I saw a post earlier this year, where someone asserted that the only government agency that knows that people live in every nook and cranny of the country is the INEC. This may sound weird, but it’s unfortunately true. During elections in this country, electoral materials and personnel reach every part of the country (at least I believe so judging from the results) irrespective of their levels of development. But immediately after that, the interior communities become invisible to the map, again.
Now, NCTO (National Cash Transfer Office) that is established for the poor and the vulnerable couldn’t reach out to all of them. This office has several wonderful programmes running for the “poorest among the poor” but it has not been able to make itself known to every Nigerian. To be honest, I only learnt about this agency on Monday 22nd October, 2019, when I read the news published by the Punch newspaper on the disbursement of $103.64m ‘Abacha Loot’ to the poor.
While reading the news, I couldn’t help wondering what was going on. I mean, I heard one time that the federal government will collate names of the very poor people in the society. But that was all I know about this exercise. To be honest with you, I was still waiting for when this collation will start so that I can tell many of the poor people I know and beggars on the streets to go for this registration. And here I am discovering that something has been happening since 2015.
I felt cheated because most people from my area need this but they weren’t involved, nor were they informed in the first place. I decided to take some actions by going into NCTO website to source for information. Permit me to say that I came out with less than I had when I went in.
Being a government agency, I was disappointed to find out that a lot of information were missing. Some of these much needed information include:
1. Who are the Poor: What I was looking for here was just the parameters on how someone will be qualified as a beneficiary of this programme. I couldn’t find any such thing. The only thing I noticed is that communities decide who should be on the National Social Register (NSR) and who shouldn’t. However, the agency devised a way of certifying that all the people recommended by the community leaders (I presume) are qualified to be included in the register (which contains the names of those that take home #5k every month).
But then, the agency needs to provide a lot of missing answers to questions that will create transparency in their dealings. For example, the agency needs to spell out the parameters for qualifying beneficiaries, who the current beneficiaries are, where they come from (state, local government and town), their age, occupation and sex, if they have any disability, and other personal information that could be made public. In fact, there should be a comprehensive list of all the beneficiaries. We need to know the people sharing our money (after all, for starters ‘Abacha loot’ belongs to all of us).
2. What are the Participating States: I noticed that not all states in the federation have keyed in into this programme (NCTP – National Cash Transfer Programme). I seriously searched Google to see if I can get the list of the States of the Federation that are benefitting from this; but I only noticed that about 30 states are in it. Now, how do I know if my state has joined?
I’m not blaming NCTO for not getting all the states involved, so to say, because they have conditions which any interested state must fulfil before their citizens begin to enjoy this programme. It is however unfair that the public will not be able to see if their governors are lax about this programme. It is unfair that citizens of a state will be left out of something like this because their state government didn’t deem it necessary to bring them in. I strongly believe that there should be a way out for the poor citizens of those states that their government hasn’t fulfilled NCTO conditions for enrolling in the programme. But before that, the participating states should be made available for public perusal.
3.What Impact Has the Programme so Far: When I first read that $103.64m of the ‘Abacha Loot’ has been disbursed, the first thing I asked myself was, “was the money for food or for business?” Of course, I couldn’t answer that question, and I am yet to find the answer to that. To start with, the money given out is just #5k, which will get nowhere (not with the high cost of everything). So, if only #5k was given per month to these people, what impact has the programme had on their lives so far? Has any research been carried out to find out if this programme is actually helping or is just a way of throwing away money that would have been channelled to something better?
When I was searching for the beneficiaries and how that huge amount of money was disbursed, I was hoping to see that some of these poor people now have their own little houses that will shelter them from the elements. I was also hoping to see a petty trader whose business was established through this programme. Furthermore, I was equally looking for students and apprentices who are being sponsored by this programme. Anyway, I couldn’t find any – that is why there is a need for a comprehensive list.
If you ask me, I’ll only say that these people just gather every month to collect their ‘national garri’ and go out to continue with their struggle. As far as I am concerned, giving out #5k every month to people will have no positive impact on their lives. Better channels for that money should be planned. But before that, NCTO needs to carry out a survey to find out if they have actually been wasting their time.
I know that NCTO means well for Nigerians, especially the poor; but I don’t see how they have been improving on the lives of Nigerians. They need to re-strategise or all the money pumped into this will end up a waste. They need good business and economic analysts that will help to create plans to teach these poor people how to fish, and not just handing them fishes. The current method adopted will not solve the poverty problem in the country. They should think fast now before more money is given out.
But, NCTO should do one more major thing – creating a loud awareness. NCTO should make itself a household name. It shouldn’t hide in the background, where the people that need it most won’t find it. If NCTO is for the “poorest poor”, it should reach out to them and not wait for state governments to do that. And it should remember that poor people exist in every part of the country.