President Tinubu’s Loan Request for Social Safety Net Programme Gets Senate’s Nod, Criticism Mounts
Controversy Surrounds Senate's Approval of $800 Million World Bank Loan for President Tinubu's Social Safety Net Programme
In a recent development, the Senate has granted approval for President Bola Tinubu’s request to borrow $800 million from the World Bank. The loan, as stated in the president’s letter, will be utilized to expand the national social safety net programme, aimed at providing support to the poor and vulnerable citizens of Nigeria.
President Tinubu’s letter, which was read by Senate President Godswill Akpabio during the plenary on Thursday, outlined the purpose of the loan and the government’s plan to transfer a monthly sum of N8,000 to 12 million impoverished and low-income households for a duration of six months. The funds will be directly transferred to the beneficiaries’ accounts to ensure transparency and credibility in the process.
The loan facility, according to President Tinubu, will contribute to the expansion of shock-responsive safety net support among the poor and vulnerable Nigerians. Furthermore, it aims to stimulate economic activities in the informal sector while improving nutrition, health, education, and human capital development within the households of the beneficiaries.
The Senate held a closed session from 3:32 pm to 4:41 pm to deliberate on the request and subsequently granted accelerated passage for its approval.
However, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) have voiced their opposition to President Tinubu’s plans, stating that it contradicts the work of the Presidential Technical Committee on the removal of subsidies. The NLC and TUC argue that any palliative payment should align with the agreements reached with labor during the technical committee meeting.
The NLC and TUC representatives raised concerns about the credibility and impact of the proposed N8,000 monthly payment, questioning its effectiveness in addressing the severe economic challenges faced by Nigerians. They emphasized the need for a comprehensive poverty alleviation policy and a collective agreement with organized labor before implementing such palliative measures.
The Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) also expressed concern about the criteria used to determine the beneficiaries of the programme. The union’s general secretary, Prince Peters Adeyemi, cautioned against potential misuse of funds and called for transparency in the selection process.
Director/CEO of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr. Muda Yusuf, emphasized the importance of inclusive and transparent frameworks for providing palliatives, suggesting that concessions in taxation and import duties should be considered to alleviate the impact of rising food prices, energy costs, and transportation expenses.
The Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria (MAAN) described the proposed monthly payment of N8,000 to 12 million households as an insult to Nigerians, highlighting the inadequacy of the amount to meet the basic needs of a family. They questioned the criteria for identifying the poor households and raised concerns about the potential diversion of funds.
Prof Uche Uwaleke, President of the Association of Capital Market Academics of Nigeria (ACMAN), criticized the proposed palliative as suboptimal and suggested alternative non-cash measures. He recommended dividing the funds among the 774 local government areas in Nigeria to ensure that the money reaches the grassroots level.
David Adonri, Executive Vice Chairman of HIGHCAP Securities Limited, labeled the N8,000 monthly payment as economically unwise and suspected it to be a tactic to appease party members at the grassroots level. He called the government’s approach financially irresponsible and lacking in seriousness.
Mr. Adebisi Ikuomola, Deputy Managing Director, Technical, of Anchor Insurance Plc, raised questions about the distribution of funds, pointing out the absence of a comprehensive database to accurately identify the intended beneficiaries.
Human rights activist Prince Saviour Iche expressed the belief that Nigerians are not reliant on monetary palliatives but rather require job opportunities and an enabling environment for sustainable livelihoods. He urged the government to disclose the criteria used to select the 12 million households and emphasized the need for investments in human and infrastructural development to benefit the poor.
The approval of President Tinubu’s loan request by the Senate has sparked both support and criticism from various sectors of society. The concerns raised by labor unions, civil society organizations, and industry experts highlight the importance of transparency, inclusivity, and comprehensive strategies in addressing the challenges faced by the poor and vulnerable populations in Nigeria.