The Federal Government yesterday unfolded plans to cushion the economic hardship. According to the National Economic Council (NEC), the government hopes to accomplish its proposed interventions through collaboration with states and local governments.

The scope of the new interventions covers conditional cash transfers to the poorest of the poor, a cash award policy in aid of civil servants, a new minimum wage for workers, payment of outstanding salaries, support for Micro, Small and Medium enterprises (MSMEs) and the implementation of the energy transition plan.

Grains and fertilisers are to be released by the Federal Government to states for distribution or sale at subsidised prices.

The latest policies trailed the introduction of palliatives and food subsidies to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal.

The new plans were approved during the NEC meeting presided over by Vice President Kashim Shettima in Aso Villa, Abuja.

Governors Charles Soludo (Anambra), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun) and Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), who spoke with reporters on the interventionS, said they will effectively mitigate the hardship.

The NEC had at its maiden meeting last month, set up a sub-committee to recommend how to urgently ameliorate the harsh conditions arising from economic reforms, especially the removal of petrol subsidy and the merging of foreign exchange rate windows by the Tinubu Administration.

After the five-and-a-half-hour NEC meeting, Governor Abiodun reeled out the plans:

*Cash award policy for civil servants;

*Payment of outstanding liabilities to civil servants and

*Special funding for the growth of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

He said: “We extensively deliberated on immediate steps in appreciation of the fact that our people are already feeling the pains of these very laudable and noble steps and have been very patient with this administration. 

“To that extent, a sub-committee of the National Economic Council was set up and that sub-committee reported back to the meeting. 

“We proposed accordingly that each state should begin to plan towards implementing a cash transfer programme that will be based on the social registers of the states. 

“Again, it was also proposed by the Council that we should implement a Cash Award Policy for all public servants, which allows each sub-national to pay the public servants a certain amount of cash every month, to be implemented for six months in the first instance.

“You’ll be wondering why six months. As much as we’re also particular about ameliorating the pains of our people immediately, a lot of sustainable measures are being put in place and we hope that between now and six months, those sustainable measures will be visible and then we can begin to taper down these cash awards. 

“These cash awards, by the way, would be funds that will be placed in the hands of civil servants that will be tax-exempt. 

“We talked about ensuring that we pay our public servants outstanding liabilities, such as pension, gratuities and leave bonuses.

“The government must now begin to look at how to fund MSMEs with single-digit interest rates because they are the engine room of the economy.

“We considered the immediate implementation of our Energy Transition Plan, which is transiting from petrol to other fuels that are cheaper and more stable, particularly CNG since we have an abundance of gas in Nigeria. 

“So, states will begin to convert their mass transit buses and taxis to CNG. 

“The long-term vision of government is for us to begin to use EVs (electric vehicles). The government wants to ensure that we set up manufacturing and assembly plants in each zone, and that might take a year. 

“The idea is to begin to implement conversion to CNGs in the meantime, while EVs take over.”

Soludo: N900b to be shared

On the amount to be doled out under the cash transfer programme, Soludo said there would be no uniform figure as it would depend on the capacity of respective states.

He said state governments with outstanding salaries and allowances to pay must clear the backlog.

Soludo stressed: “There is quite some fiscal surplus that will be coming to the three tiers. 

“We suggested that it would be nice to implement cash transfers, subject to financial capacity. Some might be able to do one; some might be able to do 10; some might be able to do 20, as the case may be. It depends on capacity.

“There may be states that are not able to do that now. For example, if salary or pension arrears have been owed for three years or four years, the priority now is to start paying them.”

Subsidised fertiliser to be distributed

Bauchi State Governor Mohammed said the Federal Government will distribute 252,000 metric tons of grains to states at a subsidised rate right from July 24.

He said that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) will also make its package available.

Mohammed added: “Food is a key component of what is on the table. It was gladdening because NEC engaged with NEMA, the CBN and the Minister of Agriculture and we have some buffer stock that is already there with NEMA.

“Council has directed that states will be allocated, immediately, a substantial portion of food items, grains and so on, for distribution so that food prices will drop. They will be given at a subsidised rate or at the rate at which it is acquired from NEMA. 

“Of course, CBN, because of their Anchor Borrower Apple programme and the programme they had in agriculture, has a large stock of rice and other grains that they are going to make available within one week to be distributed to the states.

“The states are at liberty to give it at a subsidised rate, give it free or sell it at the level to crash the prices of foodstuff or bring it to the level of affordability, so that across the sectors of the economy, public servants, civil servants, even farmers will benefit maximally.

“The CBN has more than 252,000 metric tons of grains and almost an equivalent number of bags of fertilizers that will be distributed within the timeframe (of six months).”

FIRS ahead of target

Acting Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Folashodun Shonubi, said the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), briefed the council and announced that it was ahead of the half-year target.

He said: “It was nice to know that they are ahead of their target for half a year. We expect that before or by the time the year ends, they will exceed it. 

“They also gave us some idea of what next year should be like from them. And from this year, we hope to make some N10 trillion.

“It is planned that next year, we should be able to, working with all the agencies, provide N25 trillion as their contribution to the national coffers.”

The governors clarified that only about N900 billion will be shared among the three tiers at the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) this month, as against N2trillion.

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