A little over six years ago, when the Buhari administration settled down to its pivotal task of reformation, not just with regards to the infrastructural decay but also with regards to an overhaul of the country’s human capital which, sadly, over the years, as a result of negligence, had suffered so much depravity. The average Nigerian, thus, had been plunged and had sunk to a poverty level so abysmal that it required a very urgent and sincere effort to salvage.
Many Nigerians then lived below poverty level, despair had sunk in and the government was required to administer the ‘ICU’ treatment.
In a country with a near-collapse of infrastructure, jobs were almost non-existent. The immediate need was to sustain the people, as a first-aid action, and, subsequently, monitor them into subsistency with the ultimate goal of guiding them to grow wealth and, consequently, contribute to the commonwealth.
Something had to be done. That was imperative.
The National Cash Transfer Programme, otherwise referred to as Household Uplifting Programme(HUP) is one social safety net programme, amongst many, anchored by the Federal Government.
Kicking off in 2016, it sought to address key social concerns, as earlier highlighted. A component of National Social Safety Nets Project(NASSP), it is supported by the World Bank with a primary aim to provide financial support to targeted poor and vulnerable Nigerian households.
With a mandate to respond to deficiencies in capacity occasioned by lack of investment in human capital amongst the poorest of the citizenry.
A very responsive scheme, beneficiaries are drawn from the National Social Register(NSR) which is a combination of States Social Registers(SR), being the data of poor and vulnerable households.
Designed as a timely accessible cash transfer to beneficiary households, it aims to support development. Below are its objectives:
* A better household.
* Increase in access to health and nutrition.
* Higher and better school enrolment.
* Improved environmental sanitation.
* Improved household financial and asset acquisition.
* Exposure of beneficiaries to sustainable livelihood.
Under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development ably piloted by Sadiya Umar Farouq, a former Federal Commissioner of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs). She is a graduate of Business Administration from Ahmadu Bello University, a Masters in International Affairs and Diplomacy and a Masters in Business Administration(MBA) from the same institution.
In a country bereft with the poorest of the poor, the scheme is very laudable. The Conditional Cash Transfer has consumed huge funds. However, it has achieved tremendous successes. This is not only averred to by the drivers of the scheme, it is attested to by a large number of the beneficiaries, hitherto helpless, and hopeless, but now, transformed into optimists.
According to the National Programme Coordinator of the National Cash Transfer Programme, Hajia Halima Shehu, the programme, derived from the National Safety Net Programme, is a conscious poverty-alleviation scheme primarily targeted at the very poor across the thirty six states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory.
Originally projected to benefit one million households, the scope has been expanded and today, a totall of one million, nine hundred thousand households have benefitted and brought out of poverty. This is not only in the rural areas but also in the urban centers; that is, after enrolment and validation.
The disbursement, planned as bi-monthly, is done once for convenience and in order to overcome logistics problems occasioned by remoteness.
Beneficiaries abound and they all have tales of positive transformation to tell. From Cross Rivers to Anambra, from Kogi to Kano, even in Abuja, the National Cash Transfer programme keeps making lives better.
According to Hajia Shehu, criticisms and pessimisms, bordering on the volume being dispatched query the likely impact of five thousand naira in changing the lives of the household.
For her, the households in consideration are the ones that would appreciate the gesture. She claimed that several households have been lifted out of poverty, more because of the method of implementation and monitoring.
Many claim no beneficiary next to them as that gateman next door is not, neither is that supposedly poor man. This conclusion is inconsequential. The target beneficiaries are the extremely poor mostly in the very remote areas.
Interesting to note that most of the beneficiaries, also, are women in line with the notion of the woman as care-giver in the household and the surest channel through which households can be impacted.
Nonetheless, where no woman care-giver is identified within the household, alternate beneficiaries are identified and empowered.
How does this grant achieve impact? Beneficiaries are enamoured through trainings and skill-acquisition programmes which develop them to be productive thus we have testimonies gravitating from emergence as plantain farmer, evolution into animal farming i.e goat rearing while others metamorphose into traders with more funds to trade and a choice of better ventures with increased income.
A recurring decimal in the testimonies is the ability to send children to schools. This is laudable.
As lofty as the programme is, a very hard nut to crack is the reality that almost a hundred percent of beneficiaries are illiterates. As such, disbursement can only be by cash whereby officials had to be at disbursement locations, physically. This became quite difficult with the very high level of insecurity. As such, the office resorted to and have achieved a hundred percent account opening whereby all beneficiaries get paid digitally through virtual wallets even as eventual disbursement are handled by appointed agents licensed by the Central Bank. Monitoring, also, is digital and directly by the Programme Coordinator, a banker with experience spanning several years, who ensures optimal compliance to accounting ethical standards thus unpaid balances are refunded, after reconciliation.
It is pertinent to state, at this point, that the National Cash Transfer Programme, homegrown, remains one of the most transparent of the Federal Government schemes, visible, verifiable and a very effective scheme which has, in no small way, alleviated the poverty level of Nigerian masses. Consequently, it should be sustained even beyond the present administration.