The judgment of history is usually the most enduring, and as President Muhammadu Buhari weighs anchor in less than three weeks, posterity will be impartial, and, therefore, kind to him. One signpost of the administration is its care and kindness to Nigerians. Quietly. Without fuss. No adulation or self-aggrandizement.
We know the very visible ones. The Social Investment Programme (SIP), is described as the most ambitious and effective in Africa. In fact, so actuated is the government by its duty of care that it established the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, in 2019. The main reason was; care, care, care for Nigerians. The weak, the poor, the vulnerable, the hurting, those whose fate has compelled them to hold the shorter end of the stick, or even no stick at all.
We know of the N-power programme, the conditional cash transfer, the homegrown school feeding, and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP). Also, there is the social register, a repository of information on people who need social assistance, and who get succor on a regular basis. Over 50 million people are in that register.
These welfarist interventions give a window into the kind soul of the President, a man some people have not bothered to discern, dissect, and decipher. They just deliberately stay in the trenches of the past, soused and marooned in apocryphal beliefs: oh, he ruled with an iron fist as a military leader. He herded people into jail. He imprisoned journalists through Decree 4. He also had Decree 2, which gave him the power to detain anyone indefinitely. No human face. He’s a Fulani, and therefore, a herdsman, who supports his people to attack farmers. Religious bigot, who does not recognize any other faith. True? False. And I should know. Why? Because I’ve worked with him closely for 8 years, I can say I know the man Muhammadu Buhari, apart from the myth and the deliberate misconceptions.
History will adequately record the many ways in which President Buhari has quietly cared for Nigerians, but today, let’s look at the one called NG-CARES, silently attending to the needs of millions of our countrymen and women.
NG-CARES is the Nigeria COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus Programme. It is part of efforts geared towards achieving the core objectives of the Economic Sustainability Plan put in place in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The world was in dire straits after the advent of the Coronavirus in 2019. Borders were locked down internationally, economies crashed, oil prices collapsed, and people were also collapsing like ninepins. When the dust settled, over seven million people were dead globally, with almost a billion infected by the virus.
Putting on its thinking cap, Federal Government sought and obtained a 750 million USD credit facility from the World Bank to support the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory in the implementation of the NG-CARES Programme. The purpose is to mitigate the economic and social shocks faced by the poor and vulnerable as a result of the global lockdown.
The 36 States got allocated 20 million USD each and the Federal Capital Territory 15 million. According to the Supervising Minister, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, it is a multi-sectoral program designed to provide immediate emergency relief across various sectors, to vulnerable and poor Nigerians, Smallholder Farmers and SMEs that were adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hear the Minister: “By design, the NG-CARES is a Programme for Result (PforR) where States and the FCT are reimbursed for expending their own funds if they implement the programme in line with the signed Financing Agreement, the Funds Release Policy and Independent Verification Agent (IVA) Protocol.”
NG-CARES was launched on 20th January 2022, by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo SAN. The National Coordinator is Dr. Abdulkarim Obaje, a man with vast experience in public service.
Federal Government on Thursday 13th April 2023, disbursed the total sum of 45.3 billion naira to 29 States and the FCT. The results of the first round of assessment show that States and the FCT are improving on their strides to alleviate poverty in line with the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari. The Programme has impacted over 2 million direct beneficiaries who are poor and vulnerable in the 36 States and the FCT. The immediate target is 5 million people.
The World Bank has commended Nigeria for the successes recorded in the implementation of NG-CARES and has extended the programme by another year, till June 2024.
The Bank’s Task Team Leader for Nigeria, Professor Foluso Okunmadewa, says: “We are actually very proud and of course excited to be part of this. The World Bank is very proud to be a partner of the Federal and State Governments on the NG-CARES initiative.”
Okunmadewa submits that there had been substantial results.
Some revisionists are busy, trying to obfuscate issues and obliterate the achievements of the Buhari administration. But the truth is like a cork in water. The more you press it down, the more it stays afloat. After he retires to his native Daura, in Katsina State, we will always be glad that the honest man was here. I mean those who are fair-minded, but who happen to number in scores of millions.
*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity