N5,000 monthly Stipend: Identity challenge, difficult terrain hampering programme
A cocktail of niggling challenges, including the inability to identify most vulnerable/poorest persons, vast and difficult terrains and Bank Verification Number (BVN)-related issues, have joint forces to hamper the smooth implementation of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT).
The Federal Government in January announced the commencement of the payment of N5, 000 monthly stipend to the poor and vulnerable in the country, through the CCT, an aspect of its Social Investment Programmes (SIP).
Under the programme, one million very poor and vulnerable Nigerians would receive N5, 000 monthly stipends. The nine states covered in the first batch of the programme are Borno, Kwara, Bauchi, Cross River, Niger, Kogi, Oyo, Ogun and Ekiti.
These pilot states were chosen because they have existing social registers that successfully identified the most vulnerable and poorest amongst them, through a tried and tested community-based targeting (CBT) method working with the World Bank.
Funds for the initiative are released through the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), the platform that hosts and validates payments for all government’s social intervention programmes.
Giving an update on the scheme in an interview with The Guardian on Friday, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the Acting President, Laolu Akande said there are still challenges besetting the implementation of the programme.
“Our plan is to do a million, but the peculiarities that are involved in identifying the beneficiaries, that is the most vulnerable and the poorest among us, have been a little bit of a challenge. Even when we identify them, we also have an additional challenge with the issue of BVN. After sorting the problem of BVN, we had the challenge of the vastness of the terrain in terms of bringing them out, or getting the money to them. So, all these have affected the pace of the implementation of the Conditional Cash Transfer.”
Even though the second phase of payment to some of the beneficiaries in the pilot scheme commenced this week, Akande, who admitted that not all beneficiaries have been paid since the programme got underway explained: “We have not paid all of them as a result of some of the challenges that I mentioned earlier, but we are ramping up and trying to fix some of these challenges. Hopefully, we will get close to a couple of hundred thousands very soon.”
On allegations that some states were marginalised in the CCT scheme, the presidential spokesman said: “This is an old hackneyed story. What is the marginalisation here all about? We have explained before that we have to identify the people that are most vulnerable and are considered to be very poor. That is why we had to use the community-based targeting template of the World Bank, which means getting the communities to identify the people they consider very poor among them, after which we enumerate the affected people.
“Now, we already have something that has been done before we came in using the World Bank model. So, that is how we were able to determine the first phase of the implementation,” Akande stated.
He added that if the marginalisation claims “is that we picked some states without picking others, the objective reason why the first nine states were chosen is because they already had the social register that had been developed using the World Bank template even before this administration came into power.”
On plans to accommodate more states he said: “We are likely to ramp up because we started with nine states and I believe we are going to add several more states. As a matter of fact, we are already in the process of doing that, and we have got to an appreciable stage.”
In order to help fast-track payment, the Kaduna State government has already dispatched officials to communities in the 23 local councils to compile the list of qualified persons for the Scheme.
Commissioner for Economic Planning, Mallam Mohammed Sani Abdullahi, told The Guardian that since a directive on the programme was communicated to the state government, a committee was set up to visit communities in the 23 council areas to draw up an authentic list of qualified persons.
The programme is yet to fully commence in the state, Abdullahi said but added that soon the teams that are going round to identify qualified persons would turn in their reports. It is on the basis of the reports that the Federal Government would start paying those that are qualified. Kaduna State started the process about two months ago.
Though Niger State is one of the pilot beneficiary states, it appears not much has been heard of the scheme in the state.
In fact, some staff members of the agency that is supposed to oversee the programme, which also handles the NPower, as well as, the Homegrown School Meal programme, are totally in the dark about the CCT.
Media assistant at the agency, Samson Gbangbagi, told The Guardian that he was not sure if the state was part of those benefitting from the pilot programme.
Director General of the agency in the state, Mrs. Afiniki Dauda, could not be reached despite several visits to her office at Bosso Estate, in the state capital.
A security man at the office said: “Madam comes to this office only when she has something to do. It is not everyday she comes here.”
A source, which does not want his name in print lamented that, “most things here are done in secrecy as staff members get to know about what is happening in this office from outside. I can only direct you to the secretary who appears to be the only person here madam trusts.”
The secretary, Mohammed Attahiru, is also infrequent in the office.