• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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N8,000 too small to make desired impact in people’s lives

What most Nigerians wish for

The Federal Government has come under heavy criticism across the country over its plan to give 12 million poor vulnerable Nigerian families N8, 000 for six months to cushion the effect of petrol subsidy removal.

On Thursday, the National Assembly gave President Bola Ahmed Tinubu approval to secure an additional loan facility to the tune of $800 million to be secured from the World Bank to finance the Social Safety Net programme.

Through conditional transfer N500 billion out of the $8000 would be shared to poor Nigerians, according to the government.

Nigerians have been hard-pressed as a result of the Federal Government’s discontinuation of fuel subsidy.

Since the removal of fuel subsidy in May, the cost of petrol has almost tripled along with every other commodity subject to the effects of rising transportation costs.

President Tinubu’s plan has been condemned by opposition political parties in the country, including the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) when the loan was approved by the parliament on Thursday.

Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general election described the plan as a brazen attempt to divert public funds.

Some analysts noted that Nigerians need a long-term approach to solving fiscal challenges rather than ad-hoc measures.

Ordinary Nigerians who Spoke to BusinessDay and reacted on social media queried the rationale and modalities which the government used in identifying Nigerians that are poor and in need.

“I wonder how Tinubu is going to know those that are poor in my area here in Ikotun, Lagos State. A lot of people here are managing.

“Things have become very tough after Tinubu removed petrol subsidy, if the situation was like this I am not sure I would have been able to train my children then,” Lukman Odofin, retired teacher, 71, said.

Similarly, some people noted that the Tinubu’s administration’s decision to continue the controversial policy of the previous Muhammadu Buhari administration of sharing money to “vulnerable” Nigerians was an indication that the Tinubu’s administration lacks ideas to check the high poverty and rising inflation in the country.

“He does not know what he is doing; is that the way to revitalise the economy that he is talking about. What can eight thousand buy in a month? I did not expect much from him anyway, he is simply laughing at us,” Chukwudi Okoye, a trader, 41 said.

There are also fears among some Nigerians that the ruling party officials may hijack the money, just like what was witnessed during the Covid-19 palliative sharing, making the money only accessible to members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and their supporters.

The announcement has again brought to the fore the level of distrust that existed between the government and the people of Nigeria. The palliative roll out that should ordinarily put a smile on the faces of would-be beneficiaries have rather raised more questions than answers.

It has raised more questions about the modalities to qualify for the palliative and how the government arrived at the would-be 12 million households.

Funmi Sessi, a labour leader, said the Federal Government’s plan to give N8, 000 to12 million households for six months would be like a drop of water in the ocean.

Sessi, Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Lagos Chapter, noted that the money was ridiculous in view of the rise of cost of everything since removal of subsidy.

“Looking at the money and the effect of the subsidy removal that has escalated the prices of everything in the market, I wonder what the N8,000 can do for a family in a month.

“I wonder what it can buy and the services it can render for 30 days; N8,000 cannot take care of a family for a week; it is not possible; it is going to be like a drop of water in the ocean,” Sessi said.

Former Remedies band member, Eedris Abdulkareem also criticised the plan.

The ‘Jaga Jaga’ crooner who reacted in a post on his Instagram page said that the move by the government of the day was nothing but a scam.

The popular musician hinted that it was an attempt to steal public funds and that Nigerians did not need handouts but productivity at this point in time.

‘‘Palliative is a scam! Nigerians don’t need handouts, they need productivity that will lead to prosperity,” Eedris Abdulkareem wrote on his Instagram page.

There was the overwhelming view that the policy would fail to check the high poverty rate in Nigeria and in the end will amount to doing exactly what the previous administration did that yielded no positive impact on the environment and economy.

Gbenga Odole, a 35-years old father of two is a basic school teacher in Festac, Lagos. On the average he spent N1,500 to commute weekly and believes the petrol subsidy removal has created a hole in his pocket that must be filled.

The basic school teacher said government palliative on oil subsidy removal should have been announced long before removing the plug on subsidy. According to him, the government has not been sincere with the people whenever it comes to palliative or any other economic support directed at Nigerians.

“Make them even try do am. Make we see ooooooo. Maybe from there we go demand for another increase later. But it can’t happen; if it happens it will be in the north. It will not work here in the south,” he said.

