With the extension of the lockdown by two weeks as directed by President Muhammadu, there is no doubt that more people will suffer terribly. Most especially the poor masses who survive on a daily basis.
Unlike the more advanced countries with effective and efficient social welfare schemes, Nigerians Social welfare scheme has been in a bizarre state or even none existent. Leaving the poorest of the poor vulnerable to the predatory claws of hunger and starvation. This has made some frustrated citizens to voice out in the streets that they rather die of the virus than watch their families die of starvation.
These are not the only ones whom our hearts must go out to. Let’s also think about the road side vendors, who depend on daily hustles for survival, there are the employees in the private sector who have lost their jobs due to loss of productivity, religious leaders are not left out of the quagmire neither are the retirees who gave approximately 35 years of their productive life to service of the nation. These are are the real casualties of the lockdown.
It is also a cause for serious concern that the rate of criminal activities like armed robbery and burglary has been on a steady rise, and is gradually changing the narrative from sit at home to steal at home. People no longer feel secure in their homes where are they are supposedly hiding from an invisible killer virus, only to meet at night with human virus.
The Federal Government made a promise that it will give undisclosed amount as palliatives to cushion the effect of the lockdown, but the criteria adopted for this disbursement begs some questions. He stated that the payment will only be to those who have less than N5, 000 in their bank accounts, and who do not recharge their mobile phones with not more than N100.
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, in a press briefing in Abuja, said the ministry would now focus on the “urban poor” to carry out President Buhari’s directive to distribute palliatives to cushion the effects of COVID-19.
In her words, “You are aware that the President in his broadcast of Monday 13th April, directed that we expand the beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer by one million, and in this regard, we are going to focus more now on the urban poor.
“These are people who depend on the informal sector to earn their livelihood; they are daily wage earners and these are the people that we are really going to focus more on as well as people living with disabilities.”
She further stated that the ministry had three options to be adopted in selecting the beneficiaries of the scheme: one, using the national social register; two, focusing on the urban poor by using their verified BVN accounts to get people that have an account balance of N5, 000 and below.
“We are also using the mobile networks, to know people that top up the credit units for their phones with may be N100 or less”.
We hope that the federal government will not not be applying double standards in selecting beneficiaries of the palliatives. Before they began paying those they claim to be in their register N5,000 every month, did they identify them through their BVN bank accounts? Did they not claim to have first identified the poor people, and later asked them to open bank accounts through where they are now paying them?
Interestingly, majority of those who sit at street corners soliciting for alms, who sell pure water or gala meat along the roads, very old women in the villages who find it extremely difficult to eke out a living, do not have any bank account. For them, what is utmost in their minds, is their daily bread, and not opening bank account.
Even when people are doubting the genuineness or authenticity of the so-called national register used for sharing out what belongs to us all poor, which of course, does not include extreme poor people in my state, in my local government area, and in my community, the federal government still insists on using the same register to administer its largesse to the people, and at the same time, wants to add to that list, other questionable names, called the “urban poor”, whose bank accounts would be less than N5,000. May God help us.
DR. DONS EZE