As soon as the N5000 Conditional Cash Transfer program of the Federal Government (FG) was announced to have taken off, widespread skepticism erupted as many questions trailed the announcement. One of the most important, as has been harped upon by the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, is ‘How did the states and the FG come up with the list of beneficiaries?’
As more facts have emerged, it seems that the hope of the poorest and most vulnerable to experience a change in their standard of living since the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari in May 2015 may have been dashed as it seems politicians have taken the program over.
As explained by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, under the CCT, one million Nigerians would receive the stipend as a form of social safety net. The first phase of the program in Borno, Kwara and Bauchi, Cross River, Niger, Kogi, Oyo, Ogun and Ekiti states is expected to have begun.
In Kwara State, the Senior Special Assistant to the Kwara State Governor on Media and Communication, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, insisted that 12 local government areas were participating in the first phase. However, none of the poor respondents interviewed nor the factional Chairmen of the opposing Peoples’ Democratice Party (PDP) had received the stipend nor known anybody that had received the stipend.
“I have not heard of the scheme or the payment. I am not aware of any list of poor people in Offa. I don’t think poor people in Offa have received it and I have not been contacted by anybody over the payment of any stipend.” one of the poor respondents said.
Likewise, a foodstuff seller at Oja-Oba (market), Mrs. Sadikat Monruf, and a street trader, Saka, said they had not been contacted by any government official concerning the scheme and that none of them had received any stipend.
In Borno State, that the list was a fabrication of the politicians in the state is hardly news as the payment was ‘suspended’ after top politicians, including a prominent member of the Senate and a highly placed presidency official from the state, disagreed openly over the beneficiary list.
A top government official, on condition of anonymity, said, “It was the pressure mounted on the state government by the two political gladiators that made us settle for manual registration.” A social activist, Mr. Grema Terab, complained that the administration of the scheme was faulty from the initial stage in Borno.
He said, “The whole exercise was faulty from the inception in Borno; there was no way for many to be registered as there was no formal registration office or centre. The state was only able to initially register 6,000 out of its quota of 13,000 due to complacency on the part of those given the task of handling the registration. People have no easy access to the form as it was politicised by the coordinators in the state.”
In Bauchi, SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that the payment of the N5,000 monthly stipend had yet to commence in Bauchi State, contrary to the presidency’s claims. When asked how the list was drawn, Special Assistant to the Bauchi State Governor on Development Partners and Non-Governmental Organisations, Manu Soro, said ““The state Planning Commission, through the State Coordinating Unit, was saddled with the responsibility of generating what is called ‘single social register,’ which was generated in collaboration with the World Bank officials in the state.”
However, on interviewing poor members of the society, the reaction was different. A cross-section of poor and homeless people in the state capital told SUNDAY PUNCH that only people with links to politicians were beneficiaries of the stipend.
One of them, Abdu Hassan, said, “It is for only people who are connected to influential politicians. I have no salary, no pension, nothing. When I heard of the policy, I was happy because I felt I would enjoy it, but unfortunately, it was not so.”
In Ekiti, the state Commissioner for Information, Youths and Sports, Mr. Lanre Ogunsuyi, faulted the list being used by the Federal Government to pay the money, and insisted that it was different from that compiled two years ago by the World Bank.
In addition, he raised an important point when he said, anyone operating a bank account should not be categorised as a poor person which the scheme was meant for. “It is highly politicised by the federal agencies handling it. The first set of states that qualified did so because they have a social register. But in the case of Ekiti, they jettisoned the social register. They are compiling their own list in the air. The modus operandi is also faulty because you can’t have a bank account if you are indeed poverty stricken.”
It has become clear that the N5000 CCT Safety net campaign of the FG is facing problems that the organizers failed to anticipate. The poor are hardly reached exceot these ones bow to politicians. The question at this point is “Did President Buhari and the team managing the program not envisage this crisis happening?” Why was there no adequate control mechanism in place to ensure that the poor are the actual beneficiaries and not greedy Nigerians?”