How Social Investment Programmes Help To Alleviate Poverty – Presidency

How Social Investment Programmes Help To Alleviate Poverty - Presidency
How Social Investment Programmes Help To Alleviate Poverty – Presidency

How Social Investment Programmes Help To Alleviate Poverty – Presidency

Press briefing by Barr. Ismaeel Ahmed, senior special assistant to the President on social investment programmes on social investment programmes.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the press. It is with great pleasure that I receive, and address you this morning. It was only last week Thursday that the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment Programmes addressed the press. So I guess it is safe to say that the National Social Investment Office is now in a relationship with the Press.

This morning, I won’t be rehashing all the updates the S-Ad released on Thursday last week. Rather, I would be focusing more on how the Social Investment Programmes are not just alleviating poverty, but creating wealth from the bottom-up across a value chain that is entirely local.

The Buhari-led administration embarked on an ambitious investment in the lives of the Nigerian people which it tagged the Social Investment Programme. It consists primarily of 4 units: The N-Power Programme which is targeted at unemployed young graduates; the Home Grown School Feeding Programme which seeks to feed all Nigerian children in public primary schools; the Conditional Cash Transfer which gives out 5,000 Naira monthly in cash to the poorest of the poor Nigerians in our innermost rural communities; and the GEEP – comprising of Market Moni and Trader Moni, which is giving loans of N50,000 to N100,000 Naira to artisans, market men and women, small businesses and the likes; and N10,000 to N50,000 to petty traders whose business capital, often times, isn’t even up to N5,000.

So far, these programs have touched more than 10 Million Nigerian lives directly. And we would be doing more.

The fundamental purpose of any Social Investment is to literally invest in the lives of the people, so that they may become productive and responsible for the ultimate well-being of society.

Nigeria is a peculiar country, with over 60 Million youth, out of a population of 180 Million, there is the question of what the future holds for these vast majority who face threatening challenges to their well-being, to their success, to their livelihoods, to their becoming anything worth considering in society.

The average Nigerian youth lives a life of uncertainty, and fear of the unknown. This is what our Social Investment Programmes seek to bridge.

Our Social Investment Programmes are providing the needed tools that empower Nigerians – not just the youth population, even though that demography remains the biggest percent of beneficiaries – to pursue their dreams and fulfil their purpose in life.

The N-Power and GEEP programmes are very relatable for the young population. Like I mentioned earlier, N-Power is a programme targeted at unemployed young graduates. It is a two year programme where young Nigerians within the ages of 18 to 35 are engaged as teachers in the various primary schools across the country lacking teaching capacity, or as health workers in the various primary health care centres lacking staff, or as agriculture extension officers – providing guidance and assistance to farmers in rural communities. While these young men and women in these programs provide key services to their immediate communities, they find themselves learning two key things: to become useful to society, and a partner for positive social change; and they train themselves and learn skills that would help them in many years to come. The N-Power beneficiary is paid a stipend of N30,000 a month. It may sound minute to some of you seated here, but there are stories across the country of how N-Power Beneficiaries have used this little stipends to change their lives.

While on a Listening Tour across the country last year, I had first-hand interaction with some of our N-Power beneficiaries, and their testimonies were nothing short of amazing. In Lagos State, there were two young ladies in particular that struck me, and I still remember their names. Temitope Akindilete, with no other source of income but the N30,000 monthly N-Power stipend was able to set up a catering service where she now employs people. Oreoluwakitan Aremu was able to set up a Tourism & Sustainable Development outfit, all from N30,000 monthly N-Power stipends. I can’t remember where I kept their complimentary cards, but I still have pictures of the cards on my phone here with me.

There is also the story of the Mr and Mrs Somade, N-Power beneficiaries who live in Ekiti State. They got married and had no jobs, both applied to become beneficiaries, qualified without any connections and have today started a beautiful family with their stipends.

If this isn’t wealth creation and empowerment, then what is? I understand that for most of you seated here, when you hear the word “wealth”, the image that comes to mind is the Dangotes, Otedolas and Indimis. But it starts from somewhere.

