Sunday 30th April, 2017
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Economic recession and an uncaring President

Economic recession and an uncaring President

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)

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