Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has described the proposed N1.35 trillion direct spending on extremely poor Nigerians as justifiable and would solve huge problems facing the country.
Professor Osinbajo, in his address during the ceremony in honour of a senior special assistant to Mr. President organised by Kano State government and held at Africa House, Government House, Kano, Saturday, argued that even among those who wish Nigeria well, they have difficulty in dealing with the problems of the poor.
Advancing his argument, Nigeria’s Vice President stated that N5,000 will be given to 25 million extremely poor Nigerians, which will cost the federal government roughly N1.35 trillion.
He faulted the elite and experts in economy, saying their solution and micro economic world view is one that understands only the problems of the commercial and business elite, while their answers to the scandalous level of mass poverty is, ‘let’s the business works first then there would be job and the poor would be taken care of.’
Osinbajo said: “I respectfully suggest that this is not the solution, the poor will all be dead before industries can provide enough jobs to go round. The answer, in my respectful view, is that while providing an environment for free enterprise, the government must proactively intervene by way of social protection and enhancement of opportunities for the very poor. Social spending is crucial.”
According to him, this is why the APC’s social welfare policies by “direct spending for the poor is one that is important in resolving the huge problems that Nigeria has currently.”
Yemi recalled that there have been many arguments about the issue of bailout for the states.
Said Osinbajo: “One of the difficulties that appeared to have risen was the fact that money was provided in one shape or the other, because the revenue of the states had dropped by almost 40 percent on account of the drop in the general revenues of the country.”
He disclosed that all the states put together got about N685 billion bailout.
“If you remember a few years ago when another bailout was done for those who owed large sums of money to the banks, about eight or 10 individual businessmen owed over N700 billion to the banks and there was a bailout and nobody complained.
“The reason why nobody complained again about banks’ bailout comes back to the question of not knowing how to deal with the problems of the poor. When the rich are concerned, it is very easy for all to understand why the bailout might be necessary.
“The cost of the bailout of all the banks during financial crisis came at about N5.3 trillion, while the cost of giving 25 million extremely poor Nigerians N5,000 is roughly about N1.35 trillion.
“The issue really is that we must begin to think that our economics must be one directed at thinking of how to deal with the problem of mass poverty.”
He maintained that the question of conditional cash transfer, which is giving money directly to the poor if they would have their children to go to school and participate in the immunisation, the free meals programme for all primary schools children, social benefit for the disabled and the elderly poor, is important in ensuring that millions of Nigerians are not left in the cold.
The vice president explained that today’s elite have mastered the art of taking advantage of the country’s fault lines for their own selfish interests. Mmany are prepared to say they belong to one religion or another as something that will advance their personal cause, and many are prepared to play the ethnic card even at the risk of rousing up crisis in the nation.
“One thing that’s obvious though is that when people gather to loot the resources of the state, religion doesn’t matter; neither does ethnicity. As a matter of fact, all (of them) are united when it comes to the business of corruption. Everyone was happy to be part of the game,” Osinbajo stated.