In his bid to ensure the successful take off of the social protection programmes promised by his administration, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointment of Mrs. Maryam Uwais as his Special Adviser for Social Protection Plan.
Uwais, a lawyer with over 20 years’ experience, is said to have already started work in the office of the Vice President.
A top Presidency official who pleaded anonymity disclosed this to selected journalists in Abuja on Sunday.
The official said the 2016 Budget proposal was loaded with provisions for the implementation of the social programmes, hence the reason why “the Presidency is seeing the current controversy in the Senate regarding two versions of the proposed budget as a distraction and a storm in a tea cup.”
“The budget sent out by the Presidency is a bunch of proposals which would only become sacrosanct relatively after it has become an appropriation. To now have all this hue and cry on alleged versions, and switched copies is not just a distraction, but a storm in a tea cup,” he said.
For instance, the official said a provision had been made in the budget to grant a one-time soft loan of about N60,000 each to one million market women, men and artisans in 2016.
The official said there were important components in the budget proposals which should be discussed including the soft loan, which he said, was the micro-credit component of the Buhari’s Social Protection programmes.
This component, according to the official, will gulp about N60bn and is one of a six-point social protection programme of the administration.
He added that the details of the implementation of the micro-credit scheme were being worked out and would be rolled out once the budget must have been approved by the National Assembly.
He also said there were five other social protection schemes identified to be coordinated by Uwais with an effective inter-ministerial involvement.
“Besides the micro-credit scheme, there are five other social investment plans of the Buhari administration already provided for in the budget with about N500bn, or an unprecedented nine per cent of the total budget.
“It is believed that this is the first time that the Federal Government is spending this much on targeted social welfare scheme,” he said.
He listed the five other schemes to include the Teach Nigeria Scheme; the Youth Employment Agency; the Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme; the Home Grown School Feeding Initiative and Free Education Scheme for Science Students.
Under the Teach Nigeria Scheme, the official said the Federal Government planned to employ 500,000 graduates as teachers.
“Under the scheme, government will hire, train and deploy the graduates to help beef up the quality of teachers in public schools across the nation. The selection of the 500,000 teachers is likely to be on states and FCT basis,” he explained.
Under the youth employment agency, he explained that between 300,000 and 500,000 non-graduate youths would be taken through skill acquisition programmes and vocational training, for which they would be paid stipends during the training.
The trainees, he said, would be expected to become self-productive members of their communities. The selection of the youths for this scheme, according to him, would also be per states and the FCT.
On the Conditional Cash Transfer, the official said government would pay N5,000 per month directly to one million extremely poor Nigerians this year on the condition that they had immunised children enrolled in schools.
While describing the CCT as the most misunderstood of the schemes, he clarified that it would only be for extremely poor people.
He also said the pilot scheme for the homegrown school feeding would start with a number of states drawn from across the country, and then developed to cover the entire country.
In the 2016 proposed budget, provision is said to have been made to implement this year on a pilot scheme basis.
He said the programme also had international supports from the global community including the Imperial College of the United Kingdom.