The first assignment of the 10th Assembly under the leadership of Senator Godswill Akpabio, we recall, was the inauguration of Welfare Committee members to look into the financial and other sundry benefits for members of the Red Chambers that just came onboard, about six weeks ago and have barely commenced legislative functions. Since then, Nigerians have also seen, heard or even read at different times certain appropriations, either real or imagined, that are emanating from the Executive arm of government, working in agreement with the legislative arm. The major one, being the N500 billion intervention funds, designed to cushion the impact of fuel subsidy removal that has heightened the sufferings of the people. Part of the money, totalling N70 billion has been earmarked to provide new furniture for the legislative arms; another N110 billion was appropriated for bullet proof vehicles for the lawmakers, and then N8,000 for each household as palliative to 12 million poor Nigerians for six months, among other criteria laid down by the federal government to reduce the pains of fuel subsidy removal.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), under the leadership of Joe Ajaero has distanced the Labour Union and its members from taking part in any committee that would distribute handout to Nigerians. Other groups, including prominent Nigerians have also condemned the idea of giving out a paltry N8,000 monthly to 12 million poor Nigerians whereas over 130 million people have been identified as the poorer of the poorest under the present circumstances. The president should live up to his own words: “let the poor breathe”. There are more poor people in Nigeria than what he met on the ground when he assumed office two months ago. We cannot be appropriating funds as if we are not aware that Nigerians are indeed struggling and in pains. This is not the first time Nigerians have been deceived under the guise of poverty alleviation.
For example, during the Muhammadu Buhari administration, the phony Trader moni scheme witnessed the distribution of N10,000 to traders with nobody evidently brought out of poverty. Yet, less than two months he left office, his successor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, without studying and understanding the mood of the people, unfortunately, wants to repeat the same mistake of the past that probably brought us to where we are. The distribution of N8, 000 to poor Nigerians will not solve our problems. For example, in Lagos, commuters using public buses now pay more than double the amount when subsidy was not removed. Distance of five minutes ride on commercial bus at present goes for as high as N300 to N400. How much it would cost now that a litre of fuel has further been increased to N617, is better imagined. Sustainable programmes that should reduce or eradicate poverty in the society, certainly is not the distribution of raw cash to indigent Nigerians.
In fact, in Nigeria, apart from the politicians, every other person is poor. There is no middle class. It is either you are at the top or bottom of the ladder. Therefore, the government should rather channel the funds meant for distribution to acquire buses and distribute to states to ease transportation and ameliorate the sufferings of the Nigerian workers who are practically trekking to work places while many cannot afford the transport fare to go to work. This is the only way the anguish of Nigerians would be assuaged and addressed. Anything to the contrary would amount to over stretching the patience of the people. The so- called market forces as touted by Mele Kyari, the Group Managing Director of NNPC Limited are not the way to go. Even the review of N8, 000 proposed cash transfer is neither here nor there.
The simple truth is that things have come to a halt and the survival of over 200 million Nigerians is very paramount. The way things are going, if there is no policy direction, Buhari may become a hero. The anti people policy cannot work, not even N8, 000 palliative would do any magic. This proposition is very ridiculous and insulting to the sensibilities of Nigerians. We call on the federal government to jettison the idea of cash transfers to Nigerians and quickly come up with acceptable plans of ensuring that policies that would impact positively on the poor and the generality of Nigerians are implemented. Cash hand out certainly is not the way to go, not even at this time!