BY MUSA ILALLAH
In the complex world of development, the simple act of directly giving out cash to the people who need it most remains a very powerful tool of making life more meaningful to citizens themselves and the community at large.
Cash transfers as they are famously described, have for decades been provided globally to those in need. They come in mostly handy to beneficiaries especially after disasters, pandemics or epidemics.
Cash transfer is the most powerful form of social assistance worldwide offered by governments to its populace to ameliorate their condition and make their lives better. In fact, the in thing in most climes today in quickly coming to the aid of the most vulnerable is through the cash transfer approach.
Cash transfers are not magic bullets, but they are found to be very effective means of directly assisting the poorest and most vulnerable members of the society.
Apart from using cash transfers to empower the vulnerable, cash transfer, which represents an investment in human capital as society’s greatest resource, is largely aimed at emancipating the people from the evil hands of poverty.
We are all aware of the pandemic corona virus, aka Covid 19 that in the last four months had ravaged the world with deaths of thousands of people. Confronted by the consequences that arose from the partial lockdown of the country by the Federal and some state governments, the Nigerian Government deemed it fit to adopt the cash transfer approach to reach out to its citizens in order to mitigate the impact of the situation and improve their lives.
Consequent upon the directives of President Muhammau Buhari to the Ministry of Humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development to swiftly provide cash transfers to all the vulnerable in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Lagos and Ogun states at the first instance as the worst hit by the lockdown order. The palliative is gradually intended to cover all parts of the country.
This then gave rise to Nigeria’s National social register of the poor and vulnerable households, PVHSs. Its status stands at 11, 045, 537 individuals as at 31 st March 2020 widely spread in 35 states; 453 LGAs; 4, 946 wards; 47, 698 communities and 2, 644, 495 households in the country.
Flagging off the distribution of the N20, 000 per person cash palliatives to the poor and most vulnerable households in Kwali LGA of the FCT, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouq, expressed satisfaction with the scheme that started in Nigeria in 2016. For that reason, the Minister pledged that no section of the country would be marginalized in the implementation of the cash transfer scheme.
One may ask, how does the conditional cash transfer programme identify the poorest and the most vulnerable who are the target beneficiaries? Coming under a model called community based targeting, each community identifies what poverty means to them and go ahead to identify the poorest among them. This programme is collaboration with the World Bank and the Nigerian Government.
In an attempt to give the process of selecting beneficiaries of the scheme some credibility, the minister used the opportunity of the flag off to reply critics of the scheme by saying that the scheme went through a very long process with community and religious leaders and local council officials full involvement in identifying the beneficiaries.
More than 5, 00 poor members of the Kwali LGA community went home with N20, 000 each at the flag off. The money covers a period of 4 months from January-April this year at the rate of N5, 000 per month per person. Overall more than 1.5 million Nigerians will benefit from the Covid 19 lockdown palliatives. What made the exercise more credible was the involvement of the British Government owned DFID as supervisor of the conduct.
Other states that had also benefited from the cash transfer include Nassarawa, Katsina and Anambra. This further makes the exercise more credible and transparent.
It is very interesting to note that the conditional Cash Transfer, CCT scheme is in some places called a ‘household uplifting programme’. It is targeted at improving the livelihood of the poor and the vulnerable in our midst. And from the testimonies of the beneficiaries we have seen in Kwali and 3 other states, the scheme has so far achieved the desired aim of sustaining lives of the poor in the rural areas.
In her remarks at the occasion, CCT National Coordinator, Mrs Temitope Sinkayedin disclosed that it intends to add 1 million households to the existing 1.2 million households already registered under the programme.
In addition to the cash, the government’s efforts to bring succor into the lives of its citizens will also cover food items as another leg of its intervention to ameliorate the stay at home order during the period of the partial lockdown.
Towards this end, The President had already approved the release of 70, 000 metric tons of assorted food items from the National Strategic Food Reserve stock for distribution to members of the public in all the nooks and crannies of the country. The reserves are located in Minna, Lafia, Dutsin Ma, Yola, Gusau, and Ilesha.
The Presidential Task Force team chaired by Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation has been mandated to work out the modalities for sharing and distribution to beneficiaries. The grains involved are Maize, Millet, Sorghum and Garri. These are common stable food items across all the lengths and breadths of the country.
The wailers have been shamed by President Buhari’s commitment to better the lives of the downtrodden especially during the period of the government’s ‘stay at home’ order. He had pledged to put smiles in the face of Nigerians by making cash and food items available to all and sundry particularly the poor and the vulnerable in our midst.
In the words of the Buhari Media Organisation, ‘’ it is important to note that the government has factored in daily wage earners affected by the stay at home order and has consequently taken steps to make relief food interventions available for communities affected by the order’’.
There is therefore no gainsaying in the fact that the cash transfer to the vulnerable, is coming at the right time and place for the beneficiaries. Moreover, the government of President Buhari deserves commendation and prayers for it to reach out to more of such people in our midst. It merits a pat on the back for its concern for the plight of its citizens.