The Federal Government recently launched its Government Enterprise Empowered Programme (GEEP) under the name of ‘TraderMoni’, whose aim is to empower over two million petty traders in Nigeria between now and December this year. Coming under the government’s Condition Cash Transfer (CCT) exercise, the scheme was launched penultimate week in Lagos and is intended to grant a minimum of 30,000 loans in each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. According to the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President Laolu Akinde, in addition to the 30,000 loans per state, state with larger populations such as Lagos, Kano and Abia are expected to get additional allocations. Clarifying further Akinde stated that “across the country, especially in the pilot states, about 500,000 beneficiaries have already been enumerated and are awaiting the largesse.
For the purpose of clarification, the money for this exercise remains the sum of $322 million that was recovered from Swiss banks as part of the humongous loot of the country’s patrimony that was stolen and stashed away off-shore by the late Head of State General Sani Abacha. According to the Presidency the choice of utilization of the funds was determined in line with an agreement between the Federal Government and the Swiss government that the money be used for alleviating poverty. Moreover, the distribution of the money among the poor beneficiaries was tailored around a programme developed by the Word Bank for poverty alleviation in Nigeria.
Ambitious and apparently well intentioned as the scheme may sound, its advent conjures a complement of concerns especially over the challenge of transparency. While the programme offers well deserved relief for the teeming millions of Nigerian poor who manage to scrape a living in the down turned economy, any relief that will keep poverty at bay by any measure is welcome. However, like other poverty alleviation exercises before the Trader Moni dispensation, it may have commenced with exactly the same weaknesses of its predecessors.
Seen in context the fight against poverty has been on the front burner of successive governments right from independence in 1960. But virtually all of them have recorded limited successes, leaving the society sinking deeper into the vortex of poverty. The circumstances of present CCT constitute a tacit indictment of the past efforts and provide reason for the new scheme to be addressed with caution, if success is the goal.
A critical failure factor with the deluge of past poverty alleviation programmes remains the purely ephemeral context of their conception and shoddy implementation. Most of the past poverty alleviation exercises in the country were launched with resounding pomp and fanfare even when their implementation agenda were inchoate. A history of other countries provides enough evidence that poverty has never been alleviated by simply sharing out money to people without tying such to verifiable and sustainable productive ventures. Only coordinated and expanding level of productivity by individuals and the government provide the capacity to chase poverty away from a country. The CCT as prosecuted in yet to provide convincing evidence that such a management regime by the government is in place.
Another factor is that of transparency of the entire exercise, which would build public confidence in it. It is no secret that enumeration of the country’s informal sector where the targeted poor belong has always generated issues. The claim by the government that it had already enumerated the beneficiaries remains problematic, and requires more openness to enjoy more legitimacy. It is against the backdrop of these and other factors that make the public see the government’s gesture as requiring more work at the drawing table and making more Nigerians buy into it.
Besides, it hardly enjoys any significant nexus with the government’s Economic Growth and Reconstruction Plan (EGRP) whose emphasis is on speeding up infrastructural development in the country. Clearly even the targeted Nigerian poor would benefit more with improved infrastructure than the doling of mere peanuts-sized loans that would provide them sub-optimal dividends.