THE Bola Tinubu administration’s initiative to commence a conditional cash transfer scheme as part of its pro-poor policy has come under severe criticism as prominent economists criticise the social safety register.
The Tinubu government had, on October 17, announced a conditional cash transfer scheme targeted at 15 million households who are to be paid N25,000 each for three months.
The expected fund to be disbursed under the scheme is N1.25trillion.
According to the World Bank, cash transfers are a popular strategy for reducing poverty and improving health and education outcomes in poor communities.
The idea is simple – money is provided to households either without stipulations, known as an unconditional cash transfer, or under specific behavioural conditions, known as a conditional cash transfer.
At the official ceremony to kick-start the scheme on October 17 in Abuja, Nigeria’s finance minister, Wale Edun, said the government was aware of Nigerians’ concerns about transparency in the scheme. He assured that a biometric audit was enforced for the cash payment.
“There is a concern when payments like this are made, and the audit trail is there. The mechanism that is to be used is the biometrics and to track every single person that has received such funds. Nigerians can be rest assured that this is an efficient and accountable way of providing succour to poor Nigerians,” Edun said.
Similarly, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Welfare Beta Edu, who spoke further on the project, confirmed that the first phase of the payment process had commenced.
“The verification process for the past three weeks has been ongoing, and the first phase of verified persons would receive their money.
“For Nigerians who don’t have an account or the National Identification Number, we are actually working to open accounts and money wallets for these persons so that they could have their monies sent equally to them,” she said.
At the event, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, assured its support.
“We are here to ensure that the systems are strong and that there is accountability,” he said.
On July 20, the Tinubu government questioned the previous social safety register of former President Mumammadu Buhari’s administration.
According to media reports, the National Economic Council (NEC) said the National Social Register compiled by the Muhammadu Buhari administration lacked integrity and had been discarded.
“We need to face the fact that we don’t have a credible national register,” Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludos, who briefed the media after the meeting, said.
FG confirms probing former social register
THE ICIR, in an earlier report, noted that the Federal Government confirmed it would open an investigation into the operations of the social intervention initiatives of past administrators.
Tinubu’s government confirmed this development on October 8 in a statement by the Humanitarian Ministry. It explained that the action was to give room for a detailed investigation into the programme’s operations in the last twelve months.
“It is imperative to inform Nigerians, particularly beneficiaries of the N-Power programme across the country, of the temporary suspension of the programme.
“This action has become necessary to give room for a detailed investigation into the operations of the N-Power in the last twelve months. The total number of persons enrolled on N-Power since inception to date is 960,000 people. Most of them have exited from NPower 1.0 and NPower 2.0 batch A and B.”
Experts criticising Tinubu’s initiative said it was confusing how the government had not come out with its findings on the previous probe and had flagged off a new scheme without explaining how the current register emerged.
“The government queried the register used by the past government but failed to tell us which register it’s currently working with and how it came about,” development economics Celestine Okeke said.
For a former Director-General of the National Agency for Poverty Eradication Programme, Magnus Kpakol, the government must have a way of measuring the results of the new scheme since money was borrowed to fund it.
“This kind of conditional cash transfer should be tied to a productivity programme that sustains and gives people a lifeline. It cannot be a short therapy; there must be a way of graduating people off the programme.
He suggested that the programme would not eradicate poverty unless the government is intentional about human capital development.
Another development economist, Chuka Mbonu, questioned the government’s social register.
“There is always a transparency concern. However, the programme is a good means of transferring wealth to the poor, but it must be done in a targeted way to achieve a long-lasting purpose. We can learn from countries such as South Africa, Brazil and some parts of Eastern Europe how it has become a pathway to proper poverty eradication.
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.