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GEEP: This is not time to throw around free money —Tope Fasua

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Tope Fasua

Mr. Tope Fasua, the Presidential candidate of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) in the just concluded general election, is a development economist and Chief Executive Officer of Global Analytics Consulting Limited. He told MATHIAS OKWE that Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) is not transparent.

What’s your view of Federal Government’s poverty alleviation programme (GEEP) aka TraderMoni?
I think we should consider where we are as a people and our economy very carefully. Nigeria is an underdeveloped country. It has the worst poverty and hunger indices in the world. So, why are we throwing money at people? Why don’t we engage people in meaningful work in exchange for the money? We have a filthy, collapsing environment. There is a lot of work to do and we have to do the work ourselves. I don’t believe this is the time to go to markets and give out free money. The people only see it as government’s largesse from a Vice President, who is trying to be nice. No one can retrieve those monies. a

I doubt if there are records, and if indeed it is intended as a loan, they have used that to spoil the traditional credit culture among our people, who always pay back promptly when they borrow from traditional sources. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is not a banker. AMCON is overwhelmed by loans given out by professional bankers, but which haven’t been paid because our understanding of credit is faulty. We have over N6trn unresolved debts. Why is the Vice President the loan officer, the credit appraisal officer, the loan disbursement officer, the risk manager and now probably the recovery officer? Why is the process not transparent? Does anyone know how much was totally disbursed? Where are the beneficiaries’ names?

GEEP is akin to another cash transfer programme, where this administration is equally deploying $332m Abacha repatriated loot to the poorest in society…
When we were told they would distribute that loot, some of us questioned the propriety. Abacha stole from all of us. He stole from generations to come. So, the money should not be spent in one fell swoop, and without compensation. I would rather such spending be tied to productivity. What new thing could we say was achieved with that spending? Nothing.

I have this idea that we should begin to speed up the rate our university students contribute to the country’s development. I am saying there is a lot for our youths to do and we need their energy. University and polytechnic students should be undertaking projects that can enable them learn and also contribute to the society. And they should be paid for their work, no matter how little. $332 million will transform tertiary education in this country, as well as empower our youths by creating a new spending class. It will also strengthen and embolden the youths to achieve greater exploits in the future and take charge of their nation.

To qualify for MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loan, a BVN is required. Is this enough?
I understand this part because it is all about tying the ‘loans’ to their accounts, so that where necessary, government can deduct the loans from any balance in their accounts. However, this could drive them back into the informal markets. Traders and farmers could choose not to operate bank accounts anymore, which reduce financial inclusion. Is that what we want?

Even the national ID card will be useless in this regard. I can assure you that most people will see that money haphazardly given by the Vice President as free money and a gift by the powers that be, BVN or no BVN.
There is even a risk that, if indeed the government wants the monies back, it can lead to nationwide riots. The Nigerians I met during campaigns don’t understand the idea of a politician handing them money under any guise, and then collecting same back.

Some critics of GEEP, particularly TraderMoni, believe it was a vote-buying gimmick by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Do you share this view?
The TraderMoni scheme helped APC gain votes certainly. I just read on Twitter that the programme has been suspended. No one should expect the VP to still be going from market to market giving out money, when they have already won. He has more serious stuff to do presently. The scheme was great opportunity for APC, no matter the intention or however we see it. If the intentions are good, then it’s APC’s good luck. However, as per the whole voting and the figures we saw, I believe it all depended on who is strong enough to write votes in different parts of Nigeria. So, TraderMoni does not fully explain the votes we saw.

What would you prescribe as best strategy for poverty alleviation in Nigeria?
The best strategy is to focus on productivity. Now, we have a largely unskilled working population. As an underdeveloped country, we should look around and check what needs to be fixed immediately that can help rev up productivity. I would say such basic sectors as the environment can absorb a whole lot of unskilled people. Nigeria is completely filthy, in every corner, including Government Reserved Areas (GRAs). For instance, we can say until our country looks like those countries our big men run to, some people should do the work and get paid for it.

The best and only form of poverty alleviation and eradication is to provide jobs and encourage people earn their keep. They say Nigerians are lazy; they don’t want to work, but I believe people can be made to work. We cannot give up on ourselves. When the lazy people see that those who take up job opportunities are able to afford the good things of life, they will change.

We have to give the experiment six months to one year and we will see how it works like magic. The essence of a modern society is to be able offer its inhabitants a safe, easy life. Before the modern era existed the Hobbesian state was described by Thomas Hobbes as a time life was nasty, brutish and short. It was a time people revenged any wrong done to them.

The modern era therefore presupposes that what we call ‘public good’ in economics will be available. These are security, education, health, good environment, affordable food and shelter. Most of these are the roles of the state, especially security, basic education, environment, basic health. Some of these sectors are not bankable in many ways, so government must be responsible.

We need a great wave of productivity in this country. We need to get in touch with our humanity. We need selfless people in government who can see this vision and get it done. I proposed we set up a project like the cleanest, safest and most organised country in Africa, and put all our youthful energy behind it.

Why are you even asking me all these questions? I ran for presidency. I put all these ideas on the table. I couldn’t convince Nigerians. So, we deserve the reality we chose.


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