According to him, if the Federal Government is interested in giving palliative or fund to Nigerians, they should not consider those that are 40 years and above for support in their records.

“In the North, people are still collecting bursaries. Some northern people in Lagos here are collecting bursaries from their states. I tire o,” he said.

However, he said that the palliative roll out will fail in the south because of the way it will be distributed. “Ma go ma go plenty for the south. We too wise pass ourselves. They will manipulate it, such that the funds go to their family members only,” he said.

However, Elijah Ayodele, the presiding Primate of INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church, has asked President Bola Tinubu to increase workers’ minimum wage to N100, 000 to cushion the effect of subsidy removal instead of the proposed N8,000 palliatives to 12 million households.

The Lagos cleric made the call in a statement signed by his media aide, Osho Oluwatosin, stating that the N8, 000 palliatives will only lead to corruption and will not reach the poor masses for which it was intended.

“If truly the government is concerned about the masses, the minimum wage should be increased to N100, 000. It will go a long way in cushioning the effects of subsidy removal and inflation. Minimum wage increase will have a direct impact on the people than N8, 000 palliative.

“The N8, 000 palliative is corruption, I see nothing in the palliative, and it will not reach out to the poor masses. Despite the fact that Mr. President has signed it, it will not make any impact. The governors will use it for their selfish needs. The poor will not enjoy it at all.

“It will not be a blessing to the majority; the palliative is just a waste of time and energy, it cannot work for its purpose,” the cleric said.

Chidi Anthony, another Lagos cleric said that the palliative was not what Nigerians needed for now. According to him, the palliative will not achieve its intended outcomes because it is tied to consumption.

“You borrow money for the poor masses and the money you give to them cannot solve or start anything for them. There is no business N8,000 can start; so far as Nigeria is concerned; even if you want to fry ‘akara’ or whatever it is, you can’t buy anything. So, automatically it is for borrowing to consume.

“There are lots of things I thought this administration needs to look into and I pray that it will not be like the administration of president Muhammadu Buhari – I pray God will help this administration and give them direction because the way things are going; it’s like there is no difference,” he said.

Anthony, who is the president, Pentecostal Ministers’ Forum (PMF) and general overseer, Kings in Christ Power Ministry International, further said that the palliative roll out was not worth it because it would pile up debts for generations of Nigerians yet unborn. According to him, it is better to invest the money on infrastructure than putting it into a scheme that will not achieve anything.

“What baffles me so much is that even the National Assembly did not waste time before passing the bill; within the space of 24 to 48 hours, they have passed the bill. The way I am looking at it there is something they need to tell us. There is something we don’t know about this N8,000 stuff. N8, 000 cannot start pure water business, even to eat N8,000 cannot do anything or last more than 24 hours. Do you know how much a Derica of rice is today? Beans and Garri – everything has skyrocketed, and now they say they are borrowing $800 million to share with people to eat; you do not borrow to eat, you borrow to invest,” he said.

Elder Wole Adedeji, a public analyst said: “It is not good enough. The intention may be good but the application is off course. It is another broadway to corruption. First, N8,000 for 12 million Nigerians apiece as palliatives out of how many millions of citizens?

“We at present don’t even have an updated census figure in the country. Even if we still dwell in an illusion of 200 million as Nigerian population what percentage of that is 12 million? Do we have the data of citizens? How many Nigerians have bank accounts and does every community in Nigeria have banking facilities.

“What of the banks that insurgents had forced to close shops in locations where they once existed? Coming after our bad experience of palliatives during COVID-19 is not gladdening at all. It will once again turn out to be very sour as usual.

“The first palliative experience was an opportunity for government agents and agencies to divert the rights of poor Nigerians to themselves alone. We do not need to go that way again. Is this an opportunity to compensate the political jobbers who worked for the success of this regime at the polls?

“I think by now, we ought to have moved away from the era of fooling ourselves. We have strong hopes in President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he should please avoid being misguided by some terrible hawks while formulating his policies. We need a departure from the immediate past.”

Akinlolu Abayomi, a public affairs commentator, submitted that, “President Tinubu has to do away with the idea of providing support for the vulnerable through provision of cash transfer. What we should rather do is to utilise such fund for the purchase of buses to strengthen our public transport system.

“Everywhere in the world like UK and in some other countries, people prefer to go wherever they want to through public transport system. If the said amount is channelled towards strengthening the public transport system; to purchase cars and buses that will ease people’s affairs.

