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GEEP 2.0: A fresh approach to tackling poverty

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[FILES] Nigerians living below the poverty line. Photo: habitatforhumanity

President Muhammadu Buhari, like most Nigerians, is excited by the rise in the Gross Domestic Product in the second quarter of last year which posted 5.01 per cent jump in the figures from the National Bureau of Statistics.

While economic indices are for planners, the pangs of inflation, unemployment and poverty are seen and felt by ordinary citizens. On the streets, joblessness coupled with rising food prices and the rising cost of living, have redefined living standards, even among the middle class.

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The youths account for the nation’s main productive age grade and no serious nation should boast of enjoying a massive population of young, educated citizens without proportionally providing to meet their economic and social needs. Government must urgently think beyond the norm to check youth restiveness, minimise crime and criminality by finding tasks for the idle hands and giving hope to the seemingly despondent!

The gaps created by the shortfalls in job creation and provision of funds to engender economic activities have motivated many young people to embrace fraud, kidnapping or outright banditry as means of survival. So, should the status quo be retained for further destruction of the values, economy and the safety of our people, or will there be any succour coming from anywhere to address this distressing trend and channel the strength of this important segment of the society for productive purposes?
  
The Federal Government seems to have an answer in the National Social Investment Programme, NSIP, already described by many as an innovative policy designed to directly reach the seemingly forgotten and neglected segment of the society. The cardinal objective is to address their economic insufficiencies, revive their hope for a productive living while adding value to the nation’s economy.

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Of particular interest is the recently re-jigged Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme tagged GEEP 2.0, designed for entrepreneurial investments and domiciled in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
 
GEEP is not new to those who have benefitted from it. It has components that have become like an anthem in the mouths of Nigerians but then, many have asked that regardless of its laudable conception, it should be expanded and better reformed to give more financial powers and skills to its beneficiaries. This is exactly what the Ministry has accomplished.
 
While launching the GEEP 2.0 at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, recently, the Minister, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq disclosed that President Buhari has approved that the captive net is widened to provide higher loans to additional one million beneficiaries and that the direction of the project should better target smallholder farmers in the current farming season.
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Does this feel like a drop in the ocean when the Buhari Administration has promised to pull 100 million citizens out of poverty before 2023? Indeed, there are other initiatives running concurrently to complement this; one being the Central Bank of Nigeria-funded Anchor Borrower Programme where over three million have been supported to add to the local food production and the COVID-19 support to households, farmers and to SMEs.
 
The NSIP has four components, namely N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfer, Home Grown School Feeding Program and GEEP.  

“The focus is on the poor. If we don’t provide them inclusiveness we would have failed in our duty to take them out of poverty,” Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo said at the unveiling of GEEP 2.0.

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Represented by the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, the Vice President, under whose watch the initiative was birthed in 2016, further explained that “by reducing poverty, we are reducing diseases, we are banishing banditry, we would have succeeded in taking millions of our youths out of the reach of the recruiters for terrorism, we would have attacked ignorance, we would have reduced child mortality. We would unleash the creativity of our people as well as their enterprise which Nigerians are known for all over the world.”

Hajia Umar Farouq disclosed that “the new strategies include an increase in the loan portfolio of TraderMoni and MarketMoni from N10,000 to N50,000, while the FarmerMoni is now N300,000 along with the provision of the value chain and creation of digital marketplace (E-platform) for beneficiaries to sell their products.”
 
Not a few policymakers have lauded the initiative of scaling up accessible loans to beneficiaries. It is indeed being the masterstroke in the deal with the people to negotiate new start-ups for beneficiaries who can leverage these interventions to redirect their course, if well utilised.

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These amounts might appear meagre, but not really so. “For many of us who live in the cities, we may not know what impact this programme is having on our people. Many are in the villages whose annual income are not up to N10,000, so reaching out to them and extending a hand of fellowship is a major contribution to reducing poverty in our country,” said the Vice President.

Good enough, the era of N10,000 loan has gone with about 400 per cent increment to the three GEEP components, all thanks to the approval granted by the President.
 
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha is not oblivious of the impact of micro-credit on the rural poor and more especially the energetic young people.

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“As of today, Nigeria stands as a very youthful nation with 60 per cent of our population below the age of 35. Studies have shown that an average 90 per cent of MSMEs are youth-owned and in dire need of interventions such as this for poverty alleviation and growth sustainability,” Mustapha observed in a message sent to the event.
 
He said the consideration given by GEEP 2.0 to farmers, youth and women, leveraging on the three loan products – the popular MarketMoni, TraderMoni and FarmerMoni – to support small and medium-sized businesses, is one of the greatest ways to maximum desired effects in the shortest space of time.
 
“I must applaud the GEEP 2.0 TraderMoni’s youth-based focus giving special attention to empowering underprivileged and marginalized youth who lack access to education, orphans, disabled and abandoned out-of-school children. The GEEP 2.0 FarmerMoni promotes agro-entrepreneurship by supporting farmers engaged in crop cultivation, livestock, poultry and fisheries.
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Critics have taken on the government, challenging the feasibility of this audacious ambition by President Buhari, especially when juxtaposed with the current shortage of energy and insecurity in the land. But no one can fault the magnitude, coverage and impact of the administration’s social investment programme when compared with similar interventions in the past.
 
“May I say that the GEEP 2.0 is well-coordinated and has an implementation model that accommodates representation at the Federal, State and Local Government levels,” Hajia Umar Farouq had stated as if reading the minds of pessimists and genuinely concerned citizens about the implementation and ability to recover the loans.
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The Minister said the NSIP and by extension, the GEEP currently remains the main driving force behind poverty reduction in Nigeria and appealed to other ministers and all the stakeholders, including local and international organizations, which have partnered with the ministry and have directly or indirectly contributed towards the successful implementation of the NSIP to keep faith with her ministry.
 
The ministry is collaborating with state and local governments where state government officials will serve as focal persons while the COMOs will represent the GEEP Local Government desk office “in order to create a value-chain of supervision, institutionalization, coordination and facilitating the successful implementation of the programme.”

Adebayo wrote via proedgecomng@ gmail.com

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