• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

‘Ounje Eko’: A laudable initiative

Hardship: Sanwo-Olu appeals to Lagos residents to stay calm

With Nigeria currently ranked 109th out of the Global Hunger Index (GHI), poverty rate escalating to 38.9% in 2023 and an inflation rate put at 30% by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), all parameters worsened by the rash removal of fuel subsidy by Mister President back on May 29,2023 in the absence of cushioning palliatives, there is indeed harrowing hunger in the land. A hungry people, as the wise ones note are definitely angry!

Read also: Hardship: Sanwo-Olu, Fashola say Nigerians deserve more relief measures

It is from this perspective that one views the recent intervention program brought into being by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos state. Aptly named “Ounje Eko” in Yoruba language, translated to “Lagos Food,” it was kick-started at 27 points in different local government councils of the state the previous Saturday.

Amongst the tit-bits one has to know about its modus operandi, a buyer pays for the food items through a POS. The buyer gets voucher given to the food vendor, while cash is converted to card payment by the solution officials, or exchanged for Opay, Palmpay or Cowrie Debit cards. There are however, limits of the items of food one can buy.

The reason of course, is to make room for other interested buyers to make their purchase.

For instance, an individual is entitled to buy not more than 5kg of rice, beans, garri. While pepper and onions are limited to 1kg per person, it is 2kg for tomatoes. As for bread one can buy two loaves. The vouchers are colour-coded to different the various food items on sale.

It is gratifying to note that so far there has been a massive turn out of buyers across the state, including the six points at the Lagos Island, nine points in Ikorodu, five points in Epe, 10 points at the Badagry axis and others on the mainland, especially at Ikeja.

Viewed from an objective perspective one must commend Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu for this laudable initiative and its inclusive approach by roof up the Advisory Committee on Social Protection and its implementation. According to Dr. Joe Odumakin, one of the members of the Committee: “We encourage Lagosians to seize the moment so as to benefit from the program as some other programs are in the pipeline already.”

In addition, she urged members of the public to actively engage on social media handles to lodge complaints where there is need to do so. It is also noteworthy that the independent payment solution providers and food vendors were carefully identified and chosen, without sentiments but based on professionalism and competence to deliver their services to the people.

Similarly praise-worthy is introduction of the voucher system in the pilot scheme to prevent any form of sharp practices. And one cannot but note the high level of public enlightenment carried out so far to let the potential beneficiaries be fully aware of the efforts made by the government to stem the tide of food inflation that has skyrocketed above 30 per cent.

It is therefore, a pro-people policy to sell the food items at 25% discount. But more food items should be added to the list while this offer should last for as long as the high cost of food items last.

In fact, one important lesson to learn from the economic hardship is for the policy makers to always adopt the bottom-up approach, especially with regards to their policy formation. For instance, if Mister President had made wide consultations with the stakeholders and perhaps, set up an economic think-tank he would have considered the dire consequences and implications of the removal of fuel subsidy, on the hapless people.

Another step to be taken is that of frontal battle against the insurgents, terrorists, bandits, armed herdsmen and kidnappers using modern technology and innovation. With that done, the committed farmers in places such as Zamfara, Plateau, Benue and Ondo states would be able to access their fertile farmlands. More food items will be produced. With better road network, such food items would be transported to different states. As one has consistently advocated Nigerians have several reasons to be well fed and happy.

That is more so, with the fact that we are in an oil-producing county and are supposed to benefit from the revenue of the God-given resources instead of the poor being made poorer all in the bid to satisfy the greed and avarice of the ruling elite. If Mister President had done so, we would have been saved the pains inflicted on the people by the fuel subsidy removal. Prevention, as the wise ones say is better and cheaper than cure.

All said, Gov. Sanwo-Olu has taken the right step forward in cushioning the economic pains on the people with the Ounje Eko initiative. He should also come up with policies to ease the agony of the helpless members of the society, including the under-aged children, their nursing mothers, the physically challenged and the aged members of the Lagos communities. And other state governors should borrow a fresh leaf from this pro-people policy.