FG Sets Aside N500bn Intervention Fund for Poorest Nigerians

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  • Promises to rescue Chibok girls soon

Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

In response to the growing state of insecurity across the country, occasioned by poverty, especially in the Boko Haram ravaged North-east, the federal government, has set aside a N500 billion intervention fund for the poorest Nigerians.

This is coming as the government also vowed to do everything within its powers to rescue the Chibok girls very soon.

The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, stated this yesterday in Abuja during ‘a Roundtable on Vulnerable People in Insurgency and other Conflicts in Nigeria’, organised by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) in honour of the Chibok girls and other victims of internal conflicts.

Osinbajo said poverty had been identified as one of the over-aching issues in the country, which must be tackled through various intervention programmes.

He said the current budget, is tailored in such a way to reflect the need on poverty alleviation in the country.
He however disclosed that determining the number of the poor in the country has proved difficult, but added that government is overcoming the challenge with the assistance of the World Bank.

He said: “I want to emphasise on the interconnectivity of the issues. I think it’s Aisha who talked about how poverty is an over-aching issues that exposes state systems, the institutions of state itself and make them almost incapable of being able to solve the problems.

“I recall that this was one of the first meeting I held with those who are concerned with the economy and running the budget. This was even before ministers were appointed. There seems to be a problem around the whole concept of what a budget should be, what our preparation should be, and for the country. The way that many of us have been raised and taught is to look at the economy around sustaining industry and sustaining enterprise, around sustaining institutions that produce some public good. But the question of course is that in societies where you have extremely poor people, and large numbers of poor people, there must be a different way of looking at how you prepare and how you plan for that society. You must have perhaps a greater attention paid to how to provide for the very large numbers of the poor who cannot catch up in any way and who simply cannot even benefit from the public good that business or enterprise may produce, because they are so disempowered by their poverty and can not even wait for what ever it is that can be delivered by business or enterprise, because they are far too poor and may not even live long enough to enjoy those things.”

“So there is a sense to which we must pay some attention to how we design government programmes and budgets. So we take into account the great poverty of our people, then of course question of education, health care go along with that, especially education and health care for the most vulnerable is important.

“I think that is the soft under belly of our system which expose our people to the harshest possible conditions and the fall out and only a fall out is just collateral damage, that vulnerable people. And the fall out it is only a fall out and just collateral damage that vulnerable people are exposed, even more in conflict situations that is why one of the chief concerns of this government has been the social investment we are trying to make and which was provided for in the budget.”

“About N500 billion has been provided for social interventions, including conditional cash transfers to the very poorest, including loans to market women and persons who are engaged in informal trade, about a million of those, even in compiling the names and list of those who are the poorest, has been a difficult process, but we have been greatly assisted by the world bank and the Bill Gates Foundation,” he noted.

The vice president however disagreed that poverty is the major cause of terrorism and radicalisation, as being propounded by some people. He noted that most actors of terrorism, especially in the Middle East and Europe are well educated and from middle class families.

“There is no question that radicalisation is something we are going to deal with, especially why is it that the terrorists continue to find it possible to recruit. For me, I think that the whole issue of radicalisation should be looked into deeply and addressed holistically, as I don’t think it is poverty. I don’t feel that this whole issue of radicalisation is caused by poverty,” he clarified.

On the Chibok girls, who were abducted exactly two years ago, Osinbajo said federal government is working towards bringing an end to the wait in resolving the issue.
He promised that government is working hard to ensure that the girls and other missing persons are rescued very soon.
“I am sure, we will rescue those girls and I hope it will be very soon. We must do something and I think there is hope that we will do something.

“The Chibok girls, obviously remain the focus of a lot of our attention on vulnerable persons, also we must remember that even before the Chibok girls, we had the Bunu Yadi boys at the Bunu Yadi Secondary School in Yobe State, 59 of them killed in their boarding house just a couple of months before the Chibok incident.”
“And of course several others who had been abducted and killed. At various times before those incidents,” he said.

Also speaking, the Minister of Environment and Moderator of the programme, Mrs. Amina Mohammed, said: “It will never be enough until the girls come back. As a mother of four, I am hopeful that the girls will be rescued.”
In the same vein, the NSA, Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), noted that the purpose of the roundtable was to discuss the plight of the most vulnerable citizens, devise preventive measures to avoid conflicts and find ways to mitigate the suffering of victims during and after conflicts.

Monguno, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Economic Intelligence, Mr. Remi Oyewunmi, noted that “no other issue in Nigeria’s recent history has exposed the country to the international spotlight as the abduction of the Chibok girls, prompting righteous indignation across the world.”

He said there is massive increase in the use of children as suicide bombers by the Boko Haram terrorists.
“Like the rest of the world, the most vulnerable people during conflicts in Nigeria are usually women and children as exemplified by their preponderance among the teeming mass of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), particularly in the North-east, victims of the Boko Haram insurgency. According to reports by security agencies, there has been an increase in the use of children as suicide bombers.

“Government is also committed to locating the whereabouts of the Chibok girls with a view to rescuing them. The issue has been at the top of the agenda during national council meetings. Moreover, the security agencies have stepped up their search and rescue activities. For instance, in the last one month over 3,000 hostages have been rescued by the armed forces in their counter-insurgency operations in the North-east,” he said.
Also, a survivor of Buni Yadi Boko Haram attack, Miss Fatima Hassan, gave a very emotional and horrifying account of how the terrorists rounded up her schoolmates, mostly boys and murdered them.

Other special guests who spoke at the event include the Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau (rtd), the Executive Secretary, Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC), Air Commodore Yusuf Anas (rtd), representatives of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Chief of Army Staff (COAS), and Ambassadors of US, UK and France amongst others.