Somehow, Nigerian public office holders have lost the trust of the masses. Nothing they (the office holders) do is seen as good enough and whatever they offer to the masses is viewed with suspicion. As far as many Nigerians are concerned, there is nothing done by the government that has no ulterior motives. This is the same way the federal government Coronavirus palliative has received distrustful reactions and negative analysis from the masses.
The moment President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the FG will disburse money to the most vulnerable in the society Nigerians took to their Twitter pages to express their distrust on how the FG will handle and achieve that. It was obvious that many people did not expect that the exercise would be transparently carried out. The reactions of Nigerians showed that the federal government needed to do a lot to win back the trust of the citizens. But unfortunately, the FG gave them more reasons to say, “I told you so”.
The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHDSD) is indeed overburdened with the task of disbursing the Conditional Cash Transfer (aka Coronavirus Palliatives) to the poorest among the poor Nigerians. It is obvious that the ministry already has a list of people that fell into its descriptions of the poor in the National Social Register, which will make it easier for the distribution of the money within a short time and notice. But Nigerians are not satisfied with the exercise, especially when there seemed to be no evidence of the ministry disbursing the money.
FMHDSD should have realised that the following mistakes made by the ministry will increase the mistrust of Nigerians:
Paying Cash to Beneficiaries: This seems to be the greatest issue people have with this exercise. When Mr. President announced that money will be shared, everyone expected that it would be done through bank transactions. Some hoped that the FG would use the Bank Verification Number (BVN) as the data source for payment and management of the transaction. The argument laid here was that since no one has more than one BVN it will be easy for FG to control the payment since nobody can receive two or more payments from the FG if it is done through bank transfer. However, Nigerians were disappointed when they learnt that the mode of payment was by cash.
FMHDSD could have averted this concern by insisting that the beneficiaries open bank accounts before they are paid. We are made to understand that the ministry will make use of the data in the National Social Register in disbursing this money and that these people were among those that benefitted from Abacha’s loot. Since the ministry has been in contact with them before, it should have insisted that they opened bank accounts and then submit their details long before now so that there wouldn’t be a hitch when there is an urgent need to help them out.
Hopefully, this error will be corrected before the next batch of the #20k palliative purse.
Withholding Vital Information: It is a fact that FMHDSD is shielding the list of beneficiaries of this palliative purse. During the disbursement of Abacha’s loot, people waited to see those that benefited from it but alas, no one came out to tell the good tale. This time again, history is repeating itself.
National Social Register should be made available to the masses, alongside the different people that have benefitted from any government intervention programmes. It is something that anyone that has interest could access easily. People need to be sure that those in that list actually deserve to be there and that the palliatives they are receiving from the government are impacting positively in their lives. There is also a need to learn the criteria for being called “vulnerable” in Nigeria and to ensure that all those that should be in the group are included.
No Evidence of Payment and Payment Exercise: One of the easiest ways of reaching the public is through the mass media. It is quite worrisome that the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, went to different states of the federation to oversee the disbursements of this fund and media houses could not cover the events and present them to the masses. This would not only be for the sake of record keeping, but to let the world know that something good is happening in Nigeria.
Nigerians need to see authentic pictures and videos of these events. They need to see the beneficiaries and to hear them talk to the world. They need to believe that this exercise is real and that nobody is cheating them out of their money. The minister and the ministry owe this to Nigerians.
A lot of fake news is circulating today because the peddlers saw loopholes through which they could carry out their malicious acts. All the ministry needs to do is to listen to Nigerians, find out their grievances and find ways to pacify them. Of course people are bound to complain irrespective of what the government does for them, but their complaints will not be as heated as they are right now.