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[OPINION] Why N5,000 Conditional Cash Transfer Is Urgently Necessary In Nigeria By Kikiowo Ileowo

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Unconditional salaries

“It is quite true that man lives by bread alone — when there is no bread. But what happens to man’s desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled?” (Maslow, 1943, p. 375).

So many pundits have advocated reasons why cash transfer to Nigeria’s desperately poor is unnecessary and counter-productive, however, they often fail to discuss the inherent benefits of this widely accepted social scheme. Many who are against this scheme are themselves rich, “well to do”, and can to a large extent, provide their psychological and safety needs for survival according to Maxlow’s law on hierarchy of needs five-stage model. What the pundits claim is that any type of conditional cash transfer will ultimately make the people lazy to work and subsequently poorer. They forget that the amount involved is too insignificant for anyone to PERMANENTLY rely on for survival.

I won’t bore you with regurgitated statistics, as we have all heard, as many as 112.47 million Nigerians live below the poverty line according to 2010 figures of the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, 38.7 million of them are DESPERATELY poor.

Depending on whose statistics you believe, the World Bank claims 53.2 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty. In fact, of the one billion poor people that live in poverty around the world, 7% of them reside in Nigeria.

Nigeria is one of the top five countries with the largest number of poor, ranking third, with China and India, ranking second and first respectively.

Majority of Nigeria’s desperately poor never had the opportunity to attend a school, nor receive some form of education, whether formal or informal. We must understand that without education/skills to secure some form of income, it is nearly impossible for anyone to achieve the first stage of Physiological needs on Maxlow’s hierarchy of needs. While building desperately needed infrastructure is sacrosanct, we must not forget to take care of the suffering poor, who mostly dwell in rural areas and are UNBANKED.

According to one of John Maynard Kaynes theory, government spending can be used to increase aggregate demand, thus increasing economic activity, reducing unemployment and ultimately reducing poverty to the barest minimum. Conditional cash transfer is not new to the field of economics. In Nigeria, our psyche has been so bastardized, we feel we don’t deserve anything from the government, compared to a country like Finland that is proposing paying each citizens whether rich or poor, at least 800 Euros tax free every month. Polls conducted indicate a simple majority of citizens in Finland support the move, even though the country is heavily indebted.

Still on the necessity of the conditional cash transfer programme, a popular anonymous phrase on placards during the Occupy Nigeria protests in 2012, states “One day, the poor will have nothing left to eat but the rich.” If you think, conditional cash transfers are unnecessary then think again. There is a surging army of unemployed who are bursting at the very fabric of our societal seams.

The Buhari/Osinbajo administration rode to power on several promises. Chief amongst them being the conditional cash transfer of N5,000 monthly to 25 million desperately poor Nigerians, majority of whom cannot afford to live on a dollar a day. These are individuals who live on two dollar a week. i.e. About N1,000 ($8) monthly.

Hello, step back your thought process a bit, you are already thinking, ‘it’s impossible’; ‘people don’t live like that’, ‘blah blah blah’. But you will be surprised at the level of poverty in this land when you hear and witness the suffering in the lives of some, especially in rural areas.

During one of my numerous travels, I met an elderly woman who visited the local market, bought palm oil worth N20, Vegetable N50, One Maggi seasoning cube for N5 and some other ingredient I can’t recall, but the total amount of money she spent was N120 ie less than a dollar. Now, imagine what N5,000 would do in the life of such an individual. Most of those the conditional cash transfer policy will positively affect are those who find themselves in such circumstance. They did not purpose to live a life of penury, but opportunities for income are just not available in a country where graduate unemployment is 60% and around 70% in the wider population.

The Cost Of Nigeria’s Conditional Cash Transfer

I will focus here on only the financial cost

A simple mathematical analysis shows Nigeria can afford this project.

N5,000 multiplied by 25,000,000 is N125,000,000,000 monthly.

N125,000,000,000 X 12 months is N1,500,000,000,000 annually.

In simple terms, it will cost Nigeria 125billion ($500million) naira monthly and 1.5trillion ($6billion) naira annually to finance the conditional cash transfer of N5,000 ($20) monthly to 25million desperately poor citizens.

Source Of Financing

There are several ways Nigeria can source for these funds, but I will mention a few.

Keep in mind; Nigeria will reach at least, 700,000 people in each of the 36 states and federal capital territory in the country. Imagine almost half (41%) of Bayelsa State population receiving bailout from FG. This alone will set the Buhari/Oshinbajo administration on another pedestal.

