By Chukwudi Enekwechi
In line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign promise and his overall vision to tackle the scourge of debilitating poverty in our clime, the administration had taken the battle a notch higher with the creation of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. This ministry had thenceforth rolled out several policy initiatives aimed at attaining the objectives for their existence, and ultimately reach the most vulnerable and poor people in the society.
These initiatives were encapsulated under one umbrella programme known as the National Social Investment Programme, which has based on its numerous interventions attained the status of the biggest social protection and poverty eradication programme to be established in the country. In fact it has been acknowledged as the most ambitious poverty alleviation programme in Africa. The programme was basically designed to address the immediate and long-term socio-economic needs of the poor and vulnerable Nigerians.
In doing that over twenty million Nigerians have benefitted from the programme since its inception, and these are evident in the different clusters of the National Social Investment Programme. They are Conditional Cash Transfers, N-Power Programme, Government and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) and National Home Grown School Feeding Programme.
The Conditional Cash Transfers programme has helped to lift many poor Nigerians out of poverty as they now own small businesses thereby improving their quality of life significantly, while the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme has enabled children in primary 1-3 in government schools across the country to be fed with one nutritious meal a day, thereby improving school enrolment and reducing the much-touted number of out of school children in the country.
Furthermore, the N-Power programme has been structured to provide job opportunities for young Nigerians, and those between ages 18-34 are mostly offered such openings to acquire necessary skills and competencies which are improved through a work-learn entrepreneurship system that has seen over 109,000 from Batches A and B gone ahead to start their own businesses. Under the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) small business owners and farmers are provided with the opportunity to access loans through the tradermoni, marketmoni and farmermoni initiatives to expand their businesses.
Suffice it to say that these are deliberate federal government programmes diligently designed and being executed under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and principally aimed at providing succour to the needy, poor and vulnerable in the society, and generally stimulating the economic development of the country. It is necessary to remark that the National Social Investment Programme was established by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in 2016 with the aim of addressing immediate and long-term socio-economic imbalance and inequalities, alleviate poverty and stimulate accelerated economic growth in Nigeria.
The programme which was initially domiciled in the office of the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was later moved to the newly –created Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. Since then the ministry has taken several innovative measures to achieve the main objectives contained in the mandate of the programme.
They include: 1. Increase income and improve livelihood of the poor and vulnerable households by providing access to targeted funds, thereby improving households’ ability to absorb shocks 2. Reduce Inequalities and wide disparities 3. Increase access to education and health services, as well as empowering vulnerable sectors thereby improving the quality of life index 4. Reduce rate of youth unemployment, linking interested volunteers to address existing gaps 5. Eradicate malnutrition in school age children by establishing a sustainable school feeding programme 6. Provide affordable credit for MSMEs thereby increasing business revenue and facilitating market linkages 7. Stimulate productivity especially in our rural communities 8. Bringing into visibility those who have never before been registered on any platform by capturing identities for proper planning.
Even for the ardent critic of the Buhari administration, there is no doubt that these policy initiatives have impacted positively on a huge number of Nigerians especially the youths, farmers, petty traders and the most vulnerable in the society. While some people may describe the efforts of the government as a scratch on the surface based on the population of the country, yet the point remains that it is under this administration that such bold move was initiated and a standing ministry created for the sustainability of the programme.
So far the National Social Investment Programme has to a large extent ameliorated the burdens of the poor among us despite the debilitating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which adversely affected the federal government plans, funding and their execution.
Also the drop in oil revenue did not help matters as far the comprehensive execution of the programme is concerned, but based on prudent management of scarce resources, the Buhari administration has largely reached its target of tackling the menace of abject poverty and its associated ills. It therefore calls for a sustenance of the momentum in executing the remaining aspects of the programme, and kudos must be given to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development for the diligent implementation of the programme.
Enekwechi, JP, writes via [email protected]