Nearly 5,000 families have been displaced in Yemen’s flashpoint Hodeida province this month, the UN said Sunday, as violence escalates in the rebel-held Red Sea region.
After nearly a month of sporadic clashes, the Yemeni government — backed by Saudi Arabia and its allies — on Wednesday launched a major assault to retake the densely populated city of Hodeida, capital of the province and home to the war-torn country’s most vital port.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said 4,458 households had been displaced from their homes in Hodeida since June 1, with 36 families losing their livelihood as their farms were damaged in the conflict.
The fight for Hodeida has sparked fears of a fresh humanitarian crisis in a country where more than 22 million people are in need of aid, including 8.4 million who are at risk of starvation.
The Yemen war has claimed some 10,000 lives since a regional coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, joined the government’s fight against the Iran-backed Huthi rebels.
The UN, which has described the conflict as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, has called for restraint as Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths holds talks with the Huthis on potentially ceding control of Hodeida port to the international body.
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari says it has now started the payment of 5,000 Naira monthly stipends to the poorest and the most vulnerable in Nigeria.
It says the payments are being made through the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) of its Social Investment Programmes (SIP).
The amount was part of campaign promises the administration made to Nigerians before they were elected.
A statement by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, said that under the CCT, one million Nigerians would receive 5,000 Naira monthly payments, as a form of social safety net for the poorest and most vulnerable as budgeted for in the 2016 Budget.
“In the first batch that commenced last week, nine states would be covered, and many of the beneficiaries have already reported receiving their first payments by Friday last week, December 30, 2016.
“Funds for the commencement of the payments in four states were released last week to the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) – the platform that hosts and validates payments for all government’s social intervention programmes. Funds for another set of five states to complete the first batch of nine states would follow soon.
“Though the sequence for the payment of the money would be operationally managed by NIBSS, beneficiaries in Borno, Kwara and Bauchi States have started receiving the money. The other states in the first batch to commence the CCT payments are Cross Rivers, Niger, Kogi, Oyo, Ogun & Ekiti States,” the statement read.
Nine Pilot States
The Vice President said that the nine pilot states were chosen because they had an existing Social Register that successfully identified the most vulnerable and poorest Nigerians through a tried and tested community based targeting (CBT) method working with the World Bank.
He, however, pointed out that other states had already begun developing their Social Registers and would be included in subsequent phases of the CCT implementation.
He said: “Beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer of the Federal Government would be mined from the Social Register, initially developed by eight States through a direct engagement with the World Bank. Those states are featured in the first batch, with the added inclusion of Borno States where a validated list of IDPs were compiled in addition to the Social Register which is expected to go round the country.
“Working with the World Bank, the CBT process has now been adopted for developing the Social Register in the other States around the country, for transparency, objectivity and credibility in the selection of the poorest and most vulnerable beneficiaries for the programme.
“The Federal Government will actually commence community mobilisation for the creation of the Register in more States soon, to expand the scope and reach of the CCT across the country”.
According to the presidency, Plateau, Jigawa, Adamawa, Anambra, Benue, Enugu, Katsina and Taraba States have so far complied with the stipulated framework provided and are set for the community based targeting method for the development of their Social Register within their jurisdictions.
“These States are to be followed by Delta, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Imo and Ogun States. Once the community mobilisation, identification and selection processes are completed, the information garnered from the poorest households would be entered onto the Social Register in the states and the National Register at NIBSS, after which the cash transfers would be disbursed to the beneficiaries.
“All the funds approved for the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programmes, SIP, are domiciled with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning. In addition, the payment information and processes for all beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s SIP are hosted at NIBSS, as the Consolidated Beneficiary Register, to ensure and fortify efforts at authentication and verification, as well as for effective and efficient programme management.
“With the commencement of the CCT, the Buhari administration is now implementing four of the Federal Government’s SIP,” the statement further read.
The Vice President also stated that the N-Power Volunteer Corps designed to hire half a million unemployed graduates which has now engaged 200,000, and the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme now running in three states, the Buhari administration has also kicked-off the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP).
According to him, under GEEP, soft loans ranging from 10,000 Naira to 100,000 Naira have been designed for artisans, traders, market women among others.
“Already, thousands of cooperatives, market women associations, farmers and enterprising youths, have been identified and registered for the purpose, on an ongoing basis, and the disbursement of the soft loans through the Bank of Industry have started since November 25, 2016.
“At the last count, for the first phase, beneficiaries have been drawn from the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abia, Adamawa, Bauchi, Delta, Imo, Kwara, Kano, Katsina, Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Ogun and Kogi States,” Professor Osinbajo explained.
He, however, stated that disbursements were halted and deferred until after the festive season. Vetting and approval of beneficiaries are now being continued through the month, with the expectation and plan that by month-end disbursements would have been made to 33,000 beneficiaries.
Regarding the 200,000 beneficiaries of the N-Power programme, the Vice President said that close to 50% of the graduates, had now been physically verified, and started receiving their monthly stipends of N30,000 last week.
“A second batch of 300,000 unemployed graduates are expected to be selected early this year to make up the half a million target set by the Buhari administration.
“The verified graduates are now being deployed to work as assistant teachers in schools, as community health aides and as agricultural extension workers, in more than 20 States of the Federation. These States include; Abia, Adamawa, Bauchi, Anambra, Benue, Cross Rivers, Borno, Gombe, Edo, Jigawa, Katsina, Plateau, Kogi, Osun, Rivers, Zamfara, Niger, Sokoto, Ogun and Taraba,” he stated.
Giving further breakdown of programmes of the government for Nigerians, the Vice President said the government had also started the implementation of the National Home-grown School Feeding Programme designed to feed 5.5 million school children for 200 school days in the first phase of the programme.