In the 1930s, great economist, John Maynard Keynes, suggested one of the most practical ways of getting the economy such as ours out of downturn. He encouraged increase in government spending to improve demand and the gross domestic product. The 25 million Nigerians that will eventually get this cash transfer won’t SAVE it in the bank (most are unbanked anyway). They will SPEND it, thereby creating a new circle of economic empowerment and opportunities.

There are several ways of financing this type of social project, and for once, let us take our mind off the World Bank.

Financing a sustainable cash transfer policy can be achieved by tweaking the system, redistributing wealth from the rich and giving to the poor. The present administration can borrow a leaf from the UK, a country that has learnt to tax its citizens for the provisions of essential services. The country practice what economists called a progressives tax system. In other words, the higher your income, the higher your taxes. From taxing car users, alone, the United Kingdom generates 7% of its total revenue, using same to maintain critical infrastructure and provide other essential services.

The Buhari/Osinbajo government can also creatively look for a way to shove up our revenue base without straining our present source of revenue generation.

Also, the government can withdraw its subsidies on petrol (after proper consultations and ability to meet local demand of daily Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, need). Nigeria’s subsidy scheme on petroleum product is gulping almost the same projected amount needed for this conditional cash transfer programme. When Nigeria starts refining its crude, the amount per litre of PMS will not be up to this present subsidized N87 per litre.

Nigeria Not Alone

Countries like India, Brazil and Pakistan have some form of conditional cash transfer programme that is helping their poor citizens out of poverty. Injecting N125bn monthly into the hands of a spending population will in turn encourage economic growth. Small businesses like recharge card sales, barbing & hair dressing salon etc will be invested in by the beneficiaries to help generate sustainable income. This will in the long run REDUCE POVERTY.

I understand the pundit’s dislike for this idea, but they must realize it is not a perpetual solution. Having a Ten Years Programme of N15trn in conditional cash transfers will change our poverty dynamics and statistics by 2026. By 2027, Nigeria will be migrating from cash transfers to other forms of social security.

As the Buhari administration presents the 2016 budget, it is sacrosanct that a 10 year spending expenditure/income framework should be developed, with N125bn set aside for the conditional cash transfer on annual basis till 2026.

Kikiowo Ileowo is the Editor of The Paradigm, Chief Strategist at Revamp Media and tweets at www.twitter.com/ileowokikiowo

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Opinion

Who Will Explain Coronavirus To Buhari?

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Coronavirus (COVID-19), an exorable doom, threatens life on the planet. It is exorable because it is conquerable. This explains why world leaders are taking the charge to combat this ominous apocalypse. It is a time for leadership from the fore-end; a time when citizens must hear their leaders speak to them; see them take action, making assurances and fulfilling those promises. The counsel, consolation and firm statement of a leader is imperative at this moment.

In Canada, Justin Trudeau, prime minister, despite being in self-isolation and his wife battling the virus after contracting it at a conference in the UK, is leading the fight against this dreaded disease from the fore. He is providing regular updates of the efforts of his government to roll back this scourge, listening and speaking to citizens.

In a popular broadcast on March 13, Justin spoke to citizens of Canada announcing measures to relieve the financial stress brought on by the pandemic on Canadians.

“We do not want any Canadian to have to worry about whether or not they’re going to be able to pay their rent, whether or not they’re going to be able to buy groceries, or care for their kids or elderly family members. We need to make sure that Canadians have the options and the ability to follow the best public health advice and keep themselves safe,” he said.

In the UK, Boris Johnson, prime minister, leads the struggle against coronavirus. He provides updates, alongside health experts, on the measures his government is taking to tackle the spread of the disease. And in the US, Donald Trump is not shying away from speaking to Americans on the virus.

As a matter of fact, President Muhammadu Buhari’s lapses are often easily dismissed by his supporters or by Nigerians who do not know better. Some of them say, ‘’ Why must the president speak when the minister of health and the NCDC DG are already doing that?” This is a contemptible rationalisation of incompetence. Are they suggesting the president lacks the capacitance to understand the issues?’’

Really, I surmise the president has been walled off the ‘’candid cameras’’ over the years by his handlers – not just now – because he lacks the intellectual propensity to understand and discuss incisive issues. The last presidential media chat he held was in 2015 and it was a woeful outing. Also, his non-choreographed media interviews have been abysmal to say the least.

The truth is the unfiltered Buhari is a vacuously gaffing one. On October 14, 2016, standing beside Angela Merkel, German chancellor, Buhari said his wife, Aisha, ‘’belonged in the kitchen and the other room’’, when he was asked to comment on the first lady’s criticism of his government.

On April 18, 2018, at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London, the president said the young citizens of the country he leads are lazy.

“More than 60 per cent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free,” he said during a panel appearance with world leaders at the forum.

