According to a Punch writer, The decision by government to share this money to the poor and the vulnerable has its own immediate benefits. But in the long run, it will not solve the problem of poverty. This is for the simple reason that if you are distributing the funds to Nigerians, especially the poor who constitute about 70 per cent of our population, the question is: what are the beneficiaries going to use such funds for? The immediate benefits they can derive from the funds will be consumptive in nature. By this I mean the beneficiaries will spend the money to buy consumables such as food, clothing and allied products. I feel the funds should be used to create jobs through skill acquisition programmes. The poor could be incorporated into such programmes. This, I believe, will be the best way to ensure that beneficiaries enjoy regular incomes on a sustainable basis.
That would be better than embarking on a one-off distribution of money. Will the distribution be made annually or monthly? On the other hand, if the Federal Government will take a bill to the National Assembly saying that every recovered looted fund will annually be distributed among the poor and that it would be a consistent source of income, like a social welfare scheme to a certain category of vulnerable Nigerians it would be better. But in a developing society like ours, what the people actually need is a set of skills that will make them productive for their own benefit as well as that of society.
If a Nigerian is supposed to get N100,000, for instance, and the government puts the funds together, it can set up skills acquisition centres in the 774 local government areas in the country and then, the poor can be incorporated. An amount could later be given to beneficiaries to get the tools so that they can become self reliant. But with things like these create lot of room for corruption as experience in Nigeria has shown over the years. We will still have cases of corruption and abuse like we’ve heard about the SURE-P. Such issues come up largely due to the fact that beneficiaries don’t get their funds directly. There should be a committee to manage such funds; they should be tied to a ministry that has the responsibility to oversee social development. •Arodoye Nosakhare (Public Sector Economist, University of Benin)
It is certainly not. You don’t solve a huge problem such as the skills and infrastructure gaps by simply throwing money at people. As it is often said, give a man fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. This applies to the situation we have at hand. If the Federal Government is serious about reducing poverty through job creation, it must take the issue of technical and vocational education seriously. This money that has been recovered would have been put to better use in this area. Government should have used a bulk of the money to build and equip at least one skills acquisition centre in each of the six geo-political zones of the country. Qualified personnel who will be properly remunerated should be engaged to handle these centres. These centres must also be properly supervised by relevant agencies of government. That way, Nigerians will get value for money and the people so trained will be useful to themselves and the society at large. But this idea of sharing money to people without a deliberate effort to improve their lives in the long run will be counterproductive. There is nothing wrong with government using part of the money to revamp our technical schools spread all over the country; most of them are in a terrible shape. This can change for the better where there is a political will. •Prof. Tunde Fatunde (Department of French Studies, Lagos State University, Ojo)
The Abacha loot should be shared among the three tiers of government. This is the position of the constitution. Indeed, the Federal Government of Nigeria is supposed to run a zero-net account where all revenues come in and are constitutionally distributed to all tiers of government. The loot, if treated as revenue, is supposed to be deposited in the Federation Account and divided among all tiers of government for development purposes.
The other option is for all the tiers of government to come together and decide what to do with the money. They can appoint an administrator to help them achieve that aim. If this happens, it means that the three tiers of government are involved. It would also mean that they have received equitable compensation from the money which originally belonged to them before it was diverted; it is like returning a lost but found item to the owner.
Whichever option is taken must be within the provisions of the constitution. It does not matter what the parties do with their portion of the recovered loot.
My advice, however, is to request government at all levels to come together and do a meaningful revenue yielding project with the money, using a sort of fund manager or as equity participation in a private sector driven projects. It must be a private sector driven project because government has no business going into business. Successive governments have shown a lack of capacity to successfully run a profitable business venture. • Mr Sunday Babalola (Ex-Kwara State PDP governorship aspirant)
The so called plan to pay the recovered Abacha loot to poor and vulnerable Nigerians is deceitful. The President is deceiving us with this plan but we all know that this is a ploy to either embezzle the money out rightly or to use same to rig the 2019 presidential election. The 2019 election is close and corrupt politicians will do anything to remain in power; we cannot be fooled by this plan. It is deceitful and we reject it.
Why can’t the Federal Government use the money to develop agriculture or invest in the transport sector which will have positive impact on every Nigerian? I disagree with their so called plan to pay the money to the poor. What criteria will they use to determine the poorest people? They want to start paying the money to some people so that they can manipulate them to gain undue political advantage before the next election. This is ungodly! Is that how much they love the poor?
The loot can also be shared to all the states and the state governors can decide how best to apply it to solve the most pressing needs of their people. However, there should be a way of ensuring proper supervision to prevent a situation where money recovered is lost again to another set of greedy public officials and their cronies.
So many states still owe salaries. And we know artisans and other category of citizens in most of these states depend on the regular payment of salaries to keep their business running. If this fund is paid to states, it will definitely have positive impact on the economy. But this direct payment into the accounts of party members is bad and should not be allowed.
Who are the masses they want to pay this money to? The money should be paid like a bailout to states and each state will determine how best to use the money. But they should make it public and people in each state should be given the opportunity to monitor how these funds are spent. •Mr Tosin Odeyemi (Chairman, Restoration Party of Nigeria)
I think we need to rethink some of our interventionist approaches to poverty reduction. It is good to give money to the poor and the vulnerable, but is this sustainable? I think it should be tied to some form of productive activity so that beneficiaries will be given the necessary skills to survive without depending on handouts from government. The Federal Government also has to undertake a review of its strategies in the area of dealing with the issue of poverty. We may need to ask why previous efforts failed.
This will help us to develop new strategies to get better results. I will love to see a situation where beneficiaries will be in a position to take others out of poverty by showing them the way after they must have benefitted from this gesture from government. • Auwual Musa (Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre)