In a bid to alleviate the hardship emanating from the restrictions and lockdowns initiated by governments as measures to curtail the spread of coronavirus, the federal government said it has started doling out palliatives to poor households in the country.
Sadiya Farouk, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, said the Ministry has commenced disbursement of cash transfer to poorest households in Nigeria.
“In Mr. President’s speech, paragraph 54, he directed that the conditional cash transfer should be given in advance of two months. This we have also done. We have directed immediate cash transfer to the poorest and most vulnerable households in the country.
“Because of this COVID-19, the vulnerable groups have to be expanded because we are aware that there are people who live on daily wage. So we are also going to look at those groups of people to see how we can get this food relief intervention to them this period,” she said.
As part of efforts to reach the most vulnerable with relief supplies, Farouk said the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has deployed trucks of relief materials to states affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
As at March 31, Nigeria has recorded 139 confirmed cases of coronavirus, scattered across 12 states of the country with Lagos having the highest number (82). Many states have embarked on restrictions and curfews in an attempt to quell the spread, resulting in deprivation of people’s means of income, especially those who depend on their daily income to earn a living.
President Buhari on Sunday, during his state broadcast promised to make provisions that will assuage the hardship stemming from the restrictions and lockdowns. Accordingly, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs has commenced cash remittance to the most affected people in the country.
According to Mrs. Farouk, over 11 million Nigerians have been identified so far as beneficiaries. She said on Tuesday during the press briefing of the Presidential Task Force on coronavirus that the government already has a social register with details of those considered as the vulnerable in the society.
She said the neediest in the society cut across 35 states of the federation in around 2.6 million households, among them, those in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, who have received two months rations of the relief supply already.
However, this development is not receiving its supposed applause because of how people see it. The question popping here and there are: “How did the government identify poorest Nigerians”? How does the government determine poorest households? Among the reasons many think the answers to the questions are relevant is that poorest Nigerians don’t even own bank accounts. But according Mrs. Farouk, the disbursement has been through bank accounts, and that has appeared fishy to many.
Lukman Olamilekan, a concerned Nigerian said the most vulnerable people in the face of coronavirus live in the most affected cities where the lockdown is currently active. And that means, the government has got all wrong going to all 35 states at the same time.
“The poorest households, which I believe are the people in the remote areas and hamlets. I don’t think COVID-19 presently affects these people, those affected are the people in the city who survive on daily earnings. They need this money far more than the villagers,” he said.
The World Poverty Clock puts the number of poor Nigerians at about 100 million people who are living below moderate poverty line ($2 and above daily), which means a staggering number of people in Nigeria live below $1.9 daily.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs said that the government has identified 11 million people out of about 100 million Nigerians who are living in abject poverty to be beneficiaries of the relief program.
Though some Nigerians have been sharing screenshots of their bank’s credit notification online as evidence that the government is living up to its promise, it only confirms the fear of many. It is believed that the poorest ones among Nigerians don’t even have what it takes to be on the internet, which puts a question mark on the government’s selection method of those deserving the social intervention program.
It is believed that it is “business as usual,” that nepotism must have played a big role in the selection of those who receive the cash and material support from the government, if at all it’s something anyone would believe.