OSINBAJO AND THE SOCIAL SAFETY NET
Nigeria’s vice presidendent Yemi Osinbajo had in June reiterated the government s commitment to the promises made while seeking the mandate of Nigerians especially with regards to the welfare of Nigerians and more especially the poor. He postulated a plan for the distribution of N5000 to the poorest who are said to be well over a hundred million in number.
Certainly any well meaning government should be concerned with its citizens welfare and the poverty level is indeed alarming and visible to anyone present in the country. More disturbing is the fact that previous administrations have attempted at reducing the economic pains with little commensurate results, this may not be unconnected with the politicization of the programs and the dominance of corrupt and self centred officials handling such programs, lack of accountability and consistent monitoring among several other reasons.
A poverty focused government cannot ignore the youth who by all standard are more prone to the conflict of getting the fundamental survival resources and who are energetic and can easily be vulnerable to social vices that in turn afects the society at large. Each time poverty reduction and or alleviation is discussed the youth are brought into limelight but do they get rewarded for being used?The full involvement of the youth both in and out of school in the fight against poverty cannot be over emphasized.
The APC led government which agents of change mostly Nigerians home and abroad fed up with corrupt practices that makes the poor more poorer brought through the ballot, should learn from the past and avoid the sabotaging impact of handling of any poverty reduction scheme by shrewd politicians who would want to siphon funds at all cost for their personal gain or divert such resources to the non desired targets.
In its manifesto the ruling party was explicit in assuring that pro poor policies will be implemented and this is the time to work that out.
The vice president should note while President Buhari maybe committed with issues relating to security and corruption that bedeviled the society,he has an important role to play in ensuring that the unfolding social safety net reaces the masses and that bottlenecks are cautiously watched.
The involvement of the organized private sector is equally important, however the government s monitoring team should be more balanced to involve more sectors of human endeavor, civil society, religious groups, physically challenged people among others should be represented and not only represented but be given the right to represent.
A major issue that had in the past restricted the viability of empowernment programs and also hindered the success of poverty alleviation schemes is the lack of funding,there should a proper and expansive budget wth careful and consistent audit that will be made public for scrutiny.
If the government allows those assigned the responsibility to have their own way things will not change and then it will be back to square one.
Some few arm chair economists may oppose to government s giving out money to the poor but are yet to prove the complete doom associated with it, ithas ben proven to work in places like Uganda and Brazil, an american charity GiveDirectly is making progress allowing people living in poverty use resources without strings attached.
Financial institutions especially banks have an equally important role to play, most frustrated poverty reduction schemes die at the financing stage where the atmosphere need to be relaxed especially with interest rates so high for startups.
The international community should be involved as many developing countries notable China India and Brazil have a lot to show Nigeria because of our similarities in population and its challenges.
I want to stress that before any immediate poverty reduction measure is implemented the rural urban imbalance should be given a second thought, our cities are about to burst with high level of unemployment skyrocketing while the farmlands are under utilized in the villages as oil price nose dives to its lowest.
If APC and the vice president Yemi Osibanjo would want to promote the “change” projected by Nigerians eliminating , drug abuse, school dropout rate,teenage pregnacy, high crime rate then poverty should be squarely faced.
Written by Hisham Habib.