Being a transcribed short Documentary and Interview of the Executive Director Of ANEEJ, Rev. David Ugolor, beneficiaries and Other Stakeholders on the Impact of the Federal Government Social Investment Programme (SIP) in Nigeria aired on AFRICA 54 of Voice of America programme via Channels TV On 18 May 2020. It has been viewed by 6.7k viewers as at time of transcription and 1.05million are subscribed to Channels Television online.
PRESENTERS: CHAMBERLAIN USOH, CHANNELS TV LAGOS, NIGERIA
VINCENT MAKORI AFRICA 54 MANAGING EDITOR, WASHINGTON DC
CHAMBAERLAIN USOH’s Introduction
The federal government of Nigeria is providing relief to indigent citizens to ease the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, courtesy of Social Investment Programme (SIP), including the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme. People living below the poverty line and other vulnerable groups are being given N20, 000 cash to ease the hardship.
Voice Over: Subtitle: FG offers Social Investment Programmes
‘As the number of Covid-19 cases in Nigeria continues to rise, the economic impact of the pandemic also keeps worsening, particularly on vulnerable populations. The federal government Social Investment Programme, such as the home grown school feeding programme, the N-Power job creation programme, those for traders and artisan citizens and more recently the Conditional Cash Transfers to the poorest families, are designed to improve the welfare of those at the lower cadre of the economy. With the Covid-19 pandemic, these interventions which were introduced even before the Covid-19 are expected to be implemented more aggressively.
In Nasarawa state, North Central Nigeria, the indigents received N20,000 CCT approved by President Muhammadu Buhari. The disbursement took place in different locations across 5 local government areas of the state.
In Adamawa state, North East Nigeria, about 17, 000 persons from 12 Local Government areas benefitted from the first tranche of the CCT programme.’
Beneficiary 1 from Adamawa: ‘I am very very excited, very very happy because I have something to do with the money already.’
Beneficiary 2 from Adamawa: ‘The cost of living is very high, even to buy food is not easy for the family, so with this little token I thank the federal government for that.’
Comment from State coordinator of SIP Adamawa state, Mary Yuwadi, ‘The initiative is timely. Payment is going on smoothly in Adamawa state, most of our local governments have received their stipend and the beneficiaries are happy about it.’
Commentary: It’s a similar story in Cross River state in the South-South region, where over 500 households across 30 communities have received the N20, 000 CCT from a total of N239, 900, 000 allocated to the state.
Inyang Asibong – Commissioner for International Development Cooperation, Cross River state. ‘We have at least 240, 000 people in the Social register and 44, 000 households. So, we are going to go community by community, local government by local government, senatorial district by senatorial district, until we cover the whole of Cross River state, making sure that we pay beneficiaries in the (yes o programme).
Beneficiary 1 from Cross River state: ‘I will use the money to help myself to do business.’
Beneficiary 2 from Cross River state: ‘I have collected N26, 500 and am so happy.’
Commentary: The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management Social Development, Sadiya Farouk, is in Imo state to brief the government on the planned palliative, one of which is the N-power programme. 34 years old Ejiofor Chiwendu says it has impacted her poultry business.
Beneficiary from Imo state: Ejiofor Chiwendu: ‘In my farming they have helped me a lot because from there I can buy my inputs like fertilizers, ehm good varieties seeds that am using, cottons that am using. At least even with the trainings that they gave to us, have improved very well in this crop production.’
Commentary: In Oyo state, the head of the programme confirmed that all the 33 local government Areas are currently benefitting from the programme.
Head of Programme in Oyo state: ‘We have 13, 806 households, poorest households, not individuals. All the 33 local governments were paid. These 13, 806 beneficiary households were paid for January, February, March, April 2020.’
Commentary: Many Nigerians across the country remains in dire need of support to make it through in these tough times. There are calls for adequate provisions to be made for more social investment programmes to reach the intended beneficiaries – in addition to other palliatives.
Presenter, Chamberlain Usoh: Topic: The federal government Social Investment Programme and impact it is having in the country. ‘We are joined by Mr. David Ugolor, the Executive Director, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) from Benin City, Edo state capital.’
Question 1: Now more than ever before social investment programmes are needed to cushion the economic impact of Covid-19 on impoverished household. How would you assess the ongoing initiatives?
Rev. David Ugolor’ response: Thank you for this opportunity to join this conversation. First. the Social Investment Programme, the way it is managed in Nigeria, Covid-19 has raised the bar and the importance of social investment. And so far, the government has improved on implementation of Social Investment Programme in the country. If we draw the lessons from 2012 when the first social investment, the savings from the oil was invested in social protection programme, which is called SURE-P, the process was mismanaged because of lack of transparency and there wasn’t a credible framework for identifying beneficiaries. And from 2012 to today where government now implements the cash transfer programme and other social protection programme: one can see some improvement owing to the framework that has been put in place, with technical support from the World Bank and other credible institutions, has helped to improve the implementation of the social protection programme.
Chamberlain Usoh: Question 2: Well indeed reaching every Nigerian that need such intervention is the aim of the objectives. What in your perspectives are the challenges associated with reaching the intended beneficiaries nationwide?
Rev. David Ugolor’s response: Well, I think one of the key challenges that we have is that millions of Nigerians are very poor and vulnerable. The resources as you know are not just enough to cover everybody and this is a big challenge as government do not have the capacity to deploy enough resources. And so, when the resources are scarce and the number of people is more than the resources, you expect there will be a lot of challenges. And that is some of the negative narratives that you have heard so far around the cash transfer programme in Nigeria. But the problem is that most Nigerians are not aware of this social register. I think the low awareness around the social register has created problem. And even members of the national assembly who are supposed to be conversant with the social register claimed also that they are not aware of the social register. But to be frank with you, the social register is the best practice adopted by countries who are also operating cash transfer programme. And so, the challenge is that Governors are supposed to cooperate with NASSCO and NCTO, to set up the social register in their respective states. Unfortunately, most governors did not invest political will around this whole thing. And some governors did, and those are the governors you see readily that have put in place the social register framework. And it is from there that names of beneficiaries are migrated into the national social register which NCTO – the National Cash Transfer Office goes to mine the beneficiary data for deployment of the resources. So, the challenge is that not everybody’s name appeared on the social register.
Chamberlain Usoh: Question 3: Well at the moment, many have expressed concerns about the strategy of the federal government Social Investment Programme, including the National Assembly. Do you share these concerns?
Rev. David Ugolor’s Response: I think that the concerns they raised, some are valid, but to allow politicians to now decide who benefits cash transfer programme in Nigeria, you will be returning us back to 2012 SURE-P programme. And we all know what happened with the SURE-P programme, how politicians mismanaged the process and all the savings from the crude oil savings went down the drain. So, what I expect that the National Assembly should be doing is to create an awareness. All they need to do, if they have concerns about areas of implementation, they should raise those concerns for improvement of the sytem. But for them to want to decide who benefits from cash transfer programme is unacceptable. Nigerians should not allow this to happen. The National Assembly should only provide legislative and legal framework to support the process.