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OpinionKaduna State Palliative Distribution: Let The Poor Benefit

Kaduna State Palliative Distribution: Let The Poor Benefit

OPINION

Kaduna State Palliative Distribution: Let The Poor Benefit

By: Yusuf Ishaku Goje

The title of this write is inspired by the now popular phrase of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, “Let The Poor Breathe.” This phrase came to mind upon citing a memo on social media signed by the Chief of Staff to the Governor of Kaduna State for the formation of Local Government Committees/Ward Committees for Palliative Distribution addressed to the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON). The memo showed the committees are to distribute palliatives worth N3.31 billion to vulnerable families. It is imperative that there is transparency, independent monitoring and accountability to ‘Let The Poor Benefit.’

This is not the first time the administration is rolling out palliative distribution to cushion socio-economic shocks. Many will recall, on August 22, 2023, the Governor, Senator Uba Sani, addressed the press on the N2 billion released by the Federal government to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal. The palliative funds, he announced, will be utilized in 3 phases: the distribution of food items to households; transportation and assistance to smallholder farmers, micro, small and medium scale enterprises; and resuscitation of the locomotive train. On October 3, 2023, the Governor flagged-off the distribution of 50kg bags of rice each to 210,000 poor and vulnerable in Dakande, Igabi LGA.

Months later, the Governor in a media chat, in February 2024, announced the 4.2 billion palliative for 4000 SMEs and other identified vulnerable groups. As commendable as these interventions are, a number of questions remain unanswered: Is the State Social register being used? If not, what criteria and methodology is being used in targeting the beneficiaries? How objective and credible is the process? Are the right beneficiaries being targeted? How many have so far benefited from the 1st phase? How inclusive and equitable was the distribution? Where can stakeholders get the database of the beneficiaries? Was the palliative sufficient enough to alleviate their suffering and for how long? Are the interventions keeping pace with the rising inflation and poverty rates?

Also, the Governor in his speech, while addressing the press on the N2 billion palliative distribution, had warned that, “the full weight of the law will be visited on anyone who attempts to divert the palliatives meant for people or tries to disrupt the exercise.” The questions to ask are: Where is the report of the Monitoring Committee set-up by the Governor? Were there incidents of diversion or exclusion/inclusion error or bribery or nepotism? How did the administration apply the full weight of the law in response, where applicable? Or was the distribution process 100% hitchfree? Did the administration allow the participation of accountability civil society actors to provide third party independent reports?

These questions are germane for the government to reflect on before embarking on another round of palliative distribution. This is to ensure that the poorest of the poor are the actual end-beneficiaries. The situation in Kaduna is dire. As of 2022, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) MPI Survey report, the State with a projected population of about 10.4 million is home to 8.04 multidimensional poverty, only second to Kano in terms of population of poor.

In addition, the State is among the 4 States with over one-quarter of poor children under 5. In another report, in 2020, the NBS put the State’s unemployment and underemployment at 44.3% and 22.6% respectively. While these numbers would have increased over the years, insecurity and inflation seems to be worsening the poverty situation. The Kaduna State Bureau of Statistics website shows that as of 2023, inflation rate stood at 29.05%. Imagine what it will be as of today.

With this reality, the starting point is to checkmate political interference, exclusion and inclusion error in the distribution process. The need to update and to ensure strict usage of a single social register for the distribution process is imperative. It is now time for the Governor to fulfill his social contract as captured in the SUSTAIN Agenda. Under the pillar on Investment in Human Capital, it was stated, “Our Social Investment Office will be resourced to expand provision of support for the poor and vulnerable. The State Social Register is providing a credible database for the objective disbursement of targeted interventions for the people who are most in need of it.”

Similarly, under the pillar on Nurturing Citizens engagement, it states, “Embed the State Government’s community engagement processes in policy development processes and ensure that government decisions are evidence-based.” This calls for the government to allow for the unhindered participation of third party monitors from accountability civil society actors. As this is a litmus test of the administration’s commitment to the principles of Open Government Partnership (OGP) as captured in the SUSTAIN agenda and the State Action Plan (SAP III) – commitment on Strengthen Social Protection System.

Goje is an active citizen, civil society actor and OGP enthusiast.

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