By ZAYYAD I. MOHAMMED
Some Nigerians are in support of the promise by the Buhari government to pay N5,000 social security money to poor and unemployed Nigerians, while other Nigerians oppose it. The opponents of the scheme fear that it will lead to laziness and emergence of a welfare state with its attendant consequences, while the supporters of the scheme belief that it will help to lift up the poor, cushion the scourge of poverty and boost the reduction of economic risks and insecurities of life.
Some opponents of the scheme have even suggested that the chunk of money to be used to fund the scheme should be used to set up industries and support small businesses, while the supporters of the scheme are of the view that the poverty level in the country has reached an alarming level- majority of Nigerians are very poor, thus, they desperately need such stipends. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was quoted to have said “we cannot talk about the economy of the future without addressing how we move people out of poverty”
Both the supporters and opponents of the N5,000 social security payment have genuine points. What is most important is the system of implementation. The government needs to design a middle-line approach to implement the scheme. The entire N5,000 social security money should not be 100% welfare scheme where individuals will be given money every month while sitting at home. If a middle-line approach is adopted, it will appease both the opponents and the supporters of the scheme.
The middle-line approach should be designed in such a way that, the proposed N5,000 social security money will be given to individuals while they are engaged in some productive activities. However, we must admit it will be a herculean task for such scheme to be successful in a society where government patronage, rent seeking and corruption are prevalent. Nevertheless, a government with political will can achieve it, but how?
Almost all government-owned primary schools, primary healthcare centres and ministries and agencies etc do not have adequate manpower, both skilled and unskilled. So, graduates, certificate holders and unskilled individuals who are qualified for the N5,000 social security money can be posted to such places to work while earning the monthly N5000 naira. The educated ones that may someday get permanent jobs will leave and will be replaced by others.
Another way to implement the scheme is that government should continue with the Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS). It is a good programme which creates opportunity for graduates to be attached to firms /organisations, where they can work for a year and enjoy a monthly stipend of N30,000. The government can remodel and expand the scheme to take more people apart from graduates.
Establishment of inventions and innovation centres is another way to implement the social security scheme. These centres can work as a ‘silicon valley’ for unemployed computer scientists, operations research, architects, engineers, lawyers etc to form hubs for startups. The centres can be run efficiently from the 5,000 naira that will be given to each participant- for example if a centre has 200 beneficiaries, each will contribute 1000 from his or her 5,000 to run the centre- i.e. a whopping 200,000 naira per month. With such arrangement, these beneficiaries will be using their brains to invent and innovate and at the same time use part of their 5,000 naira to pay salaries of other people. This kind of arrangement can be experimented in farms, small businesses to be setup by the government and run by the beneficiaries of the social security money.
The 5,000 naira social security scheme is a good idea, but the big question is how will the Buhari government fund this most striking promise of their campaign? There are avenues to get money to fund the scheme, apart from budgetary provisions, the government should also look into bonds issuance, coupon bonds; and proceeds from investment of pension funds. Another interesting area where funds can be tapped is to make laws to allow investing monies from the huge unclaimed dividends. Private sector can also fund the welfare scheme through offering employment to some categories of unemployed persons, but remuneration should be pegged at the 5,000 naira, then the surplus from monies meant for salaries can be used to pay other beneficiaries who are working in other public sectors like schools, hospitals and public works.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, firstname.lastname@example.org, 08036070980. He blogs at www.zayyaddp.blogspot.com
By ZAYYAD I. MOHAMMED