Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, directed the Ministry of Finance and National Planning to consider as its top priority  payment of workers salaries.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who heads the presidential committee on the review of the impact of coronavirus on the economy, made the disclosure in an interview in Abuja.

She said the committee briefed the president on current happenings around the world due to COVID-19 and the impact on the nation’s economy.

The minister, who said March salary had been paid to Federal Government workers said the president had directed that measures be put in place to  protect the poor and most vulnerable in the society.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Task Force on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has explained some of the palliatives distributed among the vulnerable poor in the the federal capital territory was rowdy.

Minister, Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Farouq, at the daily briefing of the committee said the rowdiness was inevitable.

“Some of these things are very inevitable, we tried as much as possible to see that we take into consideration the social distancing policy.

“If you were there you would have seen that the people that were brought in to disburse were spaced, but people outside that might not have even been the beneficiaries were the one causing the crowing, but henceforth we will put in measures to avert that.

“And I want to say that this stay at home policy that was given is not being observed. When I went to Kwali, yesterday, most people were doing their normal businesses.

“So, I think we really have to enforce this stay at home directive. Many people did not look like they are aware of the directive.”

On the number of beneficiaries being reached, she said the Social Investment Programme (SIP) has been on since 2016 and that “the social national register that we have as at March 31, 2020 is made up of 11,450,537 poor and vulnerable people in 35 states and 453 Local Government Areas across the country.

“Now, currently the beneficiaries that we give this cash transfer to are 2.6 million people. In FCT, we have 5,982 households, in Nasarawa, we have 8,271 households, Katsina has 6,732 households, and Anambra has 1,367 households. And by general standard, households composition is six persons.

“We are thinking of expanding the register, we are in touch with the UN social protection donor group to see how the register can be rapidly expanded to cover additional one million households.

“But we have 11.4 million households in the register that are ready for this intervention. The way the people are captured is by community engagement. We go in and reach the community, opinion leaders, religious leaders who are the ones that decide which families fall within that category of poor and vulnerable households. And that is what we use, so there is really accountability and transparency in this regard.”

She assured that no section of the country will be marginalised being a National programme irrespective of religion or political affiliation.