THE recent efforts of the federal government to solve the seeming intractable economic problem bedeviling the country motivated her to introduce some sweeping policies that produced intended and unintended consequences that impacted very seriously and negatively too on the living conditions of Nigerians. This has necessitated the introduction of palliatives to cushion the negative effects of the policies.
THESE policies embrace the removal of the contentious petroleum subsidy and merging of the two existing foreign exchange markets in the country. They cumulatively led to sharp and multiple increases in fuel pump prices and unprecedented inflation resulting in the rise in the prices of essential goods and services beyond the reach of most Nigerians and pushing more people into poverty. Thus most Nigerians are now unable to access basic essential consumer commodities that make for good living.
THE reality now is that Nigerians are really suffering the consequences of the policies and in order to ameliorate the hardships by the people the federal government packaged some palliatives that included the transfer of N8,000 to poor Nigerians. This was vehemently opposed as inadequate to mitigate the skyrocketing food prices across the country. The Federal government therefore decided to channel the palliatives through the State governments to the people as follows; immediate approval of N5 billion for each State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to enable them to procure 100,000 bags of rice, 40,000 bags of maize and fertilizer for distribution to the poor in their respective States. It also released five trucks of rice each to the 36 state governors. However, 52 per cent of the funds were given to the state governments as grants, while 48 per cent of the N5b is to be paid back on an installment basis within a period of 20 months to the CBN by the states and the local government areas in the country.
LIKE all policy initiatives, the new palliatives released by the Federal government have attracted severe criticisms especially from the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) that they were unhappy that the palliatives are being channelled through the states. This is because they do not trust the states. According to them, the states may divert them as witnessed during the covid-19 pandemic. They also contended that the palliatives are inadequate to go round all the poor people of the country and consequently, it will not have the desired effect of cushioning the debilitating effects of the policies.
ALTHOUGH the federal government palliatives initiatives have attracted criticisms, the government should be commended for commencing the ameliorative programme in the first place. The state governments should follow the leading of the Federal government by not misapplying, misdirecting or keeping the palliatives in warehouses to rot away as was the case during the covid-19 where some state governments failed to made commodities given them available to the people. They should be more proactive and humane to ensure the so called palliatives reach the poorest of the people that actually required support. They should not be diverted or politicised to benefit only their party members and family members alone.
SUFFICE to emphasise that the poor people should be the actual beneficiaries and not the rich ruling class. The federal government should take cognisance that the palliatives are temporary and must seek for more realistic solution to the problem of poverty ravaging over 133 million members of its over 220 million population.
THE beneficiaries of the government palliatives should be humane and appreciative of the good intentions of government and work essentially to contribute to improving the productive base of the country that is at the lowest level at the moment. The committees constituted by state governments should not be limited to government officials alone but should be broad based to include critical stakeholders including artisans and people in the private sectors of the country’s economy and local governments.
TO ensure the success of the programme, Non-Governmental Organisations, NGOs, should assist in monitoring the distribution of the palliatives to ensure transparency and equitable distribution, while the government should not spare any official found wanting in carrying out the distribution of the palliatives. The government should also invest in critical sectors of the economy such as agriculture, transportation and other infrastructure that will assist the people in their daily endevours.