There are over 3,000 community cash transfer facilitators in every ward where the programme is ongoing, to build the capacities of beneficiaries and support them to become productive and take ownership of their lives.
In the words of Mrs Maryam Uwais: “The methodology of selecting our beneficiaries is deliberate, tried and tested to assure of credibility, as well as aimed at enabling the capturing of biometric data for financial and social inclusion.
Beneficiary households are selected by the communities directly, with their household and community data being uploaded onto Social Registers by trained enumerators at State and LGA levels, as a means of ensuring that we continue to keep a keen eye on their progress, towards weaning them out of poverty.”
It’s worthy of note that households that have girls of school age and/or pregnant women, get an extra N5, 000.
Several countries have implemented CCT like Turkey, Philippines, Peru, Panama, Mexico, Jamaica and even the United States of America through “Opportunity NYC”. ONYC was built on the conceptual framework and success of international conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs and was the first major CCT initiative implemented in the United States. The principal objective of Opportunity NYC Family Rewards was to test the impact of monetary incentives on children’s education, family health and adults’ workforce outcomes.
As stated on the website, N-Power is preparing young Nigerians for a knowledge economy where, equipped with world-class skills and certification, they become innovators and movers in the domestic and global markets. Nigeria will have a pool of software developers, hardware service professionals, animators, and graphic artists, building services professionals, artisans and others. N-Power also focuses on providing our non-graduates with relevant technical and business skills that enhance their work outlook and livelihood.
N-power is the largest post-tertiary employment programme in Africa, where beneficiaries are paid a monthly stipend of N30, 000 and deployed as volunteers into various sectors of need in the public space, such as health, agriculture, education and public finance.
In the democratic history of Nigeria, this is the first time a Government would take a direct step in providing jobs for graduates, train them and give monthly stipends. The positive effects of this scheme are incredible and cannot be overemphasized. From Osun state to Delta state, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with beneficiaries, and one testimony they all share, is the scheme has helped them discover their purposes in life and how they can accomplish it, through the N-power scheme.
The beauty of this scheme is how it helps provide teachers for schools through N-Power Teach and also ensures more youths are back to their farms, which directly impacts agriculture and takes us a step further in accomplishing food sufficiency as a country, through N-Power Agro.
So far, there are 500,000 N-Power beneficiaries across the 36 states of the country.
Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP)
This comprises of MarketMoni, FarmerMoni and TraderMoni. So far, N27.4 Billion have been given in interest-free loans to over 1.1 million beneficiaries across the 36 states of the Federation.
The most common of the 3 sub schemes encapsulated in the GEEP scheme is TraderMoni. TraderMoni provides N10, 000 non-collateral loans to petty traders that can rise to as high as N50, 000, for as long as traders pay back the former loans.
But it’s not just about TraderMoni, the idea of GEEP is for petty traders to trade with these funds and graduate from being petty traders to bigger traders, and then have access to MarketMoni, where Interest free loans between ranges between N50,000 – N300,000.
FarmerMoni loans start from N300, 000, and as the name implies, it’s a loan for famer, to help expand their capacities as farmers.
In conclusion, it’s crystal clear to everyone who cares to be sincere, that of truth the Buhari’s government has touched the lives of Nigerians directly, for the first time in decades. For a moment, imagine that these schemes began some 20 years ago; imagine the impact it would have had on Nigeria and Nigerians. Have it in mind that this government has earned the lowest in oil revenue since our democratic journey, and yet has implemented the largest, genuine and most effective social investment programs in the history of the country. It takes a leader with genuine love, a sincere leader and one focused on the human capital development of people like President Muhammadu Buhari to accomplish this.
Adeda is a social commentator.