In a February 2016 interview with UK Telegraph, Buhari dropped another clanger. He said the young citizens of his country have a knack for criminality and should not be granted asylum in the UK.

With the Buhari experience, it is indubitable that Nigerians must place a high premium on education — not just certificate – in choosing their leaders. The cost of electing leaders who do not have the intellectual grit to understand and handle matters is far too high.

The senate has asked the president to speak to citizens on this threat, and Nigerians are also asking the president to speak to them. This is an abnormality. Citizens must not beg to hear from their president. But because it is Buhari involved here, we have to beg and even excuse the crass inefficiency and vacuity.

Perhaps, the president is still trying to get a hang of it. I think he has ‘’capable handlers’’ who can break it down to him in ABC.

Mr President, speak to your citizens. The words of a leader are more resounding and assuring than the blandishment of proxies.

PS: Let’s follow all health protocol as advised by the NCDC.

• Wash your hands regularly with soap under running water.

• Cover your mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing. You may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available.

• Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

• Avoid self-medication, report to the nearest health facility when you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.

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Opinion

Sanusi: Once Upon An Emir, By Wole Olaoye

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Dethroned Monarch, Sanusi

We are all potential Ex-es: ex-student, ex-director, ex-lecturer, ex-senator, ex-governor, ex-president, ex-oba, ex-emir…. The inimitable Zik famously reminded us when he had a spat with Ukpabi Asika that Ex was an inevitable prefix for any human being as was evidenced by the fact that a certain young man who would someday become an ex-Administrator, was the son of an ex-postmaster!

So, what’s so apocalyptic about Sanusi Lamido Sanusi joining the ranks of ex-potentates? Nothing? Everything! Don’t ever think that bell you are hearing is tolling for the former Emir of Kano. No. It could be signalling the beginning of a comprehensive demystification of traditional rulership by plebeians holding tenured political power. In centuries past, no plebeian messed with the traditional institution. The halo of nobility, the sheer vastness of a prince’s hereditary powers, rights and privileges, made the subject know his place.

Yesterday’s subjects are today’s political sovereign. They make no pretences to sophistication. They load a gun to kill a spider. When you dethrone a monarch and then deprive him of his liberty, forcefully banishing him to a place without electricity and potable water, you are playing god. If it was all a public relations Olympics, the calm dignity with which Sanusi handled the humiliation made people all over the world admire his chutzpa and hand him the gold medal. A

Life and its many puzzles! Why is it that for some men and women, “their sleep is taken away unless they cause some to fall”? What do you do about an ego that knows no satiation? As the Preacher in the Good Book timelessly says, “All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full… The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear content with hearing… there is nothing new under the sun”.

The Yoruba have a poem that says just that. “The horse struts and frets and then dies. Being a veteran walker is no immunity to getting lost. Nothing new under the sun. I’ve seen kings reduced to slaves; and servants who mounted the throne. Haven’t my eyes beheld both river and sea? Haven’t I seen a hunchback on spindly legs, and a midget climbing a ladder to add condiment to the soup pot? Tell me, has anyone ever started a building from the roof?

The new Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, is a cousin of his predecessor. As royal intrigues go, when the dust is settled the sword will be sheathed and brother will embrace brother. That is the way of princes. Eventually, outsiders will realise that all they can ever be in palace politics is outsiders. Our very own Nobel prize winning Kongi was not amused by the scandalous extra-judicial detention of the former emir.

He put the emir’s travail down to his progressive stance: “Emir Sanusi was a one-man EFCC sanitisation squad in the banking system, taking on the powerful corrupters of that institution…. “Most important of all, and most pertinently for the nation, Sanusi was one of the early warning voices against religious extremism whose bitter fruits the nation is currently reaping….

The doors of enlightened society remain wide open to Muhammad Sanusi. As for his current crowing Nemesis, a different kind of gates remain yawning to receive him when, as must, the days of governorship immunity finally come to an end.” Support for Sanusi is not limited to radical voices.

Veteran technocrat Alhaji Ahmed Joda penned a panegyric in support of the ex-emir: “The purpose of this letter to you is not to commiserate with you, because I know that you must have known the likely consequences  of the principled position you have taken. The reality we must face in Northern Nigeria is that the evil forces of feudalism that have kept us in bondage for so long are still there and fighting. You have been the only voice that has been telling us this truth….”

It is easy to kick a man given a pin-fall by fate, or piss on the grave of a fallen warrior. Dead men don’t bite. Real friends show up when you are in life’s valley. Say what you will, I would rather have a friend like Nasir el Rufai when the chips are down. In the midst of all the turmoil, conspiracy theories have surfaced to the effect that the dethronement is but a political sleight-of-hand to propel Sanusi to Nigeria’s presidency in 2023. Caution! Let’s separate the issues. Political succession is totally different from fundamental human rights. Sanusi is not my next president.

