Sometime in October, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, approved a Pilot Special Public Works Programme in the Rural Areas. The programme was domiciled in the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) for implementation.
The Special Public Works in the Rural Areas is an employment- intensive technique acquired and adapted by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) from one of the capacity-building collaborations with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in the late 1980’s to the middle of the 1990’s. The Project was tagged ILO/NDE Labour Based/ Light Equipment Methods of Construction, Rehabilitation and maintenance of Public Infrastructure.
The ILO itself derived this idea of Special Public Works programme from several historical templates. According to the Development and Technical Labour Department of the ILO, these types of programmes were used during the Great Depression by industrialised nations to immediately respond to grinding poverty at the lowest level of society that normally bore the brunt of such economic upheavals. It was also effectively used during colonial Africa to quickly respond to situations such as drought and famine by mobilising the unskilled populace to engage in other labour intensive infrastructural projects as a means of immediately alleviating their situation. The concept was later adopted and developed by most Asian countries like India, China and Bangladesh to lift their countries out of the league of poor nations. This programme was one of the main reasons India quickly dropped in the poverty index and Nigeria overtook India at a point.
Consequently and arising from the need and desire of the Federal Government to create massive jobs at the lowest rung of the economy as well as to maintain critical public and social infrastructure at the rural base of the economy, Mr. President has approved that we also adopt and integrate this type of programme into the Nigerian economy.
The pilot programme earlier approved by Mr. President was designed to mitigate lack of job opportunities in the rural areas through a short-term engagement of One thousand (1,000) unemployed persons per Local Government Area for a period of three (3) months. It is a dry season/off season transient job programme and was originally designed for the rehabilitation/maintenance of public and social infrastructure. Participants were to be paid an allowance of N20,000 monthly and were to be recruited largely from the pool of unskilled persons ordinarily resident in those rural areas.
This pilot scheme was approved to be implemented in five local government areas in eight states namely: Adamawa, Borno, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Jigawa, Katsina and Kwara.
Beneficiaries are engaged in:
• Drainage digging and clearance
• Irrigation canals clearance
• Rural feeder road maintenance
• Maintenance of the Great Green Wall nurseries and orchards in Borno, Jigawa and Katsina
• Traffic control
• Street cleaning
• Cleaning of public infrastructure like Health Centres, Schools and the likes.
A total of 40,000 direct transient jobs were expected to be created in the eight pilot states.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Why are you paying below the minimum wage?
The Special Works Programme has been used all over the world to reach out to the unskilled workers in times of distress. In order to be successful with the programme two things are important.
1. All other categories of workers must be discourage from entry. One vital tool for achieving this is to compete within the market wage bracket for that category of worker. This instantly discourages those who are not within that category.
In countries where market wages are lower than the minimum wage the public works wages must be in the market wage level for it to effectively attract the right people.
2. The category of people the programme is designed for are largely agrarian and sometimes will have things to do in the morning or later in the evening on their farms or elsewhere. Things they have used to keep body and soul together. So the programme does not engage them like a regular job. They are not the typical 8 to 5 with coffee break in between. They work for less hours so they can still do the things they are used to as this is just a three months work like an internship.
Why are you using banks?
The programme is designed to use all available electronic means of payment to Beneficiaries. No cash movement will be allowed. So banks must be involved.
The banks will be mandated to open accounts for beneficiaries, obtain BVN for them as well as register them electronically for us for the programme.
The banks will share the programme registration data with us.
Why using select banks and not all the banks?
Since we do not have limitless resources we have determined that leaving the beneficiaries to register in any bank of their choice out of the many banks in the country will not only render the programme more expensive but cumbersome.
Some of the advantages of dealing with a select number of banks with considerable spread include:
1. Logistics and resources of dealing with a few banks are justifiable as against dealing with all of them including ones that will end up with only a few of our beneficiaries because they have a few branches.
2. Easier to reach agreement on modus operandi, standardisation and the format of electronic data to be received from the few banks as against all of them.
What are the criteria for choosing the banks?
1. Good financial standing with the CBN.
2. Good spread within the country.
3. Presence in rural areas of the country.
4. Willingness to register and collate data for us as they open accounts for participants.
5. Readiness to seek out the beneficiaries for the purpose of account opening and registration for the programme.
Which banks are the participating banks?
Go to www.specialpublicworks.gov.ng to check on updates on this.
How many banks will work with you?
For the exercise to be effective we believe we should get not too many but with a considerable spread all over the country. If we can get 4 or 5 of them that will meet our conditions, we will be satisfied.