In a country of about 200 million people, that is saying a lot. Also, a scheme that has been running for close to four years isn’t a palliative or skin-level intervention, as the writer would have readers believe, it is a system set in motion and is working and has room for improvement.


When an article is erected on a foundation of falsehood, then the rest of the piece would read as one from an uninformed writer desperate to cry wolf with no just cause. That is the only conclusion one could make after reading Banji Ojewale’s piece entitled, “Osinbajo and the Lamentation of the Ancient Mariner”.

At a time when there is a universal admission – even in enlightened western circles – that globalisation is breeding more inequality in wealth distribution in most countries, hence the urgency of the need to create social safety nets for the most vulnerable in the society, how pathetic that neo-Marxist Ojewale chooses to make a fetish of the obvious. Only an arm-chair critic expects to be lauded for misinterpreting a simple sentence or merely restating the obvious without providing new workable solutions.

It, therefore, beats one why Ojewale chooses to begrudge the Buhari-Osinbajo administration over its modest effort to bring succor to the most vulnerable in our society.

It is amusing reading Ojewale pontificating with magisterial finality on the “abundance” of resources in the fashion of those weaned on the old theory of Karl Marx, which time has since proved to be inadequate.

Indeed, at the fifth anniversary of the Airtel Touching Lives project held in Lagos on January 25, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) did talk about the impact of the Buhari administration’s Social Investment Programmes (N-SIP), which is made up of different components, such as the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, the Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme, the GEEP, and the N-Power job scheme.

As massive as the intervention has been within three years, the vice president stated that government could have done more but for the paucity of resources. He expressed the hope that if sustained, the initiative would surely help to mitigate extreme poverty in the land with time.

Apparently, Ojewale missed the wider import of the VP’s remarks, thus ignoring entirely or missing the wider picture of these remarks.

After noting that more needs to be done to touch the majority (200 million Nigerians), the VP did explain his point further that: “It is clear that to do so, we need far more resources behind that programme. This is why the work of socially conscious companies like Airtel is so vital, bridging the huge gap between what the government can do and what is left to be done.”

In a nutshell, the vice president’s statement was also a clarion call to other organisations like Airtel to support government’s efforts, so that such huge social welfare schemes like the SIPs could be replicated for more millions of Nigerians.

Let the truth be told: An unprecedented social safety net that is currently reaching over 42 million indirect and direct beneficiaries, more especially in country where such scheme was hitherto alien, isn’t a drop of water in an ocean, it is a deluge!


As the vice president noted during his remarks at the event, the N-Power job scheme has engaged 500,000 young graduates, as well as 200,000 non-graduates in different key sectors, and the School Feeding Programme caters for almost 10 million school children in 34 states.

The VP’s remarks simply provided an insight into the significant impact of the multi-faceted Social Investment Programmes nationwide.

So, in what way could the referenced statement by the vice president be termed an admission of government’s failure, as Ojewale would have us believe? Except the writer operates a different dictionary.

For the avoidance of doubt, the vice president meant that more could be achieved if socially-minded corporate entities joined in the national push against extreme poverty.

They say the largest room in the world is the one for improvement. This unlimited room for improvement is the same reason why humans search for greener pastures, despite having green grass all around them. It is the same reason why multi-billion-dollar corporations keep improving on smartphone apps, products and consumer goods. It is the same reason why nations all around the world are scaling up on their welfare schemes and other social programmes to reach more of their citizens.

It is precisely in that context that the vice president made the clarion call. It was not an admission of failure; it was a call to action, a clarion call borne from the heart of compassion. Let’s not forget that the Buhari administration’s Social Investment Programmes is a N500 billion social welfare scheme that has reached millions of Nigerians. Juxtapose that with the billions of the nation’s resources that had been frittered away in the past in the name of bogus programmes, while the commonwealth was being looted in broad daylight for decades.

However, it seems such distinction is lost on writers like Banji Ojewale who do not seem to see anything good in what the Buhari-Osinbajo government is doing in a country that had been bedeviled by the poor management of resources in the past.

Let the truth be told: An unprecedented social safety net that is currently reaching over 42 million indirect and direct beneficiaries, more especially in country where such scheme was hitherto alien, isn’t a drop of water in an ocean, it is a deluge!

To put this in perspective, no government before the Buhari/Osinbajo administration has driven such far-reaching national social safety scheme for ordinary Nigerians such as the SIPs. This is not only unprecedented in Nigeria, for the records, the SIP provides the largest social safety net in sub-Saharan Africa…


Since the implementation of the SIP in 2016, its programmes have impacted over 12 million direct beneficiaries and over 30 million indirect beneficiaries, comprising family members, employees of beneficiaries, cooks and farmers.

In a country of about 200 million people, that is saying a lot. Also, a scheme that has been running for close to four years isn’t a palliative or skin-level intervention, as the writer would have readers believe, it is a system set in motion and is working and has room for improvement.

To put this in perspective, no government before the Buhari/Osinbajo administration has driven such far-reaching national social safety scheme for ordinary Nigerians such as the SIPs. This is not only unprecedented in Nigeria, for the records, the SIP provides the largest social safety net in sub-Saharan Africa and, as noted, is positively impacting the lives of millions of Nigerians.

The nationwide social impact of the SIPs has garnered both local and global recognition for empowering Nigerians and meeting the urgent needs of Nigerians in different areas, including providing employment, supporting small businesses and poverty alleviation.

The GEEP programme (including TraderMoni and MarketMoni) has provided microcredit to over two million petty traders. Under the Trader Moni micro credit scheme, the federal government (FG), through the Bank of Industry (BOI), provides interest free and collateral free loan to petty traders and artisans. The loan ranges from N10,000 to N100,000 per beneficiary. Last year, the programme won the AfDB prize for financial inclusion because of the work that was done with TraderMoni.

In June 2019, One of the SIP components, GEEP, which is executed through the Bank of Industry, was recognised as the most impactful financial inclusion programme in Africa during the African Bankers’ Awards ceremony, which held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. There are several more awards won by the SIPs for their groundbreaking impacts on the lives of millions in Africa’s most populous country.

The testimonies of beneficiaries are there for all to see: From the young unemployed graduate, to the small business owner, to the farmers and cooks, the ordinary folks on the streets, to the petty trader in a roadside market, to the poor and vulnerable in society – who N5,000 means the world to, to many more Nigerians everywhere you go. It is a story of nationwide impact.

Unlike what Nigerians have witnessed in the past, the Buhari administration’s Social Investment Programmes have shown that government can actually put the welfare of the citizens as a cardinal focus of its policies and long-term vision. Twelve million direct beneficiaries and over 30 million indirect beneficiaries of the SIPs can testify to that. And, despite the myopic view of a few, that is a game changer of epic proportions.

Arukaino Umukoro, an award-winning writer, wrote from Abuja.