As we know, the CCT (CONDITIONAL CASH TRANSFER) is for poor and vulnerable households in the country…beneficiaries are entitled to N5, 000 every month; however, the payment of N20, 000 now to each beneficiary is for four months. It is going to happen all over the country, but we are starting with FCT, Lagos and Ogun. These are the front line states. Others will follow…” – Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, DAILY INDEPENDENT, APRIL 2, 2020. The Minister further said. that the beneficiaries were chosen without any form of bias, adding that political party affiliation was never a criterion for selection of beneficiaries.” Several hundred Nigerians, including known members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, were asked what they thought of that last statement by Hajiya Farouq. They believe it is untrue. Political leaders, according to them, will capture the selection and payments. Nothing amazes me more than how frequently every government in Nigeria appoints its own crop of officials peddling some of the old untruths or inventing new ones. With that opening, let us now examine what the Minister had announced to us. “What is worth doing is worth doing well” – Old admonition.
First, we start with the N5, 000 a month payment to “households” – according to the Minister on behalf of the Federal Government, FG. One of the most distressing things for me writing this column is the apparent absence of economists in the nation’s civil service at the federal and state levels. It is a fact that at exchange rate of N300/US$1, N5, 000 fetches only $17 per month or 52 cents a day. That also means they will receive only 26 per cent of the US$2 required to lift them from poverty. But, today, the exchange rate is N380/US$1; and what the beneficiaries will receive is a mere 21 per cent of what they need to escape poverty. Something must be seriously wrong with this particular government that it either cannot or refuse to grasp the fact that N5, 000 does not procure the same quantity of goods for ever. That is, when it is given to an individual. When, a household of six or seven people receives that amount, then it is a cruel, cynical and pre-meditated deception of the poor people. Let us even take them strictly on their own terms. For an individual, N5, 000 a month amounts to N167 per day. The almajiris roaming the streets of Kano easily make ten times that amount every day. And, nobody calls a Press Conference about it. Apply the same amount to a household of seven; and what each one receives is N24 a day. Laurel and Hardy, L&H, comedians thrilled us in our youth in the early days of black and white television. They were beggars in one most memorable episode. Several ordinary people gave them relatively handsome amounts. Suddenly, a rich man came out of an expensive restaurant. He tipped the security guard and the ladies extravagantly. The clowns were expecting a big haul as they approached the tycoon. He took a long time to search in his pocket for what to give, while the jesters smiled broadly. Finally, he came out with it – one penny. The FG plans to give the poorest people in Nigeria, each day, less than common people routinely give them and government probably expects applause from us.
“When all think alike, no one thinks very much” – Walter Lippmann 1889 – 1974, VBQ p 245 Hajia announced that the money, obviously a joke, will be given without any form of political bias. Nobody can possibly believe her because she had failed to tell us how the beneficiaries were selected out of over 40 million households and 80 million individuals in the first instance. The cheating started from there. Who nominated them and what made them better qualified than others to receive government support? And, what is the message for their neighbours who are left out? What is the FG expecting of those discriminated against when offering relief? Applause? Endorsement? Certainly, they must know that feeding one person or household out of a multitude will not promote peace or community harmony. It will instead divide every settlement in the country into two segments – those favoured by FG and those neglected. A revolt is right round the corner. Lagos, especially Lagos Island, will eventually expose the swindle. It is impossible for any largesse targeted specifically at the Island without the people knowing who got it and how it was shared. The recipients of this give-away programme will reveal how truly non-partisan the selection process has been. We know the members of various political parties and those, like me, who are totally independent. Not that we don’t already know what will happen; but, we want to see Hajia Farouq and the FG redeem their pledge on this matter. The Minister was not in charge of the School Feeding Programme for three years during the first term of the Buhari administration. Under previous management, independent observers, like me who visited several schools in many states, raised the alarm about the programme. We were ignored until Mrs Aishat Buhari complained about what was happening in Kano State. If many schools received no food when schools were in session, is it now that all schools are shut down and Nigeria in total lockdown that the Ministry is promising to feed the kids? Who will cook the food and deliver them from house to house? Objective readers can see clearly that the entire programme is designed to fail.
The Senate President and the Speaker of the House said the N2tr Social Investment Programme has failed. That is understandable; they are party leaders and it was their government which wasted our funds. Lawan gave an example of how the cash distribution programme was subverted and the poor don’t get the money. When for example, some conditions and guidelines are specifically directed at the most vulnerable people, “those who will benefit will have to go online…BVN and the rest of it. I want to tell you that those who are supposed to benefit have no access to power. They have no access to Internet. They have no bank account, so no BVN… Many of them don’t even have phones…some of the conditions…which you set inadvertently leave them out.” Lawan was once again being partisan in his comments. The guidelines actually deliberately leave out the poorest of the poor. “For every folly of their [leaders], [Nigerians] feel the lash” – Horace, 65-8 BC, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 61. Although the School Food Feeding Programme was not specifically addressed by the NASS leaders, the approach to food distribution adopted for kids while at home illustrates how totally out of touch the Minister and her staff members are with reality. According to one of the Minister’s spokesmen, the children will not have food delivered directly to their homes UNLESS their parents or guardians first of all apply for and collect vouchers. They are then supposed to take the vouchers to food vendors; who will then deliver the food from house to house. Bearing in mind that all these movements by parents, guardians and vendors are supposed to be taking place with a national lockdown in place and markets as well as banks shut, the folly of the plan should be clear to all right thinking people. It requires no rocket science intelligence to know in advance that very few children will be fed. FG ON THE ECONOMY AND BUDGET 2020 “We will continue to ensure that the economy stays on a growth trajectory whilst making strategic investments in critical infrastructure…..We hope to implement 2020 Budget 100%” – FG’s top official. THE NATION, April 5, 2020. Certainly, by the end of February this year, anybody wanting to be taken seriously would have realised that the 2020 Budget submitted by President Buhari was already in the dust bin. Yet, here was a very top FG official, who should actually know better, making declarations that were totally false – given the facts already at the disposal of most experts in April. I know the official. He is a first class professional. But he is boxed in. That the statement was made to university students was the saddest part of this story.