He pointed out that although the initial design was to feed pupils in 18 States, funding challenges had affected an earlier take-off. But the programme has now commenced in Osun, Kaduna and Anambra States. More states are expected to join this new year.
professor Osinbajo further assured Nigerians that in the new year, “it is the plan of the Federal Government to scale up the implementation of the SIP to touch the lives of millions of Nigerians in fulfilment of its promises and in furtherance of its Change agenda”.
Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, has flagged off the 2016 ‘dry season farming and agric show’ in Awka, the Anambra state capital.
According to the governor, he is advocating for an all season farming practice, as he believes that as climate is changing, food production and agricultural processes must also change.
The programme was attended by over 5,000 farmers and representatives of various cooperative groups from the 21 local government areas of the state, gathered to be part of the new initiative.
Re-enforcing the new farming initiative, the governor announced the introduction of practices and technology that would help reduce food losses through better technology for harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure and market mechanism, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.
The flag off which took place at the ABS Headquarters, Awka field, featured distribution of farm inputs, fertilizers, pesticides, improved and high yielding seedlings, as well as handover of motorcycles to deserving farmers for farm to farm movement.
With a strong resolve to ensure food security and sufficiency, Governor Obiano has made agriculture the number one pillar of his administrative blueprint.
Also, in the budget proposal for the 2017 fiscal year, a budget of 5.4 Billion Naira has been earmarked for agriculture alone, in which the state aims at being one of the top three producers of rice, maize and cassava.
With the challenges of climate change and the growing population however, there is need for agriculture and food system to find means of adapting to the adverse effects of climate change and becoming more resilient, productive and sustainable.
It is for this reason that thousands of farmers and cooperative groups gathered to re-dedicate themselves to the course of agricultural development.
The arrival of the governor charged up the arena where various food crops were on display for the agricultural exhibition.
He then moved round to inspect the crop harvest of 2016 as well as felicitate with the farmers.
While addressing the farmers, Obiano commend them for their steadfastness in the trending occupation and assured them that the state would support them with every necessary equipment needed.
He ended the event by distributing various farm inputs such as certified rice seeds, high variety vitamins, a termite free cassava stems and agricultural facilitating equipment like pesticides, irrigation equipment, tractors and motorcycles.
Women cooperatives, on the other hand, presented a gift to the governor and commended him for the support he has been giving them especially in the area of making available off takers who buy off their farm produce upon harvest.
The representative of the Minister Of Agriculture, Mr Albert Odukwe, stated that the governor’s resolve to embark on all year round farming is a demonstration of his commitment to agriculture as a serious business which all must embrace.
The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Mechanization, Processing and Export, Mr Afam Mbanefo, also announced the agricultural success of the outgoing year.
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, has challenged other monarchs across the globe to be dedicated towards youth empowerment in their various communities, so as to reduce the rate of unemployment in the country.
Oba Ogunwusi said this at the signing of a one billion Naira Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), between the House of Oduduwa and the Bank of Industry, (BoI), which would provide loan facilities to both women and youths in Ile-Ife. Osun state. Prominent among the features of the MoU is the provision of one billion Naira loan at an interest rate of 7.5 % to the beneficiaries.
Oba Ogunwusi signed for the House of Oduduwa, while the Acting Managing Director of BoI, Mr Waheed Olagunju, represented the financial institution.
The monarch emphasized the need to get youths empowered, saying that it was necessary for the nation’s continuous growth.
According to him, “I challenge monarchs across the country to be dedicated to developing youths in their communities.”
He said, “I won’t mind going hungry to empower the youths. If the youths of today are empowered, many generations will benefit from them and poverty will be abolished.
“Today’s event is another giant step in the history of Ile-Ife. We are moulding the future of our youths in the areas of agriculture and agro-allied industry.
Therefore, “I put a challenge to other monarch’s to engage in community partnership. We should stop relying on government. There are so many initiatives that community leaders can tap into.
“Community leaders should go into partnership with multinational companies and financial institutions to benefit these people.
“This one billion Naira funding will obviously help the youth of the entire House of Oduduwa and beyond. This is a very good template that should be emulated by others. As monarchs, we should think of what we can do for our people and support government in its empowerment moves.
“Government at all levels should set up a body that will particularly focus on local contents initiative. The body should also be responsible for quality assurance and control. With this, over 60% contracts will have local input.”
On his part, Waheed Olagunju explained that the initiative was aimed at reducing youth unemployment in communities.
According to him, a substantial part of the loan would be disbursed to women and businesses that show high sustainability, agriculture, solid minerals and services, especially those who deal in Made in Nigeria Goods.
He said, “We have been partnering with multinational and corporate companies, but today we are collaborating with traditional rulers. These are people who have access to the grassroots.
He stressed that partnering with them is a way of democratizing entrepreneurship.
“We identify areas in which communities have comparative advantages and invest in them.
Explaining further he said: “The beneficiaries will be selected using the world best practices. For this edition, about 15 to 20% of them will be those who deal in local products. We are working with the entrepreneurship centre of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
“Applications are expected to be submitted and a joint committee of BoI team, the Oduduwa House and OAU team would assess it.
“They are to be monitored by members of the committee and elders, especially the traditional rulers. We estimate that about 5,000 youths will benefit from this,” he said.
Also speaking, the Chief Executive Officer of Hephzibah Network, Olamide Awosunle, estimated that with the loan, Ile-Ife would begin to supply food to South-West states.
“This is to complement the Agro-prenuership Summit and it will help to grow Ile-Ife and south Western Nigeria.
“In a short time, Ile-Ife will be feeding the whole nation and South West states especially will depend on Ile-Ife to get food,” Mr Awosunle stated.