Abacha Loot: How does Nigeria determine ‘poor homes’ beneficiaries?
Nigerian government has said that it will begin disbursement of the famed ‘Abacha loot’ to Nigerian poor homes from this July. The reason for choosing ‘poor homes’ is to enable the poorest of the poor from 19, out of 36 states, benefit N5000 monthly from country’s ‘stolen but recovered’ funds.
Former military president, Sani Abacha, was said to have stolen Nigeria’s wealth in millions of dollars and stashed same in Swiss banks about 20 years ago. Subsequent Nigerian governments have been making efforts to recover the funds and put them in good use.
Among numerous ideas of how to put the ‘Abacha loot’ in good use, the Mummadu Buhari government is to share $322m of the recovered fund to the poor.
But there are some questions that beg for answers about the Buhari’s idea: how does Nigeria know the poor homes? What can the sum of N5000 (Five Thousand Naira) much less than a 15$ USD do for a ‘poor home’ in a month? What is the criteria for choosing the 19 states out of 36 states of the federation? How did the government arrive at 302, 000 poor homes? Who is poor, is it the one who couldn’t afford a home or the one who doesn’t want t home?
The explanations at the recent meeting, on Thursday, of National Cash Transfer Office (NTCO), Civil Society Organisations and the Swiss Embassy did not answer the questions above.
The poor states, according to the NTCO are from: Niger, Kogi, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Kwara, Cross River, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarrawa, Anambra and Internally Displaced Camps (IDPs) in Borno. While, no doubt, there are very poor homes in those states, it beats out imagination that States like Ebonyi, Abia, are not in the list while states like Anambra, Kano, Katsina and Kaduna are listed to harbor the poorest in Nigeria. These 19 states have been receiving some handout from the Federal Government as a result of their ‘poor status’ from 2016.
The 302,000 poor homes are derived from the National Social Register (NSR). Who is keeping the register and how are people encouraged to enlist in the register? It won’t be a surprise that the NSR is not a popular place. Mrs Linda Ekeator of the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment said the Abacha loot was invested in the social investment programme, because it was a programme that was already supported by the World Bank. She said that before the money was returned to Nigeria, there was an agreement with the Swiss government that it should be used for alleviating poverty and this was to be done with the supervision of the World Bank. If that is so, then Nigeria should find the right social investment scheme.
It is no surprise that this social investment idea of the Nigerian government has received knocks from some knowledgeable individuals including Senator Shehu Sani who said Nigeria should devise a better means to distribute the ‘wealth of the nation’.
There are better ways of wealth distribution. Each idea should be fashioned to accommodate all parts of the country from North to South. There is no part of Nigeria where you can’t find very poor households, even in the Federal Capital Territory. In the FCT, the very rich people in Asokoro and Maitama areas live side by side with the very poor. Immediately you move a distance off those high-brow areas, you meet the very poor people. It is like that in all states of the country.
It is high-time Nigerian government understands that they are elected to serve the entire country, not some ethnic interest. Out of the 19 states listed, 14 States are from the North. This is not balance by any standard.
There are already speculations that Nigerian government wants to use the ‘Abacha loot’ to fund the All Progressive Congress 2019 election campaign; that the beneficiaries of the N5000 per month are selected under the condition that they support the APC elections. While that may not be entirely correct, Discover Africa News believes that the logics fueling such speculations are sensible.
One of the better ways of reaching out to the poor in any society including Nigeria is to make public facilities available to the poor: healthcare, school, agricultural facilities, road, water etc. The rich do not depend on government for these basic social amenities because they can afford it. The poor die in their numbers for lack of access to these facilities. How many health centres can the ‘Abacha loot’ build across all states of the country? How many health facilities can the money equip in each state of the country? How many health experts can the fund pay for rural healthcare programme? These are ways to reach out to the poor and vulnerable.