Handouts for the poorest Nigerians

Vice President Prof Osinbajo, recently revealed the government is working on one of the election campaign promises of giving out ₦5k monthly stipend for the poorest Nigerians, currently estimated to be 25M people.

The first time I saw this on a billboard, I actually thought that was a joke taken too far – guess I was wrong.

Who are the Nigerian poorest?

According to Dr Yemi Kale, the Nigeria Statistician General, in 2010 poverty rate in Nigeria were north-east 76.3%, north-west 77.6% and southwest is 59.1%.

In general, Sokoto state has the highest poverty rate in the country at 86.4%. Sokoto is in the northwest with estimated population of 4.5M people.

Presently in many northern cities, there’s news about people gathering in government houses for cash handouts – honourable in religious sense, I suppose. Another example is mass-marriage for the divorced sponsored by the Kano state government a few years ago.

In 2014 UNICEF handing out ₦20k per/year for up to 23,000 girls between age six and 15 years old in Sokoto and Niger to buy text books and other incentives to go to school. Mothers received ₦5000 – this program is scheduled to run through this year too.

So folks in the north are already used to get minimum cash handouts from their public officials and yet no improvement to standard of living.

Who are the 25M poor Nigerians that will benefit from this monthly stipend?

If we are talking about abject poverty, beneficiaries from this program are likely to the northern folks which is absolutely fantastic as the world is better for all when resources go round.

From what we’ve learnt government officials in the north will prefer to give handouts rather than spend the allocation for intended purposes, partly for religious or cultural reasons.

So how would this new stipend be any different when the same set of people especially those in the cities are already used to free cash.

Can we approach eradication of poverty differently this time?

– For example use this fund to build classrooms especially in the remote areas with adequate teaching resources?

– Perhaps healthcare for Vagina Fistula corrections to give decent lives to the victims of child marriage rather than leaving this role for foreign aid to foot the bill?

– Sponsor skill acquisition programs for the poorest?

Given our unique situation in Nigeria – I don’t think ‘one hat fits all solution’ is the best.

Many people in the south are poor, no doubt about that. The main reason many generations remain poor in the south is due to lack of quality education, most of those that are affected are in our small towns and villages. Basic quality education is luxury for many people.

– Using this fund to resuscitate our dying schools in the rural areas, repair our roads and help with safe drinking water will be the first thing to do rather than cash in hand.