Touching Lives

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With the testimonies being shared on traditional and social media by beneficiaries of the Social Investment Programmes of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, it is clear that the intervention is achieving some of its set goals, writes Peter Uzoho

Comprising the Conditional Cash Transfer, Home Grown School Feeding, N-Power and the General Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, people who had wondered how government would successfully implement the interventions, even in the face of declining revenue, have been pleasantly surprised. Not only has the planning and execution been meticulous, it has also been devoid of partisanship and bias.

What’s more, the Federal Government is tapping the knowledge, expertise and experience of global players like the World Bank, DFID, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Imperial College, UK, amongst others, to ensure that planning, execution and monitoring of the programmes meet international best practices.

Months after the commencement of the plans which government had appropriated N500 billion for in the 2016 budget with the same amount replicated in the 2017 Appropriation Bill, it is evident that this administration is putting its money where its mouth is – in the hands of common Nigerians.The Social Investment Programmes (SIP) are well thought out economic strategies that seek to empower all societal groups including children, the poor and vulnerable, the elderly, unemployed graduates and budding entrepreneurs.

N375 million has been spent just this year on the feeding of about 700,000 primary school pupils in five states of Anambra, Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Ebonyi in implementing the Home Grown School Feeding plan. The amount is expected to rise significantly by the completion of the first phase target of 5.5 million primary school pupils across the 18 states. In addition, the plan has created a win-win situation for all parties concerned – pupils, food vendors and farmers in the communities.

The Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, highlighted this in a speech at the commencement of the programme in his state. “This will definitely enhance the production and income capacities of our farmers and the suppliers of our various products. The multiplier effect of all these daily transactions to the farmer as well as market women will be huge.” He added that the 2,969 food vendors who were given cooking utensils at interest-free rates, “will make additional income from taking on catering businesses in their communities on weekends and when schools are off.”
Also lauding the initiative long before its take-off, a former minister and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Adeseye Ogunlewe, described it as laudable. “The Federal Government wants to feed Nigerian children; we should allow our children to enjoy it. We should not politicise it at all. The more we politicise it, the more it will be difficult to be implemented,” he said.

Comments by the other beneficiaries also reveal the positive impact that the N-Power scheme is having on the lives of unemployed Nigerians. Already, 200,000 out of a projected beneficiary target of half a million unemployed youths have so far been employed and deployed to rural communities as teachers, agricultural extension workers and health support workers in more than 20 states of the federation.The beneficiaries, who have started receiving their monthly stipend of N30, 000 directly, have been generous with their praises.

“Every part of this country is facing social problems ranging from unemployment and other critical issues. I think the government should come up with more of this kind of social intervention programme (N-Power) to reduce the level of suffering of her youth. Kudos to PMB (President Muhammadu Buhari) for his bold initiative such as the N-Power Programme,” wrote Dio Edwin on Facebook.

Adedayo N. Oladipupo also attested to the authenticity of the scheme: “At last, I have received my alert oooo. N-Power carry on. I got mine 5:15 this morning. I urge other participants to relax, yours is coming.” he wrote on January 5.
Kata Cyril described the first payment received as ‘My Letter of Happiness from Delta State’. “I’ve received my N-Power (N-Teach) first stipend from GTB just exactly 9:48 pm yesterday. I doubted before, but now I believe in a New Nigeria to come under Buhari’s administration. I doubted The CHANGE slogan, but from now onwards “I STAND FOR CHANGE”
Ijezie Okpara echoed the same, admitting, “I couldn’t believe it when I saw the alert today, 30th December, 2016. I received N30, 000. No deduction of anything at all. Buhari has done well on this aspect. Glory be to God!”
Tweeter savvy beneficiaries of the schemealso attest to the authenticity of the scheme. Akintola Ahmed wrote, “I received my #Npower Dec stipend yesterday. Ibadan north local govt of Oyo State! Thanks @ProfOsinbajo @MBuhari”
AbdulaiBajoga reported “More smiles and jubilation as many start receiving their 30,000 naira alert from #Npower Nigeria. Congratulations…”
Awe Olumuyiwa E. exultantly declared “I don get @npower_ngalert God win and devil lose. Ondo State.GTBANK. Npower is real. No problem.”

A certain Toluwanikanlopemi also testified: “A friend just got paid today. Ogun State #NPower”
Rona Robert, another beneficiary advised those impatient because they are yet to receive their stipend: “Please let’s try our best to be patient with the organisers of this programme… Fact be told, they are trying their best even if they are not as fast as some of us want them to be. Remember, there are people who want this by all means…Let’s give N-Power time to go about their activities. I know everything will be just fine in no time. Guys, let’s be PATIENT!!”
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in acknowledging some of the hitches being experienced in some states, said : “We are continually reviewing progress of N-Power beneficiaries from verification, deployment and stipends’ payment. Those involved be patient.”

The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) currently being implemented in Bauchi, Borno, Cross Rivers, Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Osun and Oyo sates is also impacting positively on lives of the poor and vulnerable. Like the other plans, the CCT has built-in checks from conception to execution to prevent abuse. The sum of N10, 000 is currently being paid directly to the CCT beneficiaries from funds released to the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) for December 2016, and January 2017 while subsequent payments of N10, 000 would be made six times annually.

Artisans, traders, youths, entrepreneurs and market women amongst others are beneficiaries of theGovernment Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) that commenced in November 2016 under the supervision of the Bank of Industry. Under the scheme, soft loans ranging from N10, 000 to N100, 000 are being given to beneficiaries from 15 states, with a plan to touch over 30,000 this month, and well over a million in a year. Beneficiaries of the first phase have so far been selected from Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Ekiti, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Lagos, Osun and Ogun. Others are in Oyo, Ondo, Rivers and the FCT.

“So far, I will say he has done well in the execution though hitches one learnt are being addressed are being experienced in some states. They are a good way of assisting the people and also fighting the recession whose foundation was laid long before he assumed office and which was worsened by the acts of vandalism in the Niger Delta. I think I will want to congratulate the President for what he has so far done but also urge him not to rest on his oars because there are still lots of Nigerians grappling with poverty and unemployment,” noted Dr. Gbenga Ojo, an educational consultant based in Lagos.