In Nigeria, the social investment programs meant to pull up the country’s destitutes have long been plagued by structural problems. The suspension of Beta Edu, the Nigerian Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, for embezzling funds designated for aiding the poor, is a glaring example of the inherent flaws in such initiatives.
The Minister’s suspension by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu followed a wave of comments and issues over the transfer of N585.2 million into the private bank account who happens to be the accountant in charge of the aid for poor Nigerians. This, no doubt, questions the efficacy of social investment and aid policies in the country.
The issue raises significant questions about the viability of such programs in the county—serving as an indicator that social and welfare policies all in the name of aid for citizens are nothing but scams.
While it is commendable that the Tinubu administration suspended school feeding programmes, cash transfer, N-Power, and others as part of the reaction to Betta Edu’s case, the administration needs to reduce its role in direct wealth distribution. A practical approach is to mitigate the potential for abuse of public funds and foster a system where individuals have greater control over their financial well-being.
The fact is that Nigerians don’t necessarily need alms, they only need an environment that makes it possible for them to make money and create wealth.
Social Investment Policies, A Scam
Government social investment policy usually refers to a kind of initiative or activities meant to enhance citizens’ well-being and tackle societal issues. To promote social development, lessen inequality, and improve the general standard of living for the populace, the government uses this policy framework to provide public resources to sectors like healthcare, social services, education, and poverty reduction.
But in reality, most of the initiatives don’t work; instead, those in charge of the programs often use them as looting machines. In fact, some suspended public officials or ministers were involved in “a bagful of scandals, while others were victims of cabinet overhaul.”
Meanwhile, social investment policies often revolve around concerns of inefficiency, bureaucratic bloat, and the potential for abuse by those in power.
Corruption cases against all former ministers in charge of these social programmes is evident. Among others, these policies often lack the transparency and accountability needed to ensure resources reach their intended recipients. And the complex nature of social investment programs always creates opportunities for waste and mismanagement, diverting funds from their intended purposes.
On February 1 last year, Vanguard Newspaper published a corruption report from Transparency International, stating Nigeria to have “scored 24 out of 100 points in the 2022 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), the same as the previous year. This noted that the corruption war might not be yielding victory after all.
Skepticism regarding the effectiveness of social investment policies will always stem from concerns over the country’s pervasive corruption and the potential for abuse by those in charge. The intricate web of corruption within the government apparatus won’t make the policies serve its intended purpose. History has a lesson we can learn: embezzlement always trails an “alleged efficient” allocation and distribution of resources in large-scale social investment programs.
As we have seen, most of the social investment policies, due to their centralized nature, provide ample opportunities for rent-seeking, embezzlement, and bribery, diverting funds away from the intended beneficiaries.
Beta Edu’s scandal should prompt a reconsideration of the status quo and an exploration of alternative approaches that empower individuals and communities to take charge of their destinies.
Rather than relying solely on government interventions, individuals and communities should be empowered through voluntary and decentralized means. Seeking personal responsibility and market-driven solutions. The government should embrace those kinds of policies as they are more effective alternatives to traditional social investment approaches.
This means the government implements policies that promote economic freedom, and entrepreneurship, and reduce regulatory barriers. For instance, fostering a business-friendly environment, reducing taxation, and ensuring property rights can stimulate economic growth, leading to job creation and improved living standards.
Individual and economic freedom drives individual and society prosperity, and they should be at the core of any policy framework.
There is a limit to aid and handouts the government can render. In reality, unwarranted regulations and unemployment fester while social and welfare policies offer flimsy and makeshift comfort. To pull people from poverty, you have to allow them freedom to create wealth of their own.