Foremost environmental rights advocacy group, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has decried the controversy surrounding the promised monthly stipend to unemployed Nigerians, asking the President Muhammadu Buhari administration convene a high-level committee on National Basic Income Scheme.
One of the cardinal campaign promises of the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the last general elections was a monthly stipend to unemployed Nigerians when the party is elected to power at the center.
President Buhari, had, while in Saudi Arabia in an interactive session with Nigerians last week reportedly said that the payment of the monthly handout of N5,000 as promised by the APC which is the platform on which he emerged as president, was not his priority.
In a statement issued in Enugu, ERA/FoEN said the president’s remarks and double speak of the present administration on the issue was unfortunate and smacks of taking Nigerians, particularly the unemployed serious.
ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo said: “We are perplexed that this issue has lingered with back and forths from the APC and the Presidency. Nigerians refuse to accept the current administration’s attempt to renege on this promise which is one of the several on which it rode to power. This is not acceptable”
Ojo noted that, “while ERA had welcomed the APC initiative when it was made during the elections, we had also pointed out that the N5,000 pledged was meager and should be jerked up to above N10,000 to reflect the existing reality of massive poverty and disenchantment in the land. It is therefore a let-down that the APC-led government is now doing a 360 degree U-turn by failing to implement the policy”
He added that, the government should look for a way to generate funds to fulfill the pledge even as he recommended that ERA/FoEN proposal for sustainability of the initiative through a National Basic Income Scheme (NaBIS) for the unemployed is hinged on taxing wealthy Nigerians to pay those that are socially excluded.
“The federal government should set up a high level National Task Force to explore ways of its implementation. ERA/FoEN suggests that a one percent tax on earnings exceeding N500,000 can complement budgetary provisions for NaBIS.
From that source the nation can sustain the payment of the stipend. The NABIS is a social security system that ameliorates to an extent the inequality in the land and redresses the widening gap of inequalities”.
“We cannot allow our people and particularly those willing to work to continue to wallow in poverty and idleness when a few are stinking rich and display their opulence in abominable abandon. This administration should do a rethink “, Ojo insisted.