Recently, the Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory ( FCT), Dr Ramatu Aliyu, kicked off the distribution of cash grants to no fewer than 560 vulnerable people in Abuja. CALEB ONWE reports
T he expansive hall of the Federal Capital Development Authority ( FCDA), venue of the flag off , was at the beginning filled with gloomy faces of expectant people. These faces however, radiated with infectious smiles before departure.
A probe on why the people initially locked up their fountain of joy, revealed that many arrived the venue not fully convinced that some cash would drop into their hands.
They thought that it was another gimmick concocted by political merchants to further exacerbate the economic woes of the poor. One could see anxiety written on some of the faces. They obviously had a resemblance of people who may have borrowed money to pay their transport fares and were worried about the inevitable consequences of failure to keep the covenant with their creditors.
There were also those who appeared like people that have come to their last resort, without any other option. They were in the hall as prospective beneficiaries of a cash transfer of N20, 000 to each of them. The largesse came as part of the ongoing Federal Government’s National Social Investment Programme (NSIP). It was said to be part of the present administration’s efforts towards alleviating the hardship of the populace, especially the poorest of the poor.
The occasion was one that confirmed the common aphorism that credit alert is a healing balm and also capable of resuscitating even a dying soul and spirit.
A brief interaction with some of them, showed that the cash transfer policy, was one of the magic wands the government could use to regain the people’s confidence, if transparently implemented.
It also revealed a deeper urgent need for political leaders to show more empathy to the citizenry. Undoubtedly, the gloomy atmosphere that pervaded the hall was symptomatic of poverty and deprivation. However, the ” could- it – be – true ” mindset and doubt which the initial hard faces portrayed, quickly evaporated as soon as the Minister, Dr. Ramatu Aliyu mounted the podium with the long awaited good news. Inside Abuja observed that apart from the announcement, disclosing how much each person would grab and go home with, the Minister’s friendly aura was reinvigorating.
Her brief speech laced with less sophisticated language, also conveyed huge hope that kept the expectant people nodding their heads constantly. It was not clear, if all the people understood everything in the speech, but at least , even those who didn’t understand, were able to conceal their ignorance.
The Minister’s short speech was as reassuring as it was inspiring to the beneficiaries who continued to interject with resounding rounds of applause. Aliyu explained to the audience that government has not lost touch with the people, bearing in mind that many has not fully recovered from the economic difficulties that started with the advent of COVID-19.
According to her, the cash transfer may not be able to completely eradicate the effects of the current hardship, but it could indeed provide some succour which the citizens deserved.
She said, “We are thus conscious that with this noble step, we are fulfilling the expectations of Mr. President and his honest desire and commitment to support the downtrodden and help ease their socioeconomic difficulties occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic and ongoing global economic turbulence. “Such measures shall, no doubt, help put the country back on the path of sustainable growth.”
The Minister further expressed the hope that the challenges notwithstanding, Nigeria had what it takes and shall become a great nation if the current developmental thrust is maintained, and all citizens contribute to the peace and progress of the country.
“The role of government is to provide the direction, to lead the way and to spur collective citizen action to build the nation.
“As we commence the distribution of this grant therefore, it is a statement that the government is ready to do all that is necessary to join the comity of nations to fight the global economic downturn and to put in place the needed shock absolvers to withstand any future eventualities,” she said.
Selection of the beneficiaries
The 560 beneficiaries, drawn from the Six Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory, were said to have been selected through a transparent system instituted by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHDSD).
It was learnt that a participatory community selection process was adopted, where all relevant stakeholders were involved, to ensure that only those deserving of the gesture got it.
The buy-in appeal
The Minister who promised that the FCT Administration would continue to prioritize the people’s welfare, also called on all stakeholders to key into the programme, by supporting the government in fighting adverse economic circumstances.
“As we commence the distribution of this grant therefore, it is a statement that the government is ready to do all that is necessary to join the comity of nations to fight the global economic downturn and to put in place the needed shocks to withstand any future eventualities.
“The FCT Administration is therefore calling on all Nigerians to take personal responsibility, and to support those that are vulnerable within their communities, in whatever capacity. Pervasive poverty can only be defeated if we all come together by being our brothers’ keepers”.
Reactions Some of the beneficiaries who were thankful that government released the stipend, also urged that the policy should be sustained.
Most of the rural women from Abaji Area Council who got the cash, said they would plough it into their farms, while others want to boost their petty trading.
However, the government needs to further demonstrate its resolve in making the cash transfer policy a sustainable one. While some residents expressed doubts that it wasn’t designed to outlive this present administration, they said efforts should be made to back it up with a legislative framework.
Furthermore, they prayed that the selection process should be made more transparent for its implementation to remain credible.