A presidential aide has responded to the leadership of the National Assembly which faulted the implementation of the social investment programme (NSIP) of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The response was contained in a statement on Wednesday by Maryam Uwais, the special adviser to the president on social investment.
The NSIPs include the school feeding programme for primary school pupils, the N-Power for jobless graduates, the conditional cash transfer for elderly vulnerable Nigerians, and the government empowerment programme that includes tradermoni – giving micro loans to smalll-scale traders.
Mrs Uwais described some of the lawmakers’ claims as false and another as “regrettable and dangerous.”
The leadership of the National Assembly had criticised the approach adopted by the federal government to distribute social grants to Nigerians who suffer the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.
It called for legislation for the programme in line with what it said was global best practices.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, expressed their concerns at a meeting with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, and some top officials of the ministry on Tuesday.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila. [PHOTO CREDIT: Official Twitter handle of Femi]
The meeting, convened by the leadership of the National Assembly, was against the backdrop of the ongoing federal government intervention initiatives aimed at reducing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the most vulnerable Nigerians, following the lockdown order given by the President Muhammadu Buhari on March 29.
The president ordered a 14-day lockdown in Abuja as well as Lagos and Ogun states. Mr Buhari had announced that the most vulnerable people affected by the lockdown will be compensated.
The ministry of humanitarian affairs has since announced the distribution of the first tranche of N5 billion.
Messrs Lawan and Gbajabiamila noted that the programme needed a reform to make it more efficient and effective.
PUTTING THE RECORDS STRAIGHT
Mrs Uwais stated that it is untrue that the National Social Investment Programme has gulped over N2 trillion since 2016, when the fund was created.
“Although the total appropriation by the National Assembly (NASS) from inception, for the 4 NSIPs, is N1.7 trillion, the actual funds released for the NSIPs between January 2016 and October 2019 (when the NSIPs were handed over to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development), amounted to N619.1 billion, constituting 36.4% of the total appropriation from the NASS.”
“The monies released for the N-SIPs can be further broken down into 14.03% (2016); 35% in 2017; 43.5% in 2018 and 57.8% (as at Sept 2019) of the N500b in 2016 and N400b appropriated for the subsequent years.”
“It should be noted that for 2017 to 2020, the sum of N100b was appropriated specifically for the National Housing Fund hosted by the Federal Ministry of Finance.”
She said the releases covered operational activities and payments to 13,363,680 beneficiaries across all the four NSIPs, all of whom she said can all be verified either through their BVN numbers or their unique numbers generated by the National Social Register.
She added that those identities were generated for the poorest of the poor who do not own bank accounts for sundry reasons.
“As at September 2019, the funds had been expended as follows, on the: Job Creation programme (549,500 N-Power graduates and non-graduates and 7 Technology Hubs); National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (in 33 States, 9,963,762 pupils to 107,862 cooks in 54,952 primary schools); the National Cash Transfer Programme (including the development of the National Social Register by the National Social Safety Net Coordination Office) 1,491,296 poor and vulnerable households comprising 6,056,872 individuals in 33 States and 620,947 cash transfer beneficiaries; and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (managed by the Bank of Industry); a total of 2,279,380 TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni beneficiaries.”
She also refuted allegations that as part of the conditions for poor and vulnerable beneficiaries to be engaged, they are made to apply online, through the internet and they require a BVN for payment.
“The National Cash Transfer Programme derives all the cash transfer beneficiaries from a National Social Register (NSR), comprising State Social Registers that are developed and hosted by the State Ministries of Panning of each State.”
“The process for objective identification of poor and vulnerable households is as provided in the Financing Agreement (F.A) signed between Nigeria and the World Bank, for which purpose the World Bank IDA Credit and the recovered funds from the Abacha family are being utlised.”
She further explained that the process involves a poverty mapping of the LGAs in each state, community mobilization, targeting and identification supported by trