From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
There are three groups of people, the rich, the middle class and the poor. It has been like that all through the ages. These three groups have emerged due to several factors, which include laws and policies, background, environment and natural occurrences, each of which is capable of making some rich, poor or vulnerable.
In Nigeria, respective governments and administrations at the federal, state and local government levels have made deliberate efforts to reduce shocks and vulnerability among Nigerians under social protection programmes and interventions such as Operation Feed the Nation, Structural Adjustment Programme, Better Life for Rural Women, Poverty Eradication Programme, N-Power), the National Cash Transfer and Home-grown School Feeding Programme, among several others.
Recently, one of the social protection programmes designed to benefit poor and vulnerable Nigerians, especially women is the National (Conditional) Cash Transfer programme, under the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. The intervention was aimed at improving household consumption, encourage household financial and asset acquisition and engage beneficiaries in sustainable livelihoods.
Information showed that the programme was initially implemented as a pilot in 37 primary health care facilities in select local government areas in nine states which included the FCT, Niger, Ogun, Kaduna, Zamfara, Bauchi, Anambra, Ebonyi and Bayelsa, aimed at improving maternal and newborn healthcare services at public health facilities.
So far, about two million poor and vulnerable households believed to have been mined from the social register are receiving N5,000 monthly from the Federal Government with the support of the World Bank and other financial institutions across the country, while a total of 70,051 people across the 23 local government areas are benefitting from the programme, which started in 2017 through Social Investment Office situated inside Government House, Kaduna State. This is in line with Goals 1 and 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by 2030.
Recently, this correspondent visited Kafanchan, the headquarters of Jema’a LGA of Kaduna State, where he spoke with some of the 114 beneficiaries of the cash transfer in the area to hear directly from them on how the intervention has affected their lives, businesses and their households.
Laurentia B. Marcus said: “Before now, I was frying akara, yam and other things for sale. But, along the line, everything stopped due to hardship, until the cash transfer support came and I restarted my business. I am really grateful to God for helping me benefit from this programme because my livelihood support has improved and I am able to support my family. I want to appeal to the government to reduce the number of months that they keep the money piled up. For instance, they can pay us after two or three months instead of waiting for five or six months.
“I was doing well until I lost my husband to accident a few weeks ago and was unable to continue. I’m now in the hands of God. So, I need help from government, corporate organisations and individuals, because everything pertaining to my five children now rests on me. I don’t have anybody. I appreciate what the government has done but, due to circumstances I’ve found myself in, I am asking for more support so that I will continue with my business to enable me feed these children and send them to school.”
Another beneficiary, Talatu Salau, said: “I was selling kulikuli, moimoi, firewood and kunu before I learned that my name was included in this intervention. The money is helping me to scale up my businesses, especially that of firewood. Apart from that, I’m currently using part of the money to sustain myself, my children and my grandchildren.”
Hafsatu Bala, who also benefited from the programme, said: “Before the intervention, I was selling kunu. The money has helped me to improve my household livelihood. It has also helped me to grow my business. I currently buy grains in large quantity for kunu business, unlike before when I used to buy in small quantity. We are very grateful. We really appreciate government for its efforts to remove us from poverty and we hope that this intervention will continue so that more people can access it.”
For Aisha Idris, life is becoming better with the intervention. She told our correspondent: “It has helped me to improve on my business and I don’t have any problem so far in getting access to the money whenever it comes.
“No one has stopped me. In fact, my family members encouraged me to use it well so that I can pay my loan because I am a beneficiary of the Kaduna State Women Empowerment Fund (KADSWEF).”
Another beneficiary, Victoria Bitrus, said: “I’m grateful that I was among the few lucky women that are benefitting from the money in this local government area. As you can see, I had to shun the heavy rain to make sure I avail myself for this interview. We pray that God will prosper all the people that are working to make sure we get this money. I’ve been making judicious use of it, which is giving hope of a better tomorrow. I pray for your safe return to Kaduna.”
Alhaji Bala Muhammed Tijjani, Burnu Zazzau, who is the district head of Doka, Kaduna, said: “The social safety net is a very good idea. I believe it was one of the ideas conceived perhaps similar to other programmes somewhere else in the world where development has gone ahead of ours.
“The need to reduce poverty is germane. So, reaching a sizeable number of people in this category in various communities will be commendable because poverty comes with so many vices.
“One other thing is that of the urban poor, which is gaining ground now. This is the area the government needs to concentrate on because they live in urban settings and there is that possibility of giving them N10,000 and they will be able to turn it over. This is because they are in more populated and productive environments than what you may have in the rural areas. When you support the urban poor, you will see the difference. That does not mean the rural poor do not need help, but if you are looking at it from the concept of ‘teach me how to fish instead of giving me fish’.”
He further recommended the government to “engage the service of credible civil society and non-governmental organisations to do this intervention because they tend to produce more result than what we see in government.”
Hajiya Auwal Abdulrazak, who is the head of unit, State Cash Transfer, Government House, Kaduna, said: “Here in Kaduna State, the primary objective of conditional cash transfer was to improve the household consumption of the beneficiaries, to increase enrolment of the school attendance of their children, to improve the environmental sanitation and management of the beneficiaries in their own environment and engage them in livelihood activities.
“We started in 2017 with about 20,000 beneficiaries and, as at August 2022, we have 70,051 beneficiaries across the 23 local government areas of the state. We started in that 2017 with nine local governments as pilot but now we have covered the whole 23 local government areas of the state. “You need to see how they appreciate this programme. When you give someone N10,000 cash for the first time, you can see the happiness in them.
“When we started in 2017, there was this cash transfer facility at the community, which helped these beneficiaries so that they don’t just collect the stipend and spend it. So they formed cooperatives among themselves and we have about 900 cooperatives in the nine pilot LGs alone. In Sanga and Chikun, for example, these cooperatives are doing well in processing palm oil and garri.
“What interests me most about the CCT is the digitisation part of it. It makes our women financially inclusive, which is partly responsible in the delay before the payment of the N40,000 (eight months’ stipend at N5,000 per month). It means our women who did not have bank accounts before now have one and they can save, withdraw and transact business within and outside their immediate abode. I will like to see improvement in this area so that in the areas where we don’t have mobile network or financial institutions, these point of sale (PoS) operators can offer their services to women in these areas.
“We have our grievance officers across the 23 LGs and gender and safeguard officers. It is only when the grievance cannot be managed at the local government that it will come to the state and when it cannot be handled at the state we then send to the national level.”
Jessica Bartholomew, who is the chairman of Kaduna Social Protection Accountability Coalition, a civil society and media accountability platform that monitors and tracks social protection programmes and interventions in Kaduna State, said: “From what we have been able to see across the 23 local government areas and political wards in Kaduna State, the cash transfer is one of the ‘shock absorber’ programmes that directly impact on the lives of the beneficiaries and that is quite commendable, I must say.
“We have heard about grievance redress mechanism available at the local government levels so those who have complaints can express themselves so such can be resolved. It is cheering that the beneficiaries of this particular intervention were drawn from the social register. So, like some said, implementing agencies of the Federal Government should be up and doing to ensure prompt payment of this token so we don’t have arrears of up to eight months like we had previously.”