by Ifeanyi Onuba
President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday lamented that a number of government programmes, which ought to have been effectively implemented for the benefit of Nigerians, could not be realised owing to poor data management system.
For instance, he listed the abuse of the fuel subsidy scheme, which was meant to reduce the cost of transportation for Nigerians as well as make life more meaningful for the ordinary people, as one of the disadvantages of not having an efficient national identity management system.
The President, who said this in Abuja during the unveiling of the national identity card, noted that it was unfortunate that after spending billions of naira annually on fuel subsidy payment, majority of the citizens did not get to enjoy the subsidy owing to the fact that about 60 per cent of the funds were smuggled out of the country.
He lamented that those who smuggled the subsidy funds out of the country were the ones who later turned around to instigate the citizens against the government.
Jonathan said, “I’m particularly pleased with the National Identity Management Commission because a number of things we are supposed to do well as a nation, we are not doing well. And sometimes, we blame the government because of the failure of the system and the credibility of the process.
“If you take the issue of subsidy of transport; what we do is subsidising hydrocarbon, it does not go to the ordinary people. Government spends huge sums of money, hundreds of billions of naira every year in the budget, ask the National Assembly.
“Sometimes it is controversial subsidising kerosene; yet, it is going very high in the market, subsidising the PMS and so on.
“We are thinking about how to subsidise the transportation system such as the person going to school, the person going to the market, the person moving from Lagos to Enugu or Lagos to Kano, and not paying subsidy 60 per cent of which will be smuggled out of the country.
“And those who make the money will come and use that money to induce the people suffering to even riot against government.”
He said the lack of an efficient national identity management system had made it difficult for Nigerians, especially those at the bottom of the pyramid, to benefit from government’s programmes.
According to him, it is difficult to effectively replicate the amnesty programme for the Niger Delta region in the North when the security crisis began few years ago owing to lack of accurate data of those affected by insurgency.
Jonathan said, “When the issue of the crisis in the North came up, some people came up with the idea of how we could replicate the amnesty programme of the Niger Delta in the North.
“And I said, look, we must not wait for people to carry arms against the state before we help them. I said let us as a government identify those without jobs. I asked those in finance to see our resources and how we can accommodate them, and not to wait for the youth to carry weapons against the state in the South East, South-South and North East before you can think of how to address their needs.
“I asked the then Minister of National Planning, Shamsudeen Usman, to come up with a blueprint because we must know the figures; we must know what we have. We cannot venture into what we cannot conclude; it is difficult because we don’t know ourselves; and up to this time, it is still paperwork.
“During the 2011 elections, there were crises in some states, properties were burnt but how do we address it? We set up a committee to take inventory of things; take data of people but by the time you want to do payment, the duplications will be so much; those who are affected will not get the money.”
The President said with the inauguration of the new national ID card, Nigerians would begin to enjoy the benefits of government programmes as everyone would now have a unique national identification number from birth till death.
He commended the MasterCard Worldwide Corporation, Access Bank Plc and the NIMC for following all laid down procedures to bring to birth the new identity card.
Jonathan said his administration would continue to strengthen institutions such as the NIMC, so that they would not go the way of the Nigeria Airways, Nigerian Shipping Line and Ajaokuta Steel Company.
To this end, he said the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had been directed to reposition the Nigerian Security and Minting Company to enable it to become a global player in the printing of security documents.
He said, “In fact, when I appointed the new CBN governor, I told him that the Nigerian Security and Minting Company must be reformed.
“There is no way we are doing local government election, electing House of Assembly members, electing governors in Oyo, Ekiti and Adamawa states that all what we will produce will be done outside this country. Why?
“Other countries produce their needs; we claim to be a giant, a giant that will just send everything out; we empower others and we don’t create jobs for our people. And so, the Mint must be restructured as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission and other bodies.”
Also speaking, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, described the unveiling of the card as a significant milestone that would change the social safety programme of the government.