By Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President
The Social Investment Programmes of the Buhari administration would be expanded to improve the welfare of more Nigerians, according to Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Prof. Osinbajo stated this on Thursday in Benin, Edo State during the official flag-off of the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHSFP) in the State.
The components of the administration’s Social Investment Programmes include the N-Power programme, the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), which consists of the MarketMoni, FarmerMoni and TraderMoni schemes.
With the addition to Edo State, the number of participating states in the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme has now risen from 26 to 30 out of 36 states nationwide.
The 30 States now participating in Home Grown School Feeding Programme include: Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo; Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Osun, Oyo, Ondo and Ogun.
The others are Benue, Niger, Plateau, Kaduna, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Jigawa, Adamawa, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Kogi and Edo states.
The six remaining states – Rivers, Lagos, Ekiti, Kwara, Bayelsa, Yobe and Rivers – and the FCT are set to commence implementation of the programme soon.
The school feeding programme, which is a part of the Buhari administration’s Social Investment Programmes (SIP), currently feeds 9.3 million school children one nutritious meal a day in over 50,000 public primary schools nationwide (aside from the number in Edo State).
Also, the NHGSFP has created thousands of jobs for cooks, farmers and indigenes in the communities where these schools are located. Currently, there are 101,000 cooks engaged in the programme, while more than 150,000 small holder farmers and youths are engaged in the overall value chain of NHGSF; from production to processing, aggregation, packaging and distribution across different states nationwide.
The Federal Government provides 100% funding support, for feeding primary 1-3 pupils, while states provide operational funding support.
Speaking at the event in Benin, the Vice President noted that the administration’s Social Investment Programmes is the ‘largest social safety net programme in the history of Nigeria, noting that Nigerians benefit from the school feeding programme in different ways.
Prof Osinbajo said, “At the moment there are over a hundred thousand small holder farmers that are linked to the school feeding programme who supply locally sourced ingredients every single week. Now this means that 594 cows, 138,000 chickens and 6.8 million eggs, and 33 metric tonnes of fish, are consumed every single week.
“So, for everybody who is involved in the programme, there is a major benefit, for agriculture and for the country. Fishermen are bringing in their fish, poultry farmers their poultry, and those selling cows and meat; everybody has a part to play.”
In the same vein, the Vice President said the SIPs have created jobs for thousands of Nigerians, adding that the Buhari administration’s Next Level plan include scaling up the programmes and providing more jobs for Nigerians.
This would include expanding the N-Power job scheme that currently has employed 500,000 graduates and 20,000 non-graduates, and microcredit schemes (under GEEP) – MarketMoni, FarmerMoni and TraderMoni – that currently has about 2 million beneficiaries nationwide.
He said, “At the Next Level, which is what we are talking about now, what we are saying is that we must make this programme even bigger. We are going to employ even more graduates in the N-Power programme and we are going to expand the N-Power programme so that it becomes also a training programme, for those already in the programme so that they can acquire more skills than they have acquired now. Anybody who comes out from the N-Power programme should be able to find themselves jobs anywhere in the world and in Nigeria.
“We are also going to expand our microcredit programme, and we will increase the money we give at the moment to traders, artisans. At the moment, we are doing about two million across the country, but we intend to expand that to five million then to 10 million so that each person who is trading anywhere finds some credit to be able to buy more goods, and so more for themselves.”
Speaking further, Prof. Osinbajo said young Nigerians would be provided more opportunities to improve their skill sets and contribute more to the nation’s economy.
He said, “The other thing we want to do is to ensure that young people who want to start businesses have the opportunity to start their businesses by getting some credit. That is why we want to start the Entrepreneur Bank. At the moment, the Bank of Industry does all of that. But we are going have a specialised bank that will focus on providing opportunities for young people and providing services for young people. Our country is set for the biggest revolution we have ever seen.”
The Vice President noted that the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari has been able to achieve more because of its commitment to Nigerians and determination to eradicate grand corruption.
He added that Nigerians should hold their leaders to account, noting that past mismanagement of the nation’s resources had hindered the country’s development.
Prof. Osinbajo said, “We must not allow our leaders to steal our resources and after stealing those resources, they ask the question, “why is the country poor, why are we so poor?” Why will you not be poor if your money is stolen? The money meant for development is stolen, that is why we are poor.
“The reason why our country has been held down, the reason our country has not made progress is because those who led this country (in the past) allowed themselves to steal the resources of the country. Corruption is the major reason why our country has not grown.”
Prof Osinbajo further noted that the country was beginning to see improvements in its infrastructure under the Buhari administration.
He said, “We are now building the 2nd Niger Bridge totally. We have laid the foundation. The President has devoted resources to it under our Infrastructure Fund and Sovereign Wealth Fund.
“Look at the Itakpe-Warri railway line, a 35 years project, they refused to do it; we have completed it. Look at the Lagos-Kano rail we are commissioning the Lagos-Kano rail soon. The first phase of the Lagos-Kano rail started from Apapa port.
“That is what happens when you have a President who is honest. That is why despite the fact that we are earning 60 per cent less than the previous government, we have spent N2.7 trillion on capital, the largest ever in the history of Nigeria. The only reason why you can do more with less is if you don’t steal the money. But that will stop. Our country’s future is great.”
The Vice President said the country has the resources and the capacity to improve the lives of Nigerians and to make young Nigerians especially competitive in the global economy. “That is what President Muhammadu Buhari is going to do. That is what the Next Level means,” he added.