The social intervention programme of the executive under the Coronavirus pandemic is spanning out a huge harvest of disgrace for the Nigerian state. The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development claims it has a strategy to reach out to the poorest of the poor and adequate resources are being channelled to them to cushion the hardship occasion by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
Meanwhile, the so-called poor are faceless and unidentifiable. The ministry claimed it has spent billions of naira and disbursed huge sums of money to the poor. This claim attracted the attention of the leaders of the National Assembly recently who called for a probe into the assertion made by the ministry. The said beneficiaries of this scheme and their mode of recruitment is not transparent, it leaves a lot to be desired. Except for the ministry and its agents, no one can tell the criteria adopted for which the beneficiaries were inducted as valid candidates for this purpose.
It will interest you to note that while this charade is ongoing, poor Nigerians who deserve the conditional cash transfers are lost somewhere between our greedy propensity to subvert the initiative and our reprobate manipulation and fraudulent wickedness. Did you see the woman with the ‘ogogoro’ story online? Who out of ignorance and poverty took on to drinking that locally brewed gin as a prophylactic against COVID-19 and as a stimuli for temporarily suspending her fears for the pandemic? Hers was a self-improvised cocktail amidst the lack of awareness and system failure.
I called it an ‘ogogoro’ cocktail because while the government is busy playing useless politics with the national register for the social intervention scheme, the poor and needy are helping themselves with dangerous concoction to fight and fortify themselves against the COVID-19 pandemic. The conditional cash transfers have not reached the poor, neither is the policy weaved around it effective. The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives have called out the scheme as a fraud. Who won’t call it a fraud when there are no viable structures in place to manage the process. We saw cash some time ago on a table and people queuing around to collect it as palliatives and this was being supervised by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
What a strategy!
There is also the story of the woman who went out desperately to solicit for sex to enable her feed her children. She took that option at the height of desperation and hopelessness. In the midst of such gory stories some Nigerians are busy somewhere diverting funds meant to cater for the poor under this pandemic emergency. The sex-soliciting woman depicts a level of social disorder and crass failure of a society with a zero social support system. A society that cannot plan and put together for her citizens a social support system and an enduring welfare scheme is lost already and such is not qualified to hold itself out as a society.
The Nigerian Government must therefore disband this current madness forthwith and reach out appropriately to the poor Nigerians who are suffering as a result of this pandemic. The Nigerians who are having casual sex in exchange for a means survival, those stealing and robbing people around their neighbourhood in order to eat. Some are going around begging for food on the streets to survive the hard times.
The informal sector remains the harbinger of the aforementioned class, the government cannot afford to fail her citizens at this time. It must develop a critical model to save the 65 per cent of her working class population that falls among the informal sector bracket that contributes hugely to our GDP having offered adequate palliatives for the formal. And to stretch this further a post COVID-19 exit plan must be put in place to help the citizens sustain soft landing as they exit the COVID-19 misery index phase.
Evans Ufeli Esq is a Lagos based Lawyer and Executive Director Cadrell Advocacy Centre
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