By Abdulkadir Salaudeen
This is because there are many poverties in Nigeria. Poverty upon poverty: this we all know. There is also the poverty of security, poverty of employment, poverty of social amenities, of freedom of expression, of better future, of economic development, of education; I can go on and on. This plurality of poverty must have informed the ranking of Nigeria as the Poverty Capital of the World (PCW). In fairness to the government of President Buhari, the roots of these poverties are traced to the corruption and malfeasances of regimes before him. But this regime, unfortunately, takes the ugly appellation: PCW. In other words, poverty snowballed to world prominence under this regime. That this government has done well or otherwise, the onus is on objective analysts and disinterested spectators to judge.
Let’s not forget that Nigeria’s economy had been on the lockdown since three months ago due to COVID-19. The government can not be blamed for this as it is not a Nigerian thing. It is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is a worldwide phenomenal lockdown that makes various governments around the globe to focus on the lifelines of their citizens, and even denizens through several palliative measures. They have come to realize that this is not the time to boost the economy, nor is it the time to embark on any meaningful infrastructural development or renovation. It is rather the time to channel vital resources to health and hunger. That is to say, resources are concentrated on addressing the pandemic Virus along with Corona Hunger (Hunger-20).
It is against this backdrop that the pronouncement of the intention to sack N-power volunteers came as a shock that makes many faces to grimace. Is it the right time to sever the lifeline? With the N30, 000 monthly stipend, the 500,000 volunteers are like being placed under life support machine. Any attempt to withdraw the peanuts is death; not a death sentence. The Ministry should not be allowed to send 500, 000 Nigerians to their early graves within a month just for committing a single crime: being Nigerians which is never their fault. I wish I can understand why and how being a Nigerian becomes a crime. They wouldn’t have been Nigerians, of course, if given the choice. It is true that the Batch ‘A’ of the N-power volunteer corps ought to have been disengaged since the end of 2018. Even then, there was a disengagement plan which was to give volunteers options of transition to community police, teaching, farming and mobile agents and access to N100, 000 loans to start a community business.
This cold action (or announcement as it is) of disengagement in the face of pandemic led the N-Power Representatives’ Forum to demand an explanation from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development about the transition of volunteers into government entrepreneurship schemes. They as well demanded to know when about 80, 000 volunteers are going to be paid their March, April and May stipends. What a pity! They are owed three-month stipends and are about to be disengaged. This is very callous. And this callousness is uncalled for. Thinking it is ruthless to disengage them, I am not alone. Hear the N-Power Representatives’ Forum: “...exiting us just like that as against the previous intention that we won't back to the street is the highest form of corruption. Federal Government of Nigeria should stop taking the unemployed youth in Nigeria for granted and should stop RAPING US because we cannot breathe” [emphasis mine].
This is a clarion call to the honourable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to jettison the bad idea. It is not humanitarian; it is uncaring. It is not disaster management; it is unleashing disaster on the masses. It is not social development; it is social backwardness. It is in the interest of the Minister to justify the name of the Ministry she heads. I wish she is a mother to have sympathy, empathy, pity and compassion which are motherly. And to our dear President, Sir, you promised to lift out hundred Million Nigerians out of poverty. This seems to be an indication of yoursubtle agreement with the World Poverty Clock’s ranking of Nigeria as the world capital of poverty. We thought the Social Investment Program (SIP) is an attempt in that direction. You should know that 500, 000 is just an infinitesimal 0.5% of 100,000,000. But we still have to appreciate you since we are in Nigeria where political promises are hardly fulfilled; where the bars and standards of government are invariably the lowest of the low. I am using this medium to kowtow before your Excellency Sir, on behalf of N-power volunteers; please do not sack them. Prevail on your honourable Minister to sheath her sword. Even with the N-power, the volunteers are still stuck inpoverty trap. Mind you, this should in no way stop the recruitment of batch ‘C’ into the scheme. At least if an additional recruitment of 500, 000 is made in batch ‘C’, it will augment the total number to one Million. If we assumed that N30, 000 does lift a Nigerian out of poverty, with one Million volunteer, you must have fulfilled your promise by 1 (ONE) percent. Since we are Nigerians in Nigeria; we shall still be grateful. Need I say more? I therefore beseech the Almighty God to help our Excellency and the honourable Minister take this counsel and do the right thing.
Abdulkadir Salaudeen writes from Federa University, Gashua, Yobe State.