Social safety net beneficiaries?

Abimbola Akosile looks at a welfare package unveiled by the Federal Government to improve the livelihoods of Nigerians, in a bid to justify the mantra for change

President Muhammadu Buhari nailed it on the head. Nigeria’s socio-economic situation is not a laughing matter, the taciturn leader asserted recently at a summit in Abuja.
Despite Nigerians’ famed happy mood and penchant for online posts and comments on topical issues, the president saw nothing to laugh about in this country’s current precarious situation.

As pointers to his expression of concern, power supply is down, fuel supply is down and out and the economy is reeling with its attendant consequences on the populace, which voted in the current administration on a popular platform of change for the better.
A year after electoral victory on March 28, 2015, to some people, it appears the present government is only interested in inflicting more pains on hapless citizens.

Depending on which way the current situation is viewed – either as a half-full cup or birth pains for a successful delivery, or as half-empty cup and renewed despair caused by an insensitive administration, the bottom line is that millions of Nigerians need help and succour in varying measures. In comes the proposed social safety net to the rescue.

Social Safety Net

According to Wikipedia, social safety net is a collection of services provided by the state or other institutions such as friendly societies, including welfare, unemployment benefit, universal healthcare, homeless shelters, and sometimes subsidised services such as public transport, which prevent individuals from falling into poverty beyond a certain level.
A practical example of how the safety net works would be a single mother with several children, unable to work. By receiving money from the government to support her children, along with universal health care and free education, she can give her children a better chance at becoming successful members of society, rather than be caught up in the hopelessness of extreme poverty.

Simply put, numerous citizens of this country require social safety nets, but with the federal government’s plan to provide N5,000 monthly stipend to the poorest of the poor among other social benefits, the scope of selection of beneficiaries becomes narrower. This reporter looks at some potential worthy beneficiaries.

Hardworking Beneficiaries

The federal government has revealed that only hard-working Nigerians who are unemployed would be paid the N5,000 stipend promised by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) during electioneering for 2015 presidential election.

The clarification was made by the minister of labour and employment, Dr. Chris Ngige in January this year during a visit to the APC secretariat in Abuja, where he explained to reporters that there was nowhere in the world where government would pay people for being lazy, adding that Nigeria would not be an exception.
Being hardworking is a laudable yardstick, but this reporter is yet to see any Nigerian own up to being lazy.

Nets for Youths

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara recently called on the government to fashion out policies that would cushion the adverse effects of the economic situation for Nigerian youths.
This, he said is necessary, as a way to create reassurance among young people of sustained assistance through their formative years, and deter them from embracing crime and other social vices. He also advised that student loan schemes be established, so that students can access loans, which can be repaid after they secure jobs.

Dogara made the call when he launched the Nigerian Student and Youth Corper Discount Card (NSYCDC) in Abuja recently, and noted that developed countries have been able to create safety nets for their youth and vulnerable population.
The Speaker’s call is equally commendable; the problem is how many youths can possibly benefit from such a platform or scheme, and for how long.

Angry Area Boys

Some may wonder how this class of citizens can possibly qualify for any social benefits, given their constant propensity to visit mayhem on fearful fellow citizens wherever they exist. Some would argue that those who see nothing good in orderly existence should not benefit from any social packages.
However, others would say some of the area boys who are products of errant bus drivers and paraga-sellers, also deserve whatever goodies are coming from above, in a bid to remould their thinking to be more responsible citizens. It would be gratifying if an ex-Area boy eventually becomes a graduate and a governor one day in life.

Helpless Police

When the Inspector-General of Police recently stated that the only 317,000 police personnel cannot adequately safeguard over 160 million Nigerians, that was just the tip of the iceberg. The question is: how does an insecure and poorly-motivated police officer secure the lives and properties of citizens?
Sometimes in the late 90s, this reporter got a first-hand experience of an angry ill-motivated officer in action in a Molue bus along Lagos-Abeokuta expressway.
The unkempt-looking Mopol entered the Molue and joined those of us on standing in line. But the bus conductor was having none of that, simply because another uniformed police officer was already seated and claiming ‘staff’ in the bus.

He tried to shove the Mopol down and the irate officer, who loudly complained that he had been on duty over the past three days without any rest or sleep, simply applied pepper spray into the eyes of the bus conductor and followed up his action by dragging down the conductor at the next bus-stop, which was in front of a Police Station.
This reporter who escaped the effects of the pepper spray by inches could only wonder how such an irate officer can safeguard the lives of citizens in such a demoralised condition. Maybe an improvement in his social benefits would have a profound positive effect on his mentality; enough of walking time-bombs already.

The Unemployed
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 10.40 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2015 from 9.90 per cent in the previous period. The number of unemployed persons went up by 518 thousand to 8 million and the labour force population rose by 1 million to 76.95 million.

The under-employment rate grew to 18.7 per cent (14.4 million), compared to 17.4 per cent (13.2 million). Unemployment rate in Nigeria averaged 11.37 per cent from 2006 until 2015, reaching an all time high of 23.90 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2011 and a record low of 5.30 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2006.
A cynical friend once said the fastest way to get a job in Nigeria is for a member of one’s family to be involved in a national tragedy, like the tragic NIS recruitment exercise of 2014, which claimed lives of desperate applicants, while some family members of the dead were offered automatic employment by the federal government.

Although it is graveyard humour, his reasoning appeared on point, but the bottom line here is that the eight million currently unemployed citizens also need social safety nets. The unemployable, identified by a minister in the past administration, is a topic of discussion for another day. Let the safety nets roll now.

“Simply put, numerous citizens of this country require social safety nets, but with the federal government’s plan to provide N5,000 monthly stipends to the poorest of the poor among other social benefits, the scope of selection of beneficiaries becomes narrower”