There has been an ensuing drama laden with mixed reactions about the Federal Government’s move to disburse N5, 000 stipends to poorest Nigerians in order to help them set up Small and Medium Enterprises.
The promise was made during the presidential campaign that saw President Muhammadu Buhari into office on May 29, 2015.
It came as a surprise when news emerged that some states have been selected to benefit from the programme which aroused curiosity from the masses who prior to understanding the criteria, felt neglected.
Buhari rightly stated that “it is not possible for everyone needing the N5000 stipends to get it’, as he reinstated the resolve of his administration to ensure that due process is followed during the selection.
Meantime, the Conditional Cash Transfer has been disbursed across the selected nine pilot states which include Bauchi, Borno, Cross Rivers, Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Osun and Oyo.
The basis for the selection of these states was questioned and the federal government has given a detailed explanation so that no region would be left feeling cheated or ignored.
The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity in the Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande has explained how the Community-Based Targeting model of the World Bank was used two years ago to identify most of the beneficiaries in the pilot States, as the World Bank is also an active agent in the entire process.
In his explanation, Akande noted that: “First, the officials at federal level, working with the state officials, identify the poorest Local Government Areas, using an existing poverty map for the state, then the LG officials identify the poorest communities in the LGAs and we send our teams there.
“The first thing our team does after selection of the LGAs is to select members of the NOA, the LGA and community officials to form the CBT team. Then we train the selected officials on how to conduct focus group discussions at community level. These focus groups comprise of women, men, youths, as the community determines.
“After training them, the CBT teams now go to each of their communities to sensitize the leaders, including traditional rulers, on the CBT process and the necessity for objectivity and openness in the process. At that meeting, they firm up a date to convene a community meeting at a designated location within the community.
“On the set date, discussions are held in the local languages, using terminologies that resonate in that community. The CBT team will explain to the community the purpose of the gathering, i.e. to determine the parameters of poverty upon which persons can be described as poor and vulnerable within the context of that community.”
Notwithstanding the explanation, a lot of Nigerians insist that the selection process was biased, but the presidency will have none of that as it has maintained that maximum objectivity has been employed through the selection process since eight of the nine pilot States were already chosen before the Buhari-led administration came into power, and Borno State was later added since it had more Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs than any other state.
One question that begs for answers is on whether the given criteria and parameters are enough to judge the poorest people in a community?
Poverty is judged differently and with that at the back of the mind, people will definitely come up with various criteria to suit them so they will get what they want at the end.
The puzzle yet to be unraveled is on whether it will still be as transparent as expected following the quite rigorous process and considering the fact that the country is inherently marred by corruption.
What if greedy local government heads or authorities decide to bring in sentiments into the whole process or embezzle the funds already set out for the realization of this cause?
Are the supposed poor people safe? Or are they prone to getting exposed to a process that will never see the light of the day?
Once the funds are embezzled, the project dies a natural death and the aim which is to help the poor dies with it while the spate of poverty gets worse than it used to be.
A lot of people have crossed their arms, patiently waiting for the outcome of the rare project.
That didn’t stop some people from expressing their reservations on what happens if the disbursement ends with the nine pilot states.
People need to be convinced that this will not end up like one of those white elephant projects.
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