People & Money

Nigeria’s Real Social Cash Transfer: The National Bank of Family & Friends

At least for the purposes of reaching the poor people that the lockdown and restrictions on movement imposed to curtail the new coronavirus pandemic, Nigeria’s social safety net is in ragged tatters. It also seemed to have been a camouflage; money was paid to poor households under pre-existing social protection programmes rather than newly vulnerable urban workers whose daily low incomes were gutted by the lockdown. Our own calculation is that livelihoods of about 9,975,000 individuals were affected by the lockdown in Lagos and Ogun States and Abuja. Only a tiny fraction of them could have been reached by government assistance of food or cash during the lockdown. Most of them survived on the kindness of family members, friends and acquaintances. Arbiterz speaks to some of the Nigerians who fund Nigeria’s real social protection system. The striking thing we realized was that everybody gives money to someone, no matter how little they earn.

The Nurse who also has a Farm


What do you do?

I am a nurse. I work for a private hospital in Victoria Island.

Who do you normally support, how many people?

The people I support are family members. I always make sure I send money to my younger sister. She is married but the family is struggling, trying to get things together. So I always support her. Others that I support are just once in a while. All those occasional N5,000 transfers when they call to tell me that they are broke. Like old friends and colleagues.

What does your sister do with the money?

Mostly for personal upkeep and to buy food in the house. Sometimes she just calls me and says salaries haven’t been paid where she works. Her kids need to eat. I was also partly responsible for sponsoring her university education.

Do you give according to a “schedule” i.e. a certain amount to the same people at given time of the month?

For family members like my sister, I always try to send money to her monthly, latest on the 30th of the month. I send her nothing less than N20k, sometimes N30k; it depends on how much money I have. Others are not scheduled. I only give when I have excess.

Do you give people money randomly?

Yes. That one is even almost every day. I can just get a call now, someone from my church can call and tell me they are broke and they need me to assist them with anything I can. Most of the time I always send, and whenever I really don’t have I just tell them to come over to my house and I give them catfish. I have a farm, I raise catfish and chickens. And they always appreciate it whenever I help in any way.

How has the lockdown changed your giving?

Well, it hasn’t really changed in giving to my sister. It’s just that I had to reduce the amount I send to N15k. I had to call her and explain to her how things are currently and I am glad that she understands. For the other people that I help occasionally, the lockdown has really affected me giving them the little I have.

Have you experienced a surge in demand?

Yes. People that I used to send money to occasionally have been calling my phone repeatedly. And I feel bad that I really can’t help as much as I used to. During the Easter celebration, all I just did was to buy Semovita, about 10 packs, and I shared it round. With that I feel relieved.

The Accountant

What do you do?

I am an Accountant. I work for a law firm in Ikeja.

Who do you normally support, how many people?

My family members and close friends. Let’s say about 4 of them. I give them money for their school fees and I also send them money monthly for their upkeep in school. That’s for my family members. The friends I support use the money for their upkeep, maybe when they are broke or they have not been paid at their place of work.

Do you give according to a “schedule” i.e. a certain amount to the same people at a given time of the month?

Well, for the family members, I send them money when it’s time to pay for their fees. And then the scheduled giving for friends is monthly.

How frequently and how much?

I send N50,000 for the school fees when it’s time to pay. And the other scheduled money for their upkeep can be sometimes N5,000 or N10,000. It all depends on how boxed up I am.

Do you give money to other people apart from the four you mentioned?

Yes, of course. That’s mainly what takes most of my money away. Because I get random calls from my buddies. And they always need this urgent N5,000 or even more. I always try my best to come through for them or at least send half of what they ask for.

How has the lockdown changed your giving?

Yes, it has. My salary was slashed. So the only people I still try my best to help are family members. The occasional giving is on hold for now. And I am very sure that they all understand.

Have you experienced a surge in demand?

There has been a surge in demand, especially from friends. But I just tell them the situation in the country does not permit me to spend anyhow. Everyone is trying to get their things in place and spend wisely. I feel bad that I can’t really help like I used to though.

How have you handled it?

What I just normally do is send N1000 or N2000. Because back then before the whole coronavirus started I always give a lot. But I am guessing they all understand that things are not the same anymore.

 

The Bank Intern Who has Lost his Salary

What do you do?

I work as an intern in GTBank Ikeja.

Who do you normally support, how many people?

Basically my family members, two of them. I give them money for just little things we might need in the house. Maybe we need to buy soap, toothpaste. Mainly just minor things that are needed in the house.

Do you give according to a “schedule” i.e. a certain amount to same people at given time of the month?

I give them money every month whenever I get paid. I give my younger sister the money to get whatever it is that she thinks we need because she’s the one that manages everything in the house. I give her N5,000 monthly. I earn N40,000 monthly.

Do you give other people money?

I give some people money at times, apart from family members. There are times I get a call that a particular person needs money. So I always help in a little way I can. And because people feel that you are working they feel that you can help. And no matter how little I have, I just give to support.

How has the lockdown changed your giving?

The lockdown has really changed my giving because we have not been getting paid. And as it stands now, I won’t be able to give my mom and my sister or anyone else money. I also give my mom and my younger sister money, apart from the usual N5000 I give to buy whatever we need at home. I always give them little stipends for whatever it is they need. So that has changed. I wasn’t able to give them last month’s ending because I wasn’t paid. And I also won’t be able to give them this month because I still won’t be getting paid.

