New Telegraph

February 24, 2024

Deploying NG-CARES in alleviating poverty in Kwara

STEPHEN OLUFEMI ONI reports on the efforts of the Kwara State Government to mitigate and cushion the effects of Covid-19 pandemic and reduce poverty among the people of the state, particularly the poor and vulnerable households, using the NG-CARES programme

 

Though the Covid-19 pandemic seems to have drastically eased off and subsided across the globe, its pains and devastating impacts on the world’s economy, particularly lives of the people, are still reverberating and can hardly be quantified. Suffice to say that its debilitating effect is still being greatly felt by all and sundry, particularly in developing nations.

 

As a matter of fact, the citizenry, particularly in Nigeria, have been subjected to unprecedented abject poverty, ravaging inflation and mass unemployment in a manner never experienced before due to the ravaging pandemic. It is for this reason that the Federal Government initiated the Covid-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (NG-CARES) to cushion and mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the economy and hapless Nigerians.

 

NG-CARES, therefore, is a support programme to state governments by the Federal Government through the World Bank to cushion the adverse effects of Covid-19 on the citizenry, particularly the poor and vulnerable across the land.

 

Employment opportunities New Telegraph’s checks revealed that NG-CARES is an emergency operation designed to support budgeted programme of expenditures and interventions at the state level, targeting existing and newly emerging vulnerable and poor households, agricultural value chains, and Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) affected by the economic crises occasioned by Covid-19 in order to bring down the cumulative effects of the pandemic on the citizenry. It is therefore gratifying to note that Kwara State is one of the states that keyed early to this programme.

 

Thus the administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, in partnership with the World Bank, decided to provide immediate employment opportunities in social sectors to the poor and vulnerable to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 pandemic within a two-year period that the programme was designed to operate. One of the beauties of the NG-CARES Programme, it was gathered, is that it is an intervention that is built on the platforms of existing projects in the state.

The platforms include Cash Transfer Programme (CTP), Youth Employment and Social Support Operations (YESSO), Community and Social Development Project (CSDP), FADAMA, and Kwara State Social Investment Programme (KWASSIP). Interestingly, aside from effectively keying into the NG-CARES programme, Kwara State immediately released funds for the take-off of the programme as a mark of its commitment.

 

To achieve the objectives of the NG-CARES Programme in the State, New Telegraph learnt that five Delivery Platforms were subscribed to, including the Labour Intensive Public Workfare (LIPW) which is responsible for the handling of all public works related activities.

The LIPW Delivery  Platform (DP), which is domiciled in the Ministry of Environment, commenced full implementation with the conduct of Orientation, Validation, Enrolment and Bank Account Opening Programme for the first batch of 1,025 prospective beneficiaries across the 16 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state in June last year. Beneficiaries comprised mainly unskilled youths and women within the age brackets of 18 to 50 years, who must possess educational qualification not exceeding Senior Secondary School Certificate or below. Eligible beneficiaries

The purpose of the validation exercise, it was gathered, was to enable the Delivery Platform enrol only those beneficiaries that were still within the eligibility criteria for enrolment into LIPW. Suffice to say that all the enrollees were drawn from the National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO) and State Social Register (SSR), domiciled at the State Operations Coordinating Unit (SOCU). The beneficiaries were engaged in cleaning and maintaining of public institutions and utilities, garbage and refuse collections and waste disposal, as well as traffic control, among others.

 

These tasks, it was learnt, must be performed in the immediate communities of the beneficiaries for a maximum period of four hours per day, excluding weekends and public holidays.

 

In all, they are expected to work for 20 days in a month; and in return, each beneficiary is to receive the sum of N10, 000 as monthly stipend for 12 calendar months after which another batch of 1,025 new beneficiaries would be absorbed for one year before the end of the programme.

 

Addressing the Community Development Officers (CDOs) from the 16 LGAs at a meeting in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, before the deployment of the beneficiaries, the then Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Abosede Olaitan Buraimoh, charged the officers to work assiduously towards ensuring the success of the programme in their respective LGAs, adding that the state government placed high premium on the NG-CARES Programme as a way of alleviating poverty in the state.

