- Says $233m disbursed in four years
Eromosele Abiodun and Nume Ekeghe
The federal government has blamed what it described as structural issues and the failure of some states to abide by the terms of the agreement with it for the slow implementation of the conditional cash transfer scheme for the poor and vulnerable in some of the states.
The federal government, under the scheme, has disbursed $233 million (N83.88 billion) in the past four years.
National Coordinator, National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO), Mr. Iorwa Apara, spoke on the issue yesterday when he appeared on the ‘The Morning Show,’ a programme monitored on ARISE News Channel, a sister broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspaper.
NASSCO is under the supervision of the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq.
No fewer than five states were missing from the list of states currently benefiting from the federal government’s N20,000 conditional cash transfer scheme to the poor and the vulnerable to cushion the hardship posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Apara also dismissed the allegation that the federal government has focused on the northern part in the distribution of the cash.
He said the federal government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with all the 36 states and the FCT in 2016 that mandated the state governments to establish the state operations offices to handle the scheme, alleging that some states were slow to do so.
“There is no focus on any region in the country. We signed a memorandum of understanding with all 36 states and the FCT in 2016 that mandated the state governments to establish the state operations offices that would handle this.
“There were a number of states that went ahead to not only extend support but buy the tablets, the electronic devices to collect the data in the field. Some even went ahead to even provide further logistics to the teams in the local governments to collect this data. Some, because of transitions of government and all of that, some issues were left out.
“There were some states where the offices were not established on time; there were some states where there were structural issues. And by the terms of the agreement, there were certain standards they were supposed to meet; some states moved faster and some states didn’t,” he added.
He described the process as fair, transparent and equal across the federation.
“When you talk about poverty figures, the absolute poverty index of Nigeria puts us at about 60 per cent, the total population in Nigeria below the poverty line. When you take 60 per cent and compare against individual state population, you will also see that the numbers will be different.
“For instance, Abia State with its population against Katsina State, the figures would not be the same. It is the same thing with Lagos State against another state. The southern states are doing very well. We met with all the governors last week. I was with Imo State governor and we discussed and I said to him this is your work and he agreed that the data will be very useful for him.
“The social register does not only give you information on the number of poor people, but it also gives you information on the proximity of this poor population to social amenities like good roads, electricity, water, schools and health clinics – same with Ogun State governor who has supported the establishment of the team in his state. Our team has trained its officials and is now putting the local government team together.
“Katsina State Government has launched a statewide training for enumerators, while Kaduna State Government has approved funds for the team to go statewide. They are being proactive and on board with this.
“But it is a process; it is also work in progress. We have data from 35 states, involving 47,000 communities. In all of these communities, we have the register for 2.6 million poor and vulnerable households that President Muhammadu Buhari quoted in his last national broadcast, made up of 11 million individuals. This was as of March 29, 2020, we closed the register in March. As I speak to you, a number of states have sent in their data that we have validated,” he explained.
According to him, the scheme is not a cash handout but a strategic investment by government to stimulate consumption and enhance economic growth.
He said the federal government had disbursed $233 million (N83.88 billion) in four years through NASSCO.
“Since inception to date, the cash transfer programme has paid over $233 million on the cash transfer in the last four years, ”he said.
On claims by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) of disparities in data released by his office, he said the state registers were developed by the state governments at the office of the state coordinating units in the ministry of planning in each state.
He added that the figures were compiled by states, adding that the federal government is working with the data collated by the states.