Have you experienced a surge in demand?

Not really, I don’t think I have. If you don’t get paid there’s no way one would be able to get money to give anybody.

How have you handled it?

I am only struggling to get by because they know I don’t have any other source of income. So, they have really been supportive. And they know I have not been making any money, so they have not been asking me for anything. My older sister has been the one supporting; she has been the one covering up for me and every other person.

Big Mommy Who Gives to Nephews and Nieces

I am a businesswoman. I sell home appliances. I also own a little bit of real estate.

Who do you normally support, how many people?

I support my niece, whose parents are facing financial hardship. She has lived with me for more than ten years. I also support my children sometimes. I assist my brother sometimes.

What do you give them money for?

For my niece, the money is for everything from school supplies to clothing to transport. She lives with me, so I provide all her financial needs. My brother has rent problems sometimes. I help him sort that out. Though my children are independent, their salaries get paid late sometimes, so I assist them with cash from time to time.

Do you give according to a “schedule” i.e. a certain amount to the same people at a given time of the month?

No. My giving does not follow a pattern.

How frequently and how much do you give?

Sometimes, I try to send N5,000 to each of my children even when they do not ask for it. It annoys them a lot because they don’t think I should still be spending money on them unless they really need my help. But I like to do it. I am not doing much with the money I have with me anyway. For my niece, she is not currently going to school, so there is no need to give her money every day except for food when we go to my shop together. The support comes from the feeding, clothing and housing.

Do you give to other people?

My other nieces and nephews. Everyone sees me as the Big Mummy of the family. So, I give sometimes.

How has the lockdown changed your giving?

Not much to be honest. I don’t make that much in the shop anymore because customers are reluctant to come out in droves like they used to. I still give to those I consider family.

Have you experienced a surge in demand?

Not at all. Things have remained the same for me. All those I support have remained in a fairly stable state. We thank God. I am just glad I do not have only one source of income. I have enough to be content.

 

The Abuja-Based Agent

What do you do?

I work for an intelligence agency in Abuja.

Who do you normally support, how many people?

My brother and a few friends who need help getting on their feet for now. Just last year, I was in financial hardship myself and I had help from friends. Now, I try to help people that I can as long as it does not empty my purse.

What do you give them money for?

For my brother, I just give him money for the sake of it. I don’t care what he uses it for. I am sure he is not going to squander it. He is very good with money. For my friends, it depends on what they need at the moment. It is not defined.

Do you give according to a “schedule” i.e. a certain amount to the same people at a given time of the month?

For my brother, I try to give monthly but I forget sometimes I will admit.

How frequently and how much?

N10,000 every month. For friends, it can be more than that based on their needs.

Are there “occasional giving” i.e. people not on your schedule that you give to?

My cousins call me for money sometimes. I am careful to make sure they tell me exactly what they need the money for because they are all teenagers. It is important they are not using it for something their parents would not approve of.

How has the lockdown changed your giving?

I am streamlining my funds for my own personal projects. The lockdown has not affected my income at all but it has spurred me to pour my finances on long-term projects like housing and getting a car. So, I have less money to give out around this period.

Have you experienced a surge in demand?

I have not. I think basically everyone I support knows of my financial plans to be a bit selfish now. So, I don’t get requests for money like that. Or perhaps it is because everybody just assumes everybody else is struggling financially, so there is no need to disturb others for money. Who knows? Now that I think of it, I have been missing a lot of calls from my cousins. I will continue to help those I can but with less generosity. I have to be smart with finances. I don’t think any of this will be over soon. When it is, I can return to my normal giving schedule. Until then, I have to rethink my giving.

The Banker Who Works and Still Earns an Income from Home

What do you do?

I am a banker.

Who do you normally support,  how many people?

I support three people: my mother and my sisters. I give inconsistently to some other people as well.

What do you give them money for?

I give them money for feeding mostly, so they can stock up on food at home.

Do you give according to a “schedule” i.e. a certain amount to same people at given time of the month?

I give as the need arises. I don’t have a schedule per se.

How frequently and how much?

I don’t really know about frequency. Let us just say a minimum of once a week. I give them N15,000 for feeding generally. Feeding is the only constant I give money for regularly. Other uses depend on when there is a need for them.

Are there “occasional givings” i.e. people not on your schedule that you give to?

Once in a while, I give to friends as the spirit leads.

How has the lockdown changed your giving?

It really changed it. You know we are staying at home more, so I am spending much more than I used to.  My expenses have increased. The lockdown has expanded the circle of people I give to. People that are not my family members have been reaching out. I help anyone I can help as long as it is within my capacity.

Have you experienced a surge in demand?

Certainly. As I said, people have been reaching out. Even my family is asking me more than before. You know, everybody is at home and now we eat more, three square meals and more. It is not like when we were at work and we would eat less because of our schedules. Now, we are all sitting at home and we need more money. Many are asking for money and I try to give as I can. My immediate younger sister is employed but she has not been going to work because of the lockdown. My mum is a teacher but since schools are closed, she is not going to school and there is no income. My other sister is still a student. She does not have a job. But I have been working from home and my income has not been affected. So, I can still be of help to them.

How have you handled it?

I do what I can do. I do it according to a scale of preference. My family comes first. I don’t really feel under any pressure for now. My priority is my family. If anybody comes afterward, I will see if it is within my power to help. If I cannot, then I won’t.

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