 

She, therefore, urged the CDOs to complement government’s efforts by being alive to their responsibilities, saying as intermediaries between the Ministry and the LGAs, there is the need for them to escalate any challenge being encountered on the field to the Ministry on time, with a view to addressing such encumbrances promptly.

 

With the completion of the Orientation and Validation of the beneficiaries, the first batch of 1,025 validated beneficiaries from about 450 Communities were, on April 18, 2022, deployed in labour intensive public works within their immediate communities across the 16 LGAs of the state. In the same vein, payment of their monthly stipends into their individual Bank Account commenced simultaneously as approved by the Payment Service Provider (PSP) for the programme without any default to date.

 

Daily attendance register However, a precondition for the payment is the signing of the daily attendance register. To ensure compliance and promptness at work on the part of the beneficiaries, staff of LIPW used to embark on regular routine Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Exercise in the 16 LGAs every month.

 

This is intended to examine the progress made and also ascertain the challenges being faced by the beneficiaries on the field with a view to proffering solutions to them. Besides, periodic spot checks are embarked upon by external agents like Third Party Monitors and Independent Verification Agents (IVA), among others. The reports generated from the monthly monitoring, it was gathered, have been highly rewarding because the M&E was used as an avenue to advise the beneficiaries on the need to save a little of their stipends for the rainy day.

 

The exercise is also used to give them skill acquisition training on things they can fall back to after exiting the NG-CARES Programme.

 

In line with the programme policy that no beneficiary would receive stipend by hand, the PSP provided all beneficiaries under the first batch with Automated Teller Machine (ATM) Cards to enable them access their stipends. The ATM distribution exercise was flagged off at the Unity Road, Ilorin branch office of the First Bank Nigeria Plc.

 

Addressing the beneficiaries from Asa, Ilorin East, South, West and Moro LGAs, the Technical Head of LIPW, Alhaji Shamsideen Aregbe disclosed that the distribution exercise was slated to commence with local governments within the Emirate ahead of others that would come up later. He told the beneficiaries that their stipends have been paid into their respective bank accounts for those who have successfully completed their bank documentation exercise.

 

According to him, 208 other beneficiaries out of an initial total of 1,025 beneficiaries, whose bank documentations were still being processed, would be paid their stipends  upon the completion of their accounts opening processes. Injecting funds In another bold move, the AbdulRazaq administration went a step further to make funds available for the procurement of health and safety equipment and light tools for distribution to beneficiaries of the scheme across the 16 LGAs.

 

Flagging off the distribution exercise on behalf of the state government at Pake Area Office of Ilorin East and South LGAs on May 23, 2022, the Commissioner for Environment, Mrs. Remilekun Banigbe, disclosed that the programme was designed as an auspicious strategy for poverty reduction among the teeming youths who have been made vulnerable by the concomitant adverse effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

 

The distribution of the equipment, according to her, was in line with Covid-19 protocols and the need to protect the LIPW beneficiaries against foreseeable and unforeseeable health hazards. While commending the governor for his commitment and support for the success of the NG-CARES in the state, Banigbe urged the beneficiaries and stakeholders at all levels to perform their roles responsibly, efficiently and effectively towards the attainment of the objectives of the programme. Items distributed included hand gloves, sanitizers, nose masks, brooms, cutlasses, packers, and reflective jackets, among others.

 

At the event, the Technical Head of LIPW in the State, Alhaji Shamsideen Aregbe intimated that the programme was designed to provide, among others, immediate employment opportunities for the poor and vulnerable households. He appreciated the State Governor for his untiring resilient support which, he noted, culminated in the effective implementation and take off of the NG-CARES Programme in the state.

 

Alleviating poverty It is evident that poverty in Kwara State, especially among the poor and vulnerable households, would be drastically reduced if the NG-CARES programme, coupled with the administration’s multipronged approach towards providing hope for the poor and vulnerable in the state as witnessed in the state’s lofty programmes like the Kwara State Social Investment Programme (KWASSIP), via Owo Isowo, Owo Arugbo, Cash Transfer, and School Feeding programme, which have, no doubt, yielded positive dividends on the lives of the poor and vulnerable households in the state are pursued to logical conclusion.

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