Palliatives: Buhari’s social register lacks credibility — NEC

The National Economic Council, NEC, yesterday unanimously resolved to do away with the national social register used by the Buhari’s administration to implement its conditional cash transfer, saying it lacks credibility.

Consequently, it asked states to generate their own registers for such cash transfers.

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This is even as the Federal Government announced that it would distribute 252,000 metric tons of grains to states at subsidised rates to cushion the effect of hardship occasioned by petrol subsidy removal.

However, most states yesterday could not give a definite date as to when they would be able to make the register available.

But the NEC meeting, presided over by Vice President Kashim Shettima at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, said the register had integrity issues as the criteria for its compilation was unclear.

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, Governor Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State said contrary to what the previous administration projected, it was not possible to digitally transfer money to the poorest of the poor, the majority of whom were unbankable.

He said it was agreed that states should generate registers that were comprehensive and ensure it was only for vulnerable people.

Professor Soludo, flanked by his Bauchi and Ogun states’ colleagues, Bala Mohammed and Dapo Abiodun, respectively, noted that beneficiaries of the supposed transfered cash could not be identified in the villages.

He said NEC resolved that the states should come up with their own registers, using formal and informal means to develop it, assuring that all beneficiaries at the sub-national level could easily be accessed that way.

“We need to face the problem of the fact that we don’t have a credible register,” he said.
Soludo affirmed that NEC deliberated on ways to cushion the impact of the recent petroleum subsidy removal.

Cost of governance issues

While fielding questions from journalists, Soludo said: “The first question that was raised is in relation to cost of governance. I think it’s an omnibus concept, and it’s not something you sit down in a meeting to legislate for each and every state.

“But the fact that the council recognizes that this is an issue that each tier of government should now focus on as an area of concern. That we mustn’t live… even the cost of running the state, the way we even live, so some gave an example of a state governor going with over 20 vehicles in a convoy and all these have to be fueled, and so on and so forth. And the fact that we’re even, among ourselves, almost like in a peer review, kind of setting, talking for ourselves.

“We need to be sensitive to the times, we need to live within the average of the people that we’re governing and so on and so forth, and knock off the waste and the irrelevance so to speak.
“I will like to give you a simple example, When I assumed office, it was costing about N137 million every month to clean up public offices, and so on. Today, in Anambra, we’re doing N11 million a month from N137 million on a monthly basis. Just an illustration.

“It’s a thing we’re persuading each and every one of us to look into, check our books and look ourselves in the mirror and move with the times.

Big question on social register

“Second thing I’d like to respond is in relation to the social register that has been mentioned. I think at the council today, there was almost near unanimity among members that there’s a big question mark about the integrity of the so called National Social Register.

“We have questions about how those names in the register were brought about and I’m sure one question I hear asked is where it is for the most vulnerable group, and so on and so forth.

“Let’s talk about a social register and them distributing things through the social register by digital means, implying that these people already have account numbers and they have phone numbers.

“Maybe we are talking about some other people and not Nigerians. The poorest 25 per cent of Nigerians are likely, if not totally unbanked, and don’t have access to telephone.

“Now in thinking through that, we felt that sitting in Abuja and calling on somebody in Anambra to compile a list and send it to you and then the person depends on who he brings, and the registers are generated and people go to those villages and ask where are those people and they don’t show up. This is stress testing. We think we need to go down back to the drawing board.

“If you are delivering any such national or federal programme from Abuja, it needs to be delivered via the governments that are there using their own format and mechanisms to generate the register that is comprehensive.

“That meets certain criteria, that you can stress test and you can call out the people in the village and everyone will confirm that these are the vulnerable people, if you are targeting vulnerable people, as it were.

“So the integrity test is what is missing with that register. Many have just described what is being counted as national register as bogus, some describe it as a phantom, some in all manner of terms. So we need to face the problem, the fact that we don’t have a credible register and get back to work on this.

New minimum wage

“By the way, there’s something I think my colleagues missed out as part of those recommendations over the medium, longer term, and that is the possibility of negotiating a new minimum wage. That obviously will be on the table. But that has to be negotiated through the appropriate structures for doing that over time.”

Professor Soludo explained that packages to serve as palliatives were marshalled out to encourage the tiers of government to implement them in accordance with their respective fiscal space and fiscal capacities.

He said: “The federal, state and local governments I want to highlight as well, but that is quite some fiscal surplus that will be coming to the states and local government and the federal government and we suggested that it will be nice that you can implement cash transfers, subject to your financial capacity, based on peculiarities.

“Some might be able to do one, some might be able to do 10. Some might be able to do 20 as the case maybe. It depends on their own capacity.

“For example, if you have a state that has been owing salary arrears, workers have been owed for three years, or for four years, the priority would be to even start paying some of the salary arrears or where pensioners have been owed their pension and gratuity for seven years, for example, the priority now might be to use part of the surplus to pay them.

“Then, there are also states that are with bumper harvests and that will say you know what, I want to deploy a chunk of this to implementing cash transfer and several of the other immediate programs and that’s why we couched this point, that this is ultimately still a federation.

‘’The various states and local governments and federal government are at different levels in terms of their fiscal space and fiscal capacity. If the federal government decides to do the same cash transfers for example, we are recommending that they should do so using the framework of the states and local government that are nearer to the people, so to speak. That’s basically that.

