The issue of the value of a monthly N5,000 in the lives of the poorest of the poor has now become the bone of contention thrown up in yet another bid to trivialize the first-time establishment of a federal ministry dedicated to humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, which captures the hitherto neglected aspects of governance most relevant to the plights of the commoners. But, who feels it, knows it.
So, while the perpetually-impoverished beneficiaries of the N5,000 monthly national cash transfer scheme break into emotional fits of excitement and gratitude in appreciating the manna-from-heaven government gesture, criticism has been spewing from estranged elite busybodies who, obviously influenced by dollar-denominated standards of living, wonder how monthly “ 5K” can ameliorate poverty.
It will take much more than elitist mindsets to devalue the overall life-changing impact of bringing the federal government’s N5,000 monthly national cash transfer scheme into the hand-to-mouth existence of the poorest of the poor, most of who, it must be emphasized, have had minimal, if any, beneficial experience of direct government support. Nigerian commoners were pitiful portrayals of the descent of the masses to the perilous pit of elite-driven (mis)governance, where the defining depiction of democracy became “man’s inhumanity to man”, negating the definitive doctrine of “for the people, by the people”, that made democracy the ideal governance system across the world.
Now that international development partners and good governance institutions have been endorsing the intrinsic necessity and effectiveness of the prudent management and transparent implementation strategies adopted by the supervising Minister, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouk for the N5,000 monthly national cash transfer scheme, the swelling population of very poor and vulnerable citizens experiencing the enriching reality of hitherto elusive dividends of democracy render elitist criticism mischievous and irrelevant.
As usual, Minister Sadiya Umar Farouk remained calm and collected as she responded to echoes of the N5,000 cash transfer value question at the weekly ministerial media briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja recently. She said the government had confirmed through direct contact with the beneficiaries that the money has helped the poor and vulnerable to escape from their dire situation, some even making savings.
“If you look at the people that you are taking this intervention to, N5,000 means a lot to them, because these are poor and vulnerable households, and it changes their status; but for you and me, N5,000 is not even enough for us to buy recharge card; that’s the difference. We’ve had cause to go to the field and seen these people crying and shedding tears, because they’ve never seen N5,000 in their lives. So, it goes a long way, it changes their status,” Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouk remarked, dismissing insinuations that the N5,000 monthly national conditional cash transfer to some poor and vulnerable people was insufficient to lift Nigerians out of poverty as “elitist assertions”.
She backed up her declaration with a comprehensive briefing that enumerated various dimensions of implementation of the cash transfer scheme accompanied by updated data and illustrations that also covered other aspects of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) and special interventions by the ministry in response to emerging crises situations adversely affecting the lives of the poor and vulnerable populations such as the insecurity and insurgency outbreaks in the country.
In fact the cash transfer scheme is not a flash-in-the-pan political gimmick but one of the meticulously conceived social inclusion strategies of the Buhari Administration aimed at addressing key social concerns in the country and responding to deficiencies in capacity and lack of investment in human capital, especially amongst our poorest citizens.
The programme which commenced in September, 2016 is a component of National Social Safety Nets Project (NASSP) supported by the World Bank, to provide financial support to targeted poor and vulnerable Nigerian households. It also has an all-inclusive process featuring State Cash Transfer Unit (SCTU) that manages and coordinates the targeted cash transfer and livelihood intervention in states while each local government area has a cash transfer team to implement activities at the community level.
The implementation of the national cash transfer scheme entailed the development of the National Social Register which captures the poor and vulnerable citizens across the country from where beneficiaries are drawn. As at the end of January 2022, the Register had captured over 46 million individuals and also provides a ready reference for related data indicating that currently 1,632,480 households are benefiting from the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme while 320,000 one off grant of N20,000 was disbursed under the Grant for Rural Women. The Register identifies 109,648 communities in the country and 818, 107 Persons Living with Disability.
Under the Economic Sustainability Plan of the Ministry, a Rapid Response Register (RRR) was designed using satellite imagery and Big Data to target urban poor communities and enumerate the poor and vulnerable in those localities. It currently holds information of 5 million urban poor and vulnerable Nigerians across the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT and is the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, and Nigeria’s first shock response social protection framework, that can be activated promptly in times of crises to reach the affected population with help. The Ministry designed the COVID-19 Cash Transfer to reach a million people with 5,000 Naira per beneficiary per month for a period of six (6) months, under this plan.
Considering the waves of insecurity affecting virtually all sections of the country and the sad fact that the main targets and victims are to be found among the rural poor and vulnerable citizens, the Ministry’s humanitarian and disaster management portfolios have been pre-occupied with meeting the needs of numerous displaced Nigerians in different parts of the country and in neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad as refugees.
As a young pioneer ministry, it has been developing policies and plans to address emerging situations with effective response to alleviate the condition of the victims of these crises among which the National Social Protection Policy and Cash and Voucher Assistance Policy are on-going.
The National Policies on Ageing, Migration, Disability and Internally Displaced Persons are at advanced stages of formulation.
At the end of the briefing it was obvious that the history of neglect and stagnation in which the nation’s majority population of poor and vulnerable existed is gone for good as the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development had vigorously and efficiently laid a formidable foundation of policies and programmes for sustainable provision of essential services for delivering succour in times of natural and human crises. The emotional attachment of the masses to the monthly minted promise of the national cash transfer scheme is a “sure banker” devaluation of elitist assertions to the contrary.
* Danliti Goga wrote from Kano
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