Social Intervention Programmes: Eliminating lopsidedness to strengthen a sense of nationhood

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Cries of neglects in recent times have been rife in some parts of the Country over the outlook of region-based distribution of palliatives within the Country. The outcry which have been buzzing predominantly from the South has generated arguments and controversies. The emphatic questions have been laid on tingling arguments of whether there were never poor and indigenes in the South of Nigeria.  The questions have been raised owing to reports of palliatives and reliefs enjoyed by indigent people in the Northern part of the Country, while such is hardly extended to less privileged people of similar status in the South.

During the heat of the COVID-19 lockdown, the row over the inability of several households to assess palliatives in the South had raised rancorous clamours among the populace, following news of such privileges heard to be enjoyed in some parts of the North. The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Faruk,  on Monday disclosed that no less than 282,529 pupils are currently being fed under the Home Grown School Feeding Programme in Zamfara State. The Minister who made the disclosure at a town hall meeting in Gusau said the scheme was being carried out in 1,759 schools spread across the 14 Local Government Areas of the State. According to her, 2,000 cooks are under  employment in the State to provide food to the pupils.

She mentioned also that the Federal Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) programme had provided loans to 48,503 individuals in Zamfara. “Beneficiaries enrolled into the program increased from 630,964 Poor and Vulnerable Households with direct household beneficiaries of 3,201,402 as at August 2019, to 1,289,405 Poor and Vulnerable Households with 6,443,878 direct households beneficiaries as at August 2020. Number of beneficiaries receiving payment increased from 469,362 households in 22 states to over one million in 34 states. The CCT is providing support to 129,137 poor and vulnerable households in Zamfara with a monthly base cash transfer of N5,000, with the sole aim of graduating them out of poverty,” she was quoted saying.

According to her a total of N6.09 billion has been disbursed to 129,137 poor and vulnerable households in the State.

The Minister who was quoted in a statement issued by the  Chief Information Officer, of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Adeyemo Felicia, stated that the programme improved the socio-economic livelihoods of over 130,000 beneficiaries with payments of between N30,000 to N80,000 distributed based on the dates that each beneficiary was registered on the CCT exercise. She said: “The disbursement is done through the Conditional Cash Transfer programme to the poor and vulnerable households in the state. It is done with a monthly base cash transfer of N5, 000 to each beneficiary, with the sole aim of graduating them out of poverty. In October 2019, the Zamfara Social Register had 175,955 poor and vulnerable households made up of 802,279 individuals. The register has grown under my stewardship to 420,358 households and 1,950,201 individuals that will benefit from the government’s social safety net programmes. Furthermore, cash transfers will be expanded to cover an additional one million households nationwide. Of this expansion, Zamfara will have a total of 138,861 new beneficiaries, in addition to the 130,000 currently being paid through the CCT.”

The need to give balanced engagements to reflect a full face of fair Federal principle is much essential in the implemental workings of social programmes. It is keenly paramount for the Federal Government to come to the terms of realities of the conditional states of affairs across the Federation. The facts of the existing conditions show nothing less than even distribution of poverty across board in the light that there is hardly any part of the Federation where there are no indigent population. The realities of the present practically reflects that the profile and spread of indigent population extends across the Federation, and is not peculiar to any part of the Country. The realities therefore call for rational balance in the share of such privileges across every part of the Country without prejudice and bias.

This is essential, given the danger of acrimonious displeasures and feelings of segregation which are deep rooted sources of disunity which have began to erupt in the light of moves for self determination from some quarters.  Any sensation of lopsidedness in the workings of social programmes and humanitarian interventions which are skewed to favour a particular section to the disadvantage of the rest, are rockets of wrong signals that gather to spark disharmony within the Federation.

In the face of the Minister’s statement that existing National Social Investment Programmes were being expanded to offer wider protection to the most vulnerable persons and communities in Nigeria, it is therefore instructive that the programmes in their entirety should be tailored on the table of broad national and not sectional interests. It is evident that discontentment have greeted the wobbling of the Home Grown Feeding Programme in the South, while same have been much more sustained in the Northern parts of Federation. Such imbalances have the tendencies to raise acrimonies within the Federation, which by and large is counterproductive for a national outlook needed to salvage Nigeria from the mire of prevailing deep messes. It is therefore important that the concerned authorities set the table right for necessary revisitation of the workings of these Social Intervention Programmes for a better and encompassing face in the spirit of broad national interest.