‘’We didn’t sit down there to begin to say, oh, okay, this one your transfer will be like what is being bandied around in the media, whether it’s N8,000 or N10,000, or N1,000, or whatever. It will depend on what the state… I guess it’s very important we communicate this clearly.’’

252,000 tonnes of grains coming
The Bauchi State governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, said the Federal Government would distribute 252,000 metric tons of grains to states at subsidised rate to cushion the effect of subsidy removal.

Mohammed said the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, would also make available to the people its package.

On his side, Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State said though the hardship the masses were facing, as a result of the removal of fuel subsidy, was not the doing of the government as market forces determined price, efforts are being made to cushion its effect.

Some of the packages include cash transfer to the poorest of the poor by states, cash award policy for all public servants which should be implemented for six months in first instance, payment to public servants on outstanding liabilities such as pension and allowances, among others.

He also said the government was looking at the possibility of funding Micro Small and Medium Enterprises.MSME, which he said were the engine room of business.

He said further that the government planned immediate implementation of energy transition plants, converting mass transit buses to Compressed Natural Gas, CNG, adding that the long term vision was to establish electric automobile plants.

The governor said: “As a responsible government, we extensively deliberated on immediate steps in appreciation of the fact that our people are already feeling the pains of these very laudable and noble steps and have been very patient with this administration.

“To that extent, a subcommittee of the National Economic Council was set up and that subcommittee reported some of the things the governor of Anambra has shared with us and their report is now the proposal of the National Economic Council and among what the governor of Anambra has shared with us.
“We also proposed accordingly that each state should begin to plan towards implementing a cash transfer program that will be based on the social registers of the states because it is the states that are better positioned to do that enumeration, so you can ensure the integrity of the social register.

“Again, it was also proposed by the Council that we should implement a cash award policy for all public servants. What’s a Cash Award Policy? That would be a policy that allows each sub-national to actually pay the public servants a certain prescribed amount of cash on a monthly basis and was prescribed that that should be implemented for six months in the first instance.

“You’ll be wondering why six months? The idea is that as much as we’re also particular about ameliorating the pains of our people immediately, a lot of sustainable measures are being put in place and it’s our hope that between now and the next six months, those sustainable measures would have begun to be visible and then we can begin to taper down these cash awards.

‘’These cash awards, by the way, would be funds that will be placed in the hands of civil servants that will be tax-exempt.”

On his part, the acting governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Folashodun Shonubi said the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, briefed the council and announced that it was ahead of the half year target.

He said: “It was nice to know that the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, is ahead of its target for half a year. And we expect that before or by the time the year ends, they would exceed the target.

“They also gave us some idea of what next year should be like from them. And from this year, we hope to make some N10 trillion. It is planning that next year, we should be able, working with all the agencies, provide N25 trillion as their contribution to the national coffers.”
Meanwhile, states could not give definite dates yesterday on when their register would be ready for the cash transfer.

Aside from Kebbi, which said it could get its register ready in two weeks, others could not state when theirs would be ready.

‘’The governor has settle for at least two weeks to generate the palliatives register as he has ordered immediate commencement of compilation of a through register which would cover every body,’’ said Ahmed Idris, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Nasir Idris of Kebbi State.

On his part, the Special Adviser to Ekiti State Governor on Media, Yinka Oyebode, said the government would set machinery in motion to look into the matter as soon as possible .

“This step is necessary in order to ensure that only those identified and verified as indigent are registered for the financial assistance,’’ Oyebode said.

It’ll be done when Akeredolu resumes—Ondo govt

In its reaction, the Ondo State government promised to do the needful as soon as possible on the cash transfer register.

A top government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “Such decisions would have to be tabled when the governor resumes from his medical leave.

“Since it’s the decision at the NEC meeting, it would be carried out to the letters, trust our governor, Rotimi Akeredolu. The state cash transfer register would soon be set up, that I can assure you.”


Similarly, an official of River State government who pleaded anonymity said: “Just got that information but the deputy governor represented my principal and until she returns for proper briefing and action plans, we can’t give a definite date, so wait briefly”.

Osun gov to meet stakeholders—Spokesperson

Contacted, spokesperson to the governor of Osun State, Olawale Rasheed, said his principal just left the meeting and would need to meet stakeholders in the state on best way to put a new register together.

Efforts on for a comprehensive data register—LASG

In its reaction, the Lagos State government said efforts were on to evolve a comprehensive data register that would capture reasonable number of residents in due course.
Chief Press Secretary to the state governor, Gboyega Akosile, said the governor would make a categorical statement on the issue soon.

He said: “We are taking a holistic look at the development and Lagos State, being a centre of excellence will soon come out with a stance on this.

“Lagos State already has a similar register called social register, though it is not comprehensive because series of dynamics have taken place. I just want to assure you that very soon, Lagos will come with a definite register. There is a template for it already.”

Stakeholders’ll be consulted before a register will be generated – Ebonyi govt

On its part, Ebonyi State government said it would consult relevant stakeholders across the state to come up with a register of individuals that would benefit from the federal government’s palliatives.
The Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Engr. Jude Chikadibia Okpor, who disclosed this in Abakaliki, said: “After all relevant stakeholders must have been consulted, a list will be generated for the benefit of all and sundry.

“There’s no way a list will be generated immediately. Remember, nobody was aware that such decisions will be taken.

‘’Ebonyi people should rest assured that Governor Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru will ensure that democracy dividends get to the grassroots level and to every citizen.”


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