The GEEP – Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme – also known as Market Moni and Trader Moni, is a programme under the Social Investment Programmes which provides zero interest loans without collateral to small scale businesses. Young people are key beneficiaries. Their testimonies, just as we have on the N-Power programme abound as well.

A lot of us here if asked what we would do with N50,000 or a N100,000 would say the money seems too small to start something, or to even bolster what already exists. I mean, the N10,000 starting loan of the Trader Moni has been described as insignificant by some of you. But for the over 350,000 beneficiaries of the Market Moni loans, and over 800,000 of the Trader Moni loans, this seemingly little amount has been able to transform their livelihoods, improve their businesses and bring them to competitive standards in their small businesses.

There is the remarkable story of a ‘Mai Shayi’ in Kano State who is a beneficiary of the GEEP Loan. With a hundred thousand Naira, he has been able to expand his shed, get better chairs, cater for more customers, and get new burners. He is making 10 times more than he was making previously.

Yes, we in this hall here do not want to end up as Mai Shayis. But we must not forget that we are only a minute fraction of the bigger picture. Tens of millions of young Nigerians remain jobless, and even hopeless. The little things matter: opportunities and interventions no matter how little go a long way to change the lives of a teeming youth population.

The Home-Grown School Feeding Programme is also one of our programmes that is helping to create wealth in the rural areas. Last week, the Special Adviser reiterated that the School Feeding Programme requires about 6.8 million eggs, 594 cattle and 83 metric tons of fish to be supplied to the cooks, every week, for the purpose of feeding 9,300,892 children in 49,837 government schools in 26 States.

Try to imagine the impact of this demand among the rural farmers in the communities hosting these schools. People who normally focused on subsistence agriculture for the sole purpose of feeding their families, have expanded into commercialized farming to meet the needs of the School Feeding Programme. These same farmers have their kids in these schools, so that serves as added motivation to meet our demands of foodstuff because they know it is no gimmick. For some of them, their wives are cooks in the programme, preparing the meals for the school kids. I can see that the concept of “Home-Grown” just became clearer to some of you.

Concerning the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme, we have been paying out 5,000 Naira to about 297,973 households in Nigeria monthly. This programme is currently being implemented in 20 States.

Of course, we have also heard that N5,000 is nothing and cannot aid in alleviating poverty. But the beneficiaries of this money will beg to disagree, and for obvious reasons. First, for someone who practically had nothing, and no hope of where any help was going to come from, to start receiving N5,000 monthly for about 2 years now, something has changed in that person’s life, and that change will be noticeable in the person’s purchasing habit.

And as you must know, we don’t just give them N5,000 and walk away. Our cash transfer facilitators in every ward where the programme is ongoing train beneficiaries to build their capacities and support them to become productive and take ownership of their lives.

Through the Conditional Cash Transfer, we are reaching the unreached and unbanked members of our society. These monies are given to beneficiaries as cash initially. Over time, mobile money agents come in, then beneficiaries are made to see the need to have bank accounts. Can you now see how the supposedly inconsequential N5,000 monthly stipend is opening up the most rural areas to banking and other economic activities?

These Social Investment Programmes have been running for over 2 years now, with a total sum of N500 Billion budgeted for it, with less than 50% of that figure appropriated between 2016 till date. Yet, look how far we have come.

And during the time, we have encountered hitches and challenges that have helped us to keep improving and expanding on them.

But what has ensured that our Social Investment Programmes, the most audacious social programme by any administration in Nigeria, continues to record success and grow the number of our beneficiaries is the process of implementation.

In conclusion, the President Buhari-led administration took into cognizance the poverty level of the country and is stopping at nothing to impact directly on the lives of those worse hit by the scourge through the Social Investment Programmes.

Yes, there has been hurdles and challenges. However, the Social Investment Programmes is living up to the purpose for which it was formed, and we will continue to invest more in the lives of the people.

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