Nigerians are delighted that President Bola Tinubu is set to roll out some relief measures to cushion the biting effects of the implementation of petrol subsidy removal. But we are firmly opposed to his resort to the discredited “cash transfer” approach.
The President said: “The palliative is coming. I don’t want cash transfer to fall into wrong hands…”
He has already asked the National Assembly to approve N500 billion from the supplementary budget for the scheme. Also, Tinubu is lining up the controversial $800 million World Bank loan for the same purpose. He targets 12 million poor households which is a minuscule portion of Nigerians affected by the subsidy removal.
When the government of former President Muhammadu Buhari embarked on a similar quixotic venture, we cautioned against it. Government officials were unable to provide fool-proof criteria for cash disbursements. Besides, there were allegations of partisanship and sectional discrimination.
We have no credible social security register that accommodates the 140 million multi-dimensionally poor Nigerians. Any scheme that will take care of only a small segment of the poor and only for six months is unacceptable. Such cash in the hands of politicians or bureaucrats at this point so soon after the elections will definitely not be “safe”.
We prefer the strategy of “teaching the people how to fish, rather than giving them fish” when it comes to social welfare schemes. It is best to invest such funds in production, not consumption. Subsidising productive activities will create wealth and eventually benefit most Nigerians.
Instead of distributing cash, let us activate the petrol-to-gas policy contemplated but abandoned by the Buhari administration. Since gas is cheaper and cleaner, the Federal Government should invest some of the fund in giving Nigerians the option of converting their vehicles and generators to gas which Nigeria has in abundance.
Our armed forces and vigilante groups should be supported to rid our forests and farmlands of criminals such as terrorists, bandits, killer-herdsmen and separatists to allow our people, especially the youth, embrace farming en masse with active Federal Government financial support. Without it, the President’s emergency on food security will flop.
We must revisit the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN’s, Anchor Borrowers’ scheme, or create something similar. Let us launch a massive re-industrialisation policy. Government should subsidise Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, MSMEs, and generously fund educational and health services. This way, the palliatives will benefit everyone and even boost the economy.
We applaud the move to embark on massive nationwide repairs of our trunk roads. It is spot-on.
Jettisoning the negotiations with Labour to roll out a suspicious “cash transfer” programme will breed a stormy relationship with the workers’ unions. It smacks of forcing through a pre-set mindset. It is poor prioritisation. Another cash transfer scheme will surely end up in the pockets of a few officials and politicians.
Drop this idea!