FG CONDITIONAL CASH TRANSFER: THE AKWA IBOM CONDITION.
One of the wins of Nigerian Policies under the President Mohammadu Buhari’s Government is activating programs to carter for the welfare of the citizenry and ensure the lives of the vulnerable especially women, children and the youth are improved.
Within the administration of the present government at the centre, it is evident that four major programs have been on course and enlivened with the keen interest of Mr. President to see that vulnerable classes are given attention and lives improved.
These programs include: (1) THE N-POWER (NIGERIA) which provides young Nigerians with job training and education, as well as a monthly stipend of 30,000 Nigerian naira (USD $83.33); (2) THE CONDITIONAL CASH TRANSFER which directly supports the most vulnerable by providing no-strings-attached cash to those in the lowest income group, helping reduce poverty, improve nutrition and self-sustainability, and supporting development through increased consumption; (3) THE GOVERNMENT ENTERPRISE AND EMPOWERMENT PROGRAM (GEEP), a micro-lending investment program targeting entrepreneurs with a focus on young people and women. This program provides no-cost loans to its beneficiaries, helping reduce the start-up costs of business ventures in Nigeria; and finally, (4) THE HOME GROWN SCHOOL FEEDING PROGRAM (HGSF) which is one way the government is attempting to increase school enrollment by providing meals to schoolchildren, particularly those in poor and food-insecure regions. The program works with local farmers and empowers women as cooks, building the community and sustaining economic growth from farm to table.
These programs have its Waterloos which impedes the efficacy of the original purpose of poverty reduction and economic development.
It is no longer news that the Minister of Humanitarian Services, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq was back lashed few months back by Nigerians from different quarters questioning the sharing formula for palliative from the Federal Ministry as was shared to Nigerian Populace during the Covid-19 intense lockdown.
When the Minister announced that her ministry had within 48 hours disbursed the sum of N20,000 to 2.6 million households in Nigeria and over 11 million households would receive the same amount as the scheme progressed, it became a befuddled situation as many queried the reality.
The announcement was greeted with shock, disbelief and furore by many Nigerians who up till that moment only got to hear about the so called ‘palliative.’
Meanwhile, this author’s focus shall be limited to Conditional Cash Transfer otherwise known as ‘The Household Uplifting Programme’ (HUP) as executed in Akwa Ibom State.
It is a Federal Government program which is supported by the World Bank, to provide financial assistance to targeted poor and vulnerable Nigerian households.
It is true that nine (9) LGAs were deemed eligible by World Bank Standard and selected in Akwa Ibom State as the poorest of the poor.
“The nine Local Government Areas cleared for payment with enrolment figures, according to available documents were; Eastern Obolo, 2165, Ikono, 2881, Mkpat Enin, 3228, Nsit Atai, 3596, Nsit Ubium, 2171, Onna, 3005, Oruk Anam, 2516, Ukanafun, 1858, and Uruan, 3093.” (Southern Examiner, 2020).
According to the State Coordinator, National Social Investment Program (N-SIP), Dr. Godwin Akpan, the selected nine LGAs were the only ones who participated in the pilot study of the the program with which 95,000 households were enumerated.
The State N-SIP coordinator which program is domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Services also said the hitches with the Payment Service Provider (PSP) called for suspension of the program by the Federal Government in four States; Akwa Ibom, Abia, Bayelsa and Zamfara. This break affected the selected nine LGAs though the program commenced in Nsit Atai, Uruan LGAs.
According to investigation, N42m was to be distributed to eligible house holds as beneficiaries of the program in Nsit Atai LGA, and N26m was to be disbursed in Uruan LGA, but the ineptitude of the Payment Service Providers affected the smooth running of the program.
Conditional Cash Transfer officers complained of the lack of expertise on the part of the PSP which incited a lot of complaints from the beneficiaries and the program was put on hold.
