Some finance and economic experts have faulted the decision of the Federal Government to distribute the recovered $322m looted by the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, to the poor and vulnerable in 19 states of the federation.
The Federal Government had said it would commence the disbursement of the $322m Abacha loot, repatriated by the Swiss government, through Conditional Cash Transfers to 302,000 poor households in 19 states.
Reacting to the government initiative in separate interviews with Sunday Punch, some experts noted that the plan to release the fund to the poor households would only provide a short-term relief.
They advised the Federal Government to invest the money in critical projects that would provide long-term solution to the nation’s current economic challenges.
The experts, who expressed their views on the issue, are the Head, Department of Finance, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Prof. Uche Uwaleke; a former Managing Director, Unity Bank Plc, Mr. Rislanudeen Mohammed, and a Developmental Economist, Odilim Enwagbara.
Uwaleke, a Professor of Capital Market, said the scheme was vulnerable on its own and not foolproof.
He stated, “The cash transfer schemes, as a poverty alleviation measure, pose a number of challenges.
“The first is the challenge of selecting the beneficiaries and the objectivity in the criteria employed. Why the choice of 19 states when we have 36 states in Nigeria? There will definitely be transparency and accountability issues.
“The second issue is the challenge of sustaining the scheme from volatile and irregular income streams. The poor need food, access to water and health care. Depending on age, education is also important.
“Rather than share the recovered loot, the government is advised to tie the money, over N100bn, to a project that can make the most impact on the poor either in agriculture or health sector with measurable outcomes.”
In his comments, Mohammed said spending the money on social investment programmes would not address the fundamental problem of extreme poverty.
The former bank chief added, “Even if the stated specific targeted spending is part of the condition for the release of the recovered funds by the Swiss government, I believe the intended spending will be mere palliative measure and will not address the fundamentals of extreme poverty similar to the famous ‘bolsa familia’ programme in Brazil years back.
“Since the targeted spending will appear more of palliative than investment, the benefit may only be short-term. Investment programmes that will target supporting micro-economy and lifting more people out of poverty across the federation and with long-term multiplier economic impact are more potent alternative to utilising the funds rather than temporary palliatives.”
Enwagbara, in his comments, said the $322m was not wholly owned by the Federal Government, stating that it belonged to the three tiers of government.
Faulting the decision to spend the money on social safety programmes, the economic expert argued that the Federal Government could not share what it did not solely own.
He said, “No government can spend outside appropriation. So, the Federal Government cannot spend without National Assembly authorisation.
“How will government prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the so-called 302,000 names on the list are truly the right people?
“Won’t there be ‘ghost’ poor people involved? Won’t there be cases of funds diversion to politicians’ accounts? What is even the guarantee that the so-called 302,000 poor households are not APC cardholders, especially at a time that elections are just around the corner?”