Senate debates bill to empower poor Nigerians

Ahmad-Lawan

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan

The Senate on Wednesday considered a bill seeking to empower poor Nigerians in rural areas with guaranteed income and jobs that would provide 100 days of paid work per year.

Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (APC, Niger East) sponsored the Rural Employment Guarantee Bill, 2021, which scaled the second reading.

Leading debate on the general principles of the bill, Senator Musa explained that the bill among others essentially seeks to provide livelihood security in rural communities by providing at least one hundred days of guaranteed wage employment in every financial year to every household whose adult member volunteer do skilled manual work.

According to the lawmaker, the bill when passed into law would empower rural poor through the processes of a rights-based Law; ensure a strong social safety net for vulnerable groups; strengthen the natural resource base of rural livelihood, and serve as a model of governance reform anchored on the principles of transparency and grass-root democracy.

He added that the National Rural Employment Guarantee bill aims to reduce poverty by providing extra work for those who need it, while also providing empowerment and insurance when other sources of work dry up.

Citing the Poor Employment Act of 1817 in Britain, and the New Deal Programs in the United States in the 1930s, Musa explained that the piece of legislation was similarly intended to be an intervention that makes government an employer of last resort.

He noted that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development would monitor the implementation of the scheme in association with state governments.

Contributing to the debate, Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West), threw his weight behind the passage of the bill into law.

According to the lawmaker, having agencies backed by law to oversee the implementation of such schemes for the poor would ensure that they are not abused.

He said, “In our nation today, Mr President, most of these palliatives that the present government has put in place has been abused because you have a situation where names are duplicated.

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“It is even difficult for you to know those who are benefiting.

“The bill my brother is seeking is for us to have a formal agency for social security that will take care of all employment problems and even health problems of people who are not gainfully employed. It must be holistic.

“This bill is good, the intention is good, but I think this bill must go further to make it a holistic solution to the problem of unemployment in our nation, so that it is not abused, and so that in every local government in Nigeria, you have an agency in charge that will take care of unemployment of our people.

“In having the law, we must also have the punitive measures in place for those who would abuse it, so that people will know that this bill is intended to alleviate the suffering of people, and by extension, Mr President, guarantee the security of our nation.

“Most of the people who are into crime today is out of frustration of unemployment. We have a large number of unemployed people.

“Today, we have up to two hundred universities and polytechnics producing graduates.

“So, I think we must advise our government. Progressive as this government is to palliatives, let us formalize these palliative measures by having a social security agency in every local government of Nigeria, and let us put a law in place to make sure that nobody abuses it.”

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, referred the bill to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for further work after passing the second reading.

The Committee which is chaired by Senator Abdullahi Adamu was given four weeks to report back to the Senate.