“But this division will amount to a waste and even avenue for people to make money. Who will monitor the process and who will ask questions? What is the parameter to be used to determine the vulnerable? Who are the people to determine who to choose? Another thing is that it will be politicised.

“So, if you are talking about making it easy for the masses, strengthen the public transport system; once that is done, it will translate into what will ease things for people and that will pave the way for people to choose either to join public transport or spend their money on fuel.

“But making fuel expensive and not providing alternative is the main issue that the government should look into not the idea of saying you want to give people money or support through cashless transfer. I think it will eventually produce nothing but curruption and enrich people who are not ordinarily affected, because they already have money and they will have more.”

Edith Osakwe, a teacher and resident of Asaba, Delta State, who frowned at the federal government’s plan said that it is not only the poor that should be given the money. The money supposed to be for every Nigerian because “all of us are negatively impacted by the fuel subsidy removal.”

According to Osakwe: “We need the palliatives but the President should increase it from N8,000 to at least N20,000 if the federal government really wants to touch lives of it’s citizens that were thrown into penury since the inception of the current administration.
“For instance, in my family, we spend N5,000 on daily basis to purchase fuel to power our generator. In a month, we spend close N30,000. There is poor electricity supply in the area we live, culminating in us spending this outrageous amount. We are not even including the amount we cough out to fuel our vehicle because these days, we go to work or travel with public transport since fuelling our vehicle has become a pain in our neck.

“Don’t forget that since the removal of the fuel subsidy, cost of food items in the market has increased outrageously leading to high cost of living.

“Infact, what I’m advising is that the Federal Government should not just transfer at least N20,OO0 to families but should ensure that the nation’s refineries work efficiently for the masses to enjoy all the petroleum products that God Almighty has blessed us with in this country without this excruciating pains we are made to pass through by our political leaders.”

Ikechukwu Enwere, a transporter and businessman, said: “It’s inadequate considering that every home uses petrol for various purposes. We that are in transport sector, are hit hard by this subsidy removal. The huge amount of money to fuel one’s vehicle for a trip and all the profits ought to be got are gulped into fuel expenses. The worst is that passengers are scarce because people seem to travel as a matter of extreme importance so they can also solve other problems facing their families rather than channelling all funds into transport to the detriment of other needs.

“We continue to adjust to ensure we don’t scare our passengers away with outrageous cost of transport but at the end, we are the losers because our vehicles must be maintained and spare parts prices in the market are not smiling at anybody.”

According to him, “Rather than give N8,000, the President should consider transferring at least N20,000 as a short-term measure but should fix the nation’s refineries as long term solution.

“What we need is a long-term measure and solution to permanently end the issue of fuel importation and the subsidy. It is good the FG banned fuel subsidy but the existing refineries should have been first repaired for maximum and efficient production, and new ones built also, to make petroleum products available at cheap and affordable prices.

“Above all, I want the FG to discover the magic that were done in the late 1970s and early 80s that enabled citizens buy Petroleum products at N5 per litre. He should work and fix the nation’s economy and make our currency have value like in those days. The palliatives may not achieve the purpose they are meant to if we continue operating the kind of economy we have presently.”

Read also: Invest ‘palliatives’ in transportation, healthcare, experts urge Tinubu

Ikpomwonsa Eboigbe, a Benin resident, faulting the plan, said that there were more pressing needs that the cash should be channelled into instead of the so-called “recurring palliative” that has over the years failed to make positive impact.

“Even if I want to commend this proposed idea, how will the beneficiaries be selected? Do we have a database to back this up? How will this cash reach the targeted persons? You see, new government comes in and all they think is to bring in new policies that hardly favour the populace.

“Obviously, this will provide short-term relief to the targeted population. But, will it alleviate poverty? Will it continue to put food on the table? We need policies that can sustain us for years and not momentarily,” he suggested.

Another resident, Roland Iyobosa, said: “We have seen a replica of policy under Buhari and it couldn’t achieve its objective. How will N8,000 feed families when things are so expensive in the market? Our government needs to do better and look at lasting ways to reduce poverty in the land instead of jumping from frying pan to fire.

“I believe this is another avenue for those in authority to have their share of the cake. The Presidency should have a rethink and consider other options that the money can be used for.”