Meanwhile, it is also gathered that the Steering Committee in the State made up of nine Commissioners, headed by Commissioner for Agriculture and Women Affairs, Mrs Glory Edet has set into motion modalities to include the remaining 22 LGAs of the State in the program.
The procedure has already commenced in the State in preparation to kick-start the second phase of the program whenever the Federal Government is ready with a new Payment Service Provider who will meet the terms of Federal Government and World Bank.
This writer gathered that National Orientation Agency (NOA) is currently training personnel who will form Community Based Targeting (CBT) teams which will be in Charge of data collation, identifying of the poor and vulnerable and generating the National Social Register (NSR) following the World Bank guidelines. These personnel, according to one of the Staff of NOA who pleaded anonymous said the trainees will also be in charge of sensitization and mobilization.
During the course of this work, it was revealed that during the 1st Phase of the program, community mobilization must have been lacking which caused key stakeholders in the rural areas, even top personnel in the LG Council were unaware of the program.
A visit to Nsit Atai LGA revealed that many of the Council Staff including the Councillors said they were not aware of the program.
It is necessary at this point to state that the recent uproar of information gap and high handedness between the LG Chairmen and the Councillors could be one of the agents of the failure of the program.
The traditional stool of Nsit Atai led by the Paramount Ruler, HRM (Edidem) Peter Effiong Okon said he was not aware of the program and could not say exactly how many people benefited.
“I am not aware of such a program and the traditional stool was never informed or carried along as one of the major stakeholders in the program.
“Though I learnt there was an event of that nature at the LG Council Secretariat but could not ascertain the particular one, as the program was brought to an abrupt end after the speculation of a stampede which caused death of a villager.”
According to one of the trainers, the poor sensitization may have been due to several programs which the poorly educated ruralites muddled the various similar programs.
In Uruan, the Managers of Conditional Cash Transfer in the State claimed that the program barely commenced in Uruan LGA; though was never completed in Nsit Atai when the PSP contract was terminated by the Federal Government.
In another report, one of the beneficiaries in Uruan on condition of anonymity said; “On Monday December 23rd 2019, we were called out for payment, most of us are very old people, we stayed out all day and at the end of the day, we were told that they could not get money from the bank, same scenario had played out on December 20th.
“After dribbling us for several days, they finally started paying in Central Uruan I – Idu. 2. Central Uruan II – Ifiayoung. 3. Central Uruan III – Anakpa and few areas in Nsit Atai. But some of us who were expecting N20,000 for the months of July, August, September and October were paid N10,000″. She lamented.” (Southern Examiner,2020).
•PAYMENT SERVICE PROVIDER (PSP)
It is pertinent to state here that if the Payment Service Provider is not effective, then the entire program can never breathe. Therefore, an effective body is expected to handle the payment.
The present challenge in the country concerning the program is as a result of this service which was inadequately handled and a lot of leakages was noticed in the process.
The Community Based Targeting (CBT) teams are expected to strictly used the World Bank guidelines to identity the poorest of the poor in the various communities to be included in the National Social Register (NSR). There is possibility of leakages in this phase if officers are not conscientious with their dealings.
This factor can totally crumble the aim of this program if the people it is meant for are not properly informed or educated about it. Their noncommittal attitude can be staged managed to offer an opportunity for nepotism if information about the program is scarce.
2ND PHASE (RECOMMENDATIONS)
It is true that the process is ongoing for the commencement of the program. But to be frank, the process’ waterloo if not tackled in the second phase, it will be fool-hardy to engage resources for it.
Noteworthy, is the fact that different bodies handle the various phases of the program independently.
There is need for synergy amongst the independent handlers of the phases as it concerns information sharing about the main purpose so the people will not be muddled with the various phases and missing out in the main outing.
Handlers of the program should ensure local contents makes up the messages of the program with specifics symbols or signs for easy identification and understanding of the targeted group whom are mainly poor, vulnerable and mostly uneducated.
Written by Enwono-Abasi Elisha, Journalist, Uyo.
Facilitator:Policy Alert’s SCRAP-C Project.