Despite numerous criticisms by some Nigerians that the economy is not so good since the inception of the present administration on May 29, 2015, there are indeed some programmes of the government that have positively impacted the nation’s economy in significant ways. One of such people-oriented programmes is the Social Investment Programme (SIP).
According to those in charge of the programme, it was set up to improve the living conditions of millions of Nigerians across the country. It is considered to be the most ambitious attempt by the government to invest in the people.
SIP has four components, the N-Power, which include the Technical Hubs springing up around the country and the N-Power Stem Junior (yet to be commenced); the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) which include the MarketMoni, the FarmerMoni and the TraderMoni; Home-grown school feeding; and conditional cash transfer.
Since inception over two years, the N-Power programme has given employment to so many Nigerian fresh graduates at a monthly stipend of N30,000. In the scheme meant to last two years in the first instance, some of the graduates are engaged as teachers in primary and secondary schools while others serve as agric extension officers across the country. Others work in areas of health and public finance.
Non-graduate volunteers have been trained in skill centres and given tool boxes to enable them apply their newly acquired expertise in the building and automotive industries. Participants are drawn from all the local government areas of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. Although the progamme may not have accommodated all the graduates seeking for elusive jobs, it has to some extent reduced the number of unemployed graduates in the country.
It has also given some of them the seed money and experience they may use to be on their own and even create jobs. I am aware of some beneficiaries of the programme and there are yet others who pray daily to be enrolled in the scheme so that they can contribute their quota to the development of the economy and the nation as well. Though the N-Power may not provide all the answers to the growing youth unemployment in the country, it is indeed a good starting point towards addressing the rising menace.
However, the scheme can still be improved by enhancing the monthly stipend and accommodate more participants. There is no doubt that the programme has significantly alleviated the trauma and penury many graduates face soon after completing the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme. The N-Power has so far engaged about 500,000 youth graduates. Under GEEP, which comprises of MarketMoni, FarmerMoni and TraderMoni, the government has through the Bank of Industry reached to over 1.1 million beneficiaries across the 36 states with interest free loans ranging from N10,000 and above to improve their businesses.
Although the aim of the TraderMoni is to take financial inclusion to the grassroots, considering the daily contributions of millions of petty traders to the nation’s economic development, the launching of the scheme in major urban markets at a campaign season by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and using Permanent Voter Card (PVC) as means of identifying prospective beneficiaries has been seen criticized by as vote buying gimmick.
The scheme has also been limited to urban centres and for people of certain political persuasion. The government should allow the Bank of Industry to carry out the disbursement without politicizing it. The initial loan should be N50,000 to make useful impact in the business of petty traders.
Similarly, under the conditional cash transfer programme, the government has reportedly given N5,000 monthly to over 200,000 households in the country. It has been implemented in about 20 states. Government should be more open in the selection criteria used for beneficiaries. Like in the TraderMoni and other GEEP components, let the disbursement of the conditional cash transfer not be politicized. Let all the 36 states be accommodated in the scheme.
The government’s home-gown school feeding programme, though laudable has been the most criticized for its poor execution. The scheme is aimed at improving the nutrition of primary school pupils as well as increasing school enrolment and reduction of malnutrition, the programme is not properly planned and executed. It is yet to cover all the states. The meals are of low quality and quantity. There is corruption in the system.
However, it can be improved. It should not be politicized by the government. It is reported that the scheme covers over 9 million children in 48,837 government schools in 26 states. It has engaged the services of 96, 972 cooks and over one million small-scale farmers.
Although it is not yet Uhuru for the power sector, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has made modest efforts to improve the sector in the past three years. From the 2,690 megawatts the government inherited from the previous administration, it has increased power generation to 7,000 megawatts while distribution is put at 5,000 megawatts.
So far, the government has spent so much to improve power, works and housing. Many road projects are ongoing in almost every state of the country. The upgrade of the nation’s 3,500km network of narrow-gauge railway has commenced. On the economy, the government issued the $4.5 billion Eurobonds in the International Capital Market in 2017. Out of it, $4 billion was for the part-financing of the deficits in the 2017 budget ($1.5 billion) and 2018 ($2.5 billion).
In spite of these efforts, the economy is still one area that the government needs to do more hard work. The attempts by the government to diversify the economy outside oil have not yielded the expected results. Depending on oil alone will do more harm than good to the economy. Agriculture and solid minerals remain the best avenues to diversify the economy and create more jobs.
For government to do this, the progress made in the rice farming programme must be extended to other crops such as beans, millet, cassava, yam and many others. We need to invest more on oil palm plantation, cocoa, groundnuts and rubber and others. Government should do more to tame rising insecurity. There is a link between rising insecurity and high level of youth unemployment. Part of the strategy to defeat the insurgency is to create jobs for the youths and those easily recruited by the warring sect. Corruption must be seriously fought while the ease of doing business can be improved. Crushing poverty must be addressed too.
Nigeria has no business being designated as the poverty capital of the world. To do this, more people should be enrolled in all the components of government social investment programme.