The government should create realistic platforms for enlistment of the poor demographics who need welfare support, writes Ladi Ayodeji

The administration of palliative measures is never intended to bring a permanent cure or lasting solution, rather they only serve to extenuate or mitigate bad situations. It becomes worrisome when the application of palliative intervention measures initiated by government, are beginning to take precedence over serious problems that demand permanent and urgent, holistic solutions.

The Buhari administration has recently created a Ministry of Humanitarian Services, which is also charged with disaster management and such aberrations. That’s an impressive, realistic, broad base response to desperate human needs arising from force majeure. The ministry compliments the efforts of other charitable private institutions and multilateral agencies, which is good.

One of the problems facing Nigeria today is efficient disaster management, and taken further, the creation of disaster prevention through proactive measures, and the quest for permanent solutions for the plight of the poor and our most vulnerable demographics. The key word here is permanent solution!

For instance, the federal government’s poverty alleviation programmes like Trader Moni, You-win, etc., are good, but not far-reaching enough, and do not address the core, broad spectrum of the society’s poorest of the poor. Even, the school-feeding programme, though, encouraging, is restricted to the APC-governed states, which reduces its impact significantly.

Yet, poverty knows no tribe, state, gender, age, location, or religion. Poverty is everybody’s enemy, including the rich and powerful because its negative impact affects everyone. The fight against poverty is a national emergency that should task the ruling elite across party spectrum. It is not an APC or PDP problem. It affects all political parties with representatives in and out of power.

In a previous essay, I wrote that poverty requires as much attention as the Covid-19 crisis management because both are terminal diseases; just that poverty is insidious, while Covid-19 kills faster. Therefore, all hands must be on deck. Poverty birthed the Boko Haram and the other street crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, ritual murders, cybercrime, advance – fee fraud (419), second chance, etc.

These crimes could only be checked by effective policing which is a form of temporary suppression of criminal activities by force of arms. Punitive measures do not stop crime. The threat of legal sanctions may deter criminal activities to some extent, but they do not prevent crime altogether.

Societies which record low crime rates are the ones which have succeeded in providing efficient social security systems that deal effectively with the welfare needs of their people as a whole, not just a particular demographic. Therefore, what our country should do is to go beyond palliatives and immediately build on such temporary measure with far reaching, practical, efficient provision of empowerment projects that could engage the productive capacities of our people, including the so called poorest of the poor.

So far, we do not have a reliable structure on ground that captures the location, number and citizenship status of poor Nigerians, who need welfare support. Since our census figures are not reliable, it is difficult to find the right statistics needed for development, which is why we rely on estimates for all our development programmes.

Palliatives can’t even get to a fraction of those who really need them under the present improvised system. The government should now begin to create realistic platforms for factual, reliable and authentic enlistment of the poor demographics who need consistent, permanent welfare support in our country. A proper welfare system is what we need, so that the Nigerian underclass could be protected from the vagaries of an economy that is increasingly getting contracted because of declining oil revenues. If twenty – thirty million destitute Nigerians know that they could get N10, 000 every month from government, they’d feel part of the Nigerian dream.

Right now, the poverty gap keeps expanding and threatening to envelop more and more newly impoverished citizens who have been castrated by the Covid 19 decimation of the economy. Government should start thinking in the direction of lifting more Nigerians of the ditch of instead of making palliative efforts that amount to mere tokenism.

One big issue we must also address is that our economy is public-sector driven. We have to reverse this trend quickly. Nigeria should make policies that fuel private initiative and empower the private sector. Every developed economy has a vibrant SME sector because it drives the economy; that’s what we ought to be looking at now.

There are millions of retirees who are not yet tired. Even, those who are lucky to live on a pension could still learn new trades or acquire new skills and become wealth creators rather than live on charity. Only those who are physically challenged to the extent of being disabled and unable to function independently are rightly deserving of living on charity. Any individual could be empowered by government to make them creative, effective producers of wealth and contributors to the GDP. This is how nations build prosperity permanently. Poverty alleviation never develops a nation.

The APC should move to the next level by evaluating all its palliative agencies and collapse them into vibrant, productive national training and empowerment organisation that could in record time, turn our unproductive people into wealth creators, not beggars who live on crumbs. Poverty is infectious. If not dealt with, it could untimely infect others who are made to continue to sustain the poor and eventually risk poverty themselves.
Ayodeji is an Author, Life Coach and Activist. He can be reached on 09059243004