The Nigerian economy slipped into recession by the last quarter of 2015. Recession was therefore a dominant talking point in 2016. It provided opposition parties the opportunity to attack the government and its policies. In return, the federal government and the governing All Progressives Congress, APC seized every opportunity to explain that the country’s economy got into recession as a result of the profligacy and policies of its predecessor in addition to the prevailing slump in the price of crude oil, Nigeria’s biggest export and foreign exchange earner. Neither the attacks by the opposition parties notably the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, nor the defence by the government provided any comfort to the masses who are at the receiving end of the recession characterized by rising inflation, unemployment, falling value of the national currency and infrastructural decay.
In answer to the demand of Nigerians that the federal government act to quickly take the country out of recession, the President Buhari administration did introduce some social intervention programmes aimed at alleviating the suffering of the teeming masses. On the anniversary of his inauguration on May 29, 2016, the president launched what he called “the most ambitious social intervention programme in our history”. In his anniversary speech on that day, the president enumerated the social intervention programmes to include the Home Grown School Feeding Programme for primary school pupils; the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) to the extremely poor; the N-Power volunteer Corps 500, 000 jobs intervention scheme for university graduates; and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) which is essentially a loan scheme to be handled by the Bank of Industry (BOI).
Under the federal government’s Home Grown School Feeding Programme, the government is partnering with participating state governments to feed 5.5 million pupils in public primary schools nationwide for 200 school days per year. While the federal government is responsible for giving pupils in primaries 1-3 a meal a day, the participating state governments will be responsible for the pupils in primaries 4-6. Caterers and cooks are appointed and the students are fed from fresh farm produce produced in each participating state. This way, agriculture is promoted and employment enhanced in addition to ensuring that the children are well nourished and equipped for academic work. As at the beginning of 2017, this programme has taken off and is running in just three states of the federation. Regrettably, paucity of funds has affected its roll out in all states.
The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme is a direct transfer of 5,000 naira monthly to the extremely poor in the society. It is akin to social welfare schemes in place in most of the advanced countries of the world. It is a safety net for the poorest of the poor. However, it is conditional in that the beneficiaries have a role to play in order to be eligible. The recipients must show evidence of school enrollment and immunization for their children or wards. In this way, school enrollment in some educationally backward states and physical well-being of the citizenry is assured. One million Nigerians are targeted under this scheme. Nine states are mapped out for coverage in the first batch and beneficiaries in those states have since January 2017 received the first monthly transfer of 5,000 naira into their accounts. The states captured in the first batch include Borno, Kwara, Bauchi, Cross Rivers, Niger, Kogi, Oyo, Ogun and Ekiti.
The Office of the Vice-President explained recently that “the nine pilot states were chosen because they have an existing Social Register that successfully identified the most vulnerable and poorest Nigerians through a tried and tested community based targeting (CBT) method working with the World Bank. However, other states have already begun developing their Social Registers and would be included in subsequent phases of the CCT implementation.
”The N- Power Volunteer Corps” is another of the social intervention programme of the government for which a cumulative budget of one trillion naira has been made in the 2016 and 2017 federal government budgets. This scheme aims to engage a total of 500,000 graduates on a volunteer basis with a monthly stipend of 30, 000 naira to work as teachers, agricultural extension workers and healthcare providers in their immediate communities. Participants will be trained in skills that will enable them exit after two years to economically viable jobs and business opportunities. The Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) is essentially a soft loan scheme targeting 1.6 million women, traders, artisans, small businesses and youths. Under the scheme, soft loans of between 10,000 to 100,000 naira will be granted to these categories of people devoid of interest with a repayment period of 3-6 months and administration cost of 5% by the Bank of Industry (BOI). Beneficiaries are expected to be organized in co-operatives and market associations to access this loan.
Obijiofor Esq is the Secretary, Green Women for Change and Empowerment Foundation (GWC)