Opaque and Contentious Cash Transfer Programs – By: Eugene Enahoro

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There is understandable disbelief in the Jigawa state government’s claims that it has shared a monumental sum of N192 billion in seven months with those it has labeled as ‘pregnant women and nursing mothers’. The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has described the claim as outrageous, unbelievable and simply another embezzlement of public funds. The Jigawa state government says it spent the money between November 2021 and June 2022 to implement its mother and child cash transfer programme. To no one’s surprise, they could not divulge any details about the recipients or the bank used to disburse the funds.

The identity of the bank is vitally important as they claimed to have incurred outrageous ‘bank charges’ of N688 million! What is more disturbing is that in November 2021, the federal government also claimed to have started disbursing nearly 2 billion naira under its own Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme to the women of Jigawa. considered poor and vulnerable.

That’s not all. As of 2020, the federal government claimed to have spent 1 billion naira per month in nine selected local governments in the same Jigawa. It seems inconceivable and utterly illogical that, although the federal government is broke and continually borrowing money, it cannot conceive of anything better to do with the money than supposedly distributing it in cash to unintended people. identified and in fact unidentifiable, and to subsidize state governments doing exactly the same thing!

The utter mismanagement of the nation’s finances by those in power is becoming more apparent day by day. Absurdly enough, federal and state governments claim that the money is used to “break the cycle of poverty” when in reality it keeps recipients in perpetual virtual deprivation! With the educational system in ruins and the development of human capacities clearly not being a priority these days, poverty is spreading and taking root more and more in our society.

It is depressing that governance in Nigeria is no longer about building human capacity by improving the education system to produce graduates and school leavers with marketable job skills, but has been reduced to distributing cash in the streets: giving people fish to eat rather than teaching them how to fish has become the order of the day. While the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs vigorously defends her penchant for opaque cash delivery systems, the World Bank is careful to point out that cash transfers are not a panacea for development.

They do not generate essential public infrastructure or services such as roads, hospitals, vaccination programs and municipal water supply systems. Nor will they train nurses, teachers or other long-term skilled workers who are essential to promote development. The truth is that cash transfers are not part of the routine of governance. They were designed to help people affected by a humanitarian crisis in which opportunities for employment, income and economic production have ceased to exist.

Under such circumstances, a short-term cash transfer program (CTP) has been shown to have many benefits, including temporary poverty reduction, improved nutrition, and increased school enrollment. However, the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria is in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and not in villages spared from the insurgency.

The World Bank has warned that pumping money into a community without any commensurate increase in productivity will only lead to inflation in the locality, as prices of goods will rise as demand increases without increasing supply. Neither the federal government nor the state government has been able to overcome the challenges of properly implementing a CTP.

There are issues accessing cash on time, distance from cash collection facility, loss of program identification numbers, late payments and unknown time or date of these payments. The available evidence indicates that there is little or no long-term benefit for CTPs; in fact, many believe that such programs only encourage laziness and the expectation of well-being.

The key to these transfers should be to enable recipients to start their own businesses and seek a way out of poverty, but the system as practiced in Nigeria simply seeks to appease the poor without lifting them out of poverty. . There is also an unresolved debate about why these transfers are targeted and not paid to all citizens living in extreme poverty.

What is the rationale for them to be selective by state and local government, especially since CTPs are prone to the kind of high-level corruption for which Nigeria has a well-deserved reputation. The unanswered question is; “Are poor Nigerians only located in a particular geopolitical chart region?” The World Bank has identified five characteristics essential to the success of CTPs. It is comprehensive data, flexible targeting, caveat of conditionalities, use of technology and partnerships which are all substandard in Nigeria. CCTs that lack data consolidation, coordination, and security measures never have a meaningful impact on those who need it most. There are far better and more transparent ways to do CTP in Nigeria, especially since the basis for beneficiary selection is opaque. The real issue is the politics of social protection and social change.

Neither the federal nor state governments have been able to articulate what they expect the impacts of CCTs to be, over what timeframe, for what segment of the population, and at what cost. The incoming administration must ensure that the sequence of actions is timed to generate public support rather than breed resentment.

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