My views on power rotation are well documented. The ex-emir will go down in history as a champion for the rights of the poorest of the poor. He advocated for a new Northern Nigeria where old backward practices such as the almajiri system and irresponsible parenting will be abandoned. His was the voice crying out in the desert, lift my people up from the cesspit of penury. The attempt to demonise him after dethronement through various allegations, including one on religious fundamentalism, is dead on arrival. The same fate will befall the vilification of El Rufai on account of his loyalty to Sanusi. Please quote me: Modern challenges can never be resolved with a resort to medieval solutions.

Christopher Hitchens’ Q&A may someday apply to the ex-Kings College boy who’s now an ex-king.

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Opinion

Sanusi Dethronement: The North Only Beheads The Bearers Of Truth

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Emir Sanusi

By Fredrick Nwabufo

Northern Nigeria is prostrate. It is the axis of uglies – banditry, insurgency, kidnapping, diseases, ignorance, and drug abuse. Alas! The region’s elite are aware of the problems, but look away because the disequilibrious status quo sustains them. What is petrifying, however, is that they maul and clobber at anyone who spits the truth in their faces.

I think, this is the mortal sin of Muhammad Sanusi II, emir of Kano – beyond his politics with Abdullahi Ganduje, governor of Kano.

But wait!

The World Bank says 87 percent of Nigeria’s poor are in the north. And that while poverty is plummeting in the south, it is rocketing in the upper region.

READ: Dethroned Sanusi Will Be Under House Arrest – Ganduje’s Aide

“Poverty in the northern regions of the country has been increasing especially in the north-west zone. Almost half of all poor lived in the north-west and the north accounts for 87 percent of all poor in the country in 2016,’’ the Bretton Woods institution said in its report entitled ‘Advancing social protection in a dynamic Nigeria’ in February 2020.

In August, 2019, the federal government revealed that 1,460 people were killed by bandits in seven months. And that the north-west is the worst-hit by this bloody enterprise. The killings have steadied, expanding in proportion and execution in the region.

In his accustomed manner, Sanusi recently vocalised these depressing figures of retrogression in the north – as regards the World Bank report — earning himself praise from progressive Nigerians and reprimand from the usual suspects — those stuck in the cesspit of bigotry.

Also, the gadfly emir of Kano, whom I regard as the John the Baptist of the north for his vociferous condemnation of this status quo, is alone in his advocacy against irresponsible polygamy, Al-majiri and child marriage – practices the northern elite espouse. He is the face of a progressive north; the northerner of the new age.

As a matter of fact, on different occasions he had complained about the northern elite whom he said wanted to silence him for speaking the truth about the region.

‘’Our colleagues and compatriots among the elite do not like statistics. Numbers are disturbing. I recently gave a speech in which I said the north-east and north-west of Nigeria are the poorest parts of the country. This simple statement of fact has generated so much heat; the noise has yet to die down. The response to this speech has been a barrage of personal attacks and insults aimed at silencing any voices that dare shine the light on the society to which we are saying Bring Back our Girls,’’ he said at a lecture held to commemorate the Chibok girls abduction.

READ: Sanusi Breaks Silence After Dethronement As Emir Of Kano (Video)

And I guess they can only take the throne away from him but cannot take away his royalty in the community of decent humans. Really, I believe the emir would rather give up his throne than be gagged by the shareholders of iniquity.

To say the least, Sanusi’s dethroning was not unexpected. Ganduje had always shown his hand in this plot. Really, the emir of Kano never hid his dislike for him. But what is there to like about a governor who was allegedly caught on camera stuffing wads of dollars into his babariga? In the build-up to the 2019 governorship election in the state, the emir was not shy in expressing his disapproval to Ganduje’s candidature.

So, Ganduje, who considers Sanusi a ‘’loud mouth’’, plotted a bitter revenge after he was re-elected. He had moved to remove the emir in 2018 but for the intervention of some ‘’higher powers’’. However, he whittle-down the power of the emir by creating new emirates from his domain. He was not done though. He rustled-up allegations, set up probe panels – all in the desperation to embarrass Sanusi.

But Sanusi was still talking.

Really, one of the most abrasive places to exist is in the circle of non-progressives. You talk different, think different or act different, they will feel threatened. Even when you try to clown around; the aboriginal clowns will still feel threatened because you do not look the part.

I think, Emir Sanusi is light-years away from the people he is dealing with in Kano government. He is needed more at the top echelon of government where he can contribute more meaningfully to the development of Nigeria.

Northern Nigeria is not ready for an emir like Sanusi. He is ahead of his time.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.

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