Kogi on the verge of disbursement, says coordinator
News of the commencement of payment of N5, 000 monthly stipends promised to the poorest of the poor by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, almost two years after it won election, was received in Kogi State with mixed feelings.
This was because, even though Kogi was mentioned among the beneficiary nine states in the first batch, there was no sign that such disbursement was ongoing. Many never believed such a thing existed, while some saw it as propaganda. But The Guardian was at the office of the Special Adviser to Governor Yahaya Bello on Multilateral Projects Mr. Adoga Ibrahim and met with the head of the state cash transfer unit, which is under the national cash transfer office, Razak Falilat Yinka, who disclosed that disbursement was set to commence as soon as they get the alert before weekend.
According to her: “The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme is an initiative of the present administration meant to tackle poverty at the grassroots for the poorest of the poor. “Poverty has various levels and degrees and when you see people that are poor, you know that some are poorer than others.”
She explained that compilation of beneficiaries was done via a Community Based Targeting (CBT) through the Youth Employment and Social Support Operations (YESSO), a World Bank-funded and supported office.
The coordinator pointed out that the operation deployed officers to communities, where they worked with the people to make the selection of the poorest of the poor possible.
She said the register was developed and sent to the World Bank, which screened it and affirmed that it was okay before they started using it. “So, we are fetching our beneficiaries from the social register that has been developed by the State Coordinating Office (SCO). It wasn’t our own selection and we did not stay in Lokoja to select beneficiaries; they (World Bank and its staff) actually went to the communities for the selection,” she emphasised.
Mrs. Yinka indicated that the state government was working in 12 local councils where the programme has been graduated in two phases of six local councils. “The SCO had completed the first six local councils early last year, while the second batch of another six was completed by the end of last year,” she explained.
According to her, for the first batch of six local councils, they have carried out adequate sensitisation and completed enrolment, while still working on the second batch.
“So, in Kogi, we have 12 local government areas that will benefit. In the first phase, we have about 6, 536 intended beneficiaries for the first six local government areas, while in the second round of six local government areas, we have a little above 5, 800 intended beneficiaries.
“We have completed the enrolment in Ofu, Ijumu and Olamaboro local councils, which fall into the second phase. “We are starting with Okene, Kabba Bunu and Adavi as part of the second phase.”
She listed the first round of local councils to include Yagba West, Okehi, Lokoja, Dekina, Ajaokuta and Ibaji. The coordinator explained further that they are already on the CBT process for the third phase of another six local councils, adding that when that is completed and the World Bank approves the register, they would have 18 local councils covered.
She noted: “I am sure we would work on the remaining three local governments areas. The process will cover the entire state, but they are just handling them in batches.
“For the first batch, we are expecting their alert any moment from now.”She noted that Kogi is in the second batch and the national coordinator has assured them that they are working on their alert, insisting that it is not propaganda, as being speculated by some people.
She said sustainability of the programme depends on the federal government, which came up with the initiative. On how the beneficiaries would get their dues, she said there are many payment options adopted by their banker in the state, Stanbic IBTC.
She explained: “The money is meant for people in the rural areas, so you don’t expect a beneficiary to come all the way from Ibaji or Insanlu to Lokoja just to collect N5000.
“There are agents that will pay them by the time they send alert to them, which means they have gotten the N5000. These agents are the ones that will go down to the communities to pay them.
“For example, our agent was in the office yesterday (Thursday) to discuss the schedule for payment, which is just to know the local government area and community to start with.”
She indicated that for those that have bank accounts, they would just link their BVN with the new programme, so that they could withdraw the money at their own leisure.
She added that in order not to stress such beneficiaries, the banks have also appointed agents that would make their payments.Mrs. Yinka indicated that there is a mechanism put in place in all the communities to redress grievances for people that may have complaints against a particular household that is not supposed to benefit or those whose paymaster did not pay or those whose money is not complete.
She stated: “In all the local government areas that we are working on, we have local facilitators who work for us with offices at the local government secretariat.”
The coordinate said the programme is for two years for a household, adding that government was giving out the money for a household to be able feed and send their children to school.
“In Kogi, our own is targeted at education and productivity. We call it the supply site. This N5000 is not supposed to be used for feeding. Somebody who is poor may not be able to buy school sandal of N500, and that is what we are targeting.
“The woman, who is the caregiver, collects the N5000 from the bank and brings it home to serve everybody in the house, for instance, to buy school uniform or sandals and supposed to make a little saving by going into little contributions of say N200 weekly.
“They should form cooperative groups and do this little contributions, which they can use to improve their living. “When they do this, after two years, they should have exited the scheme.”
A management information specialist in the unit, Olabanji Alabi, said Kogi has a poverty map that is World Bank approved, adding that the state YESSO goes round the local government areas, according to the poverty map.
“That is why you see that the first six local government areas selected are the poorest, followed by the next most vulnerable.“That is how it is being done,” he disclosed.
The gender and safeguard officer, Bridget Okpanachi James, explained that each local government area has 30 communities and each community has not more than 40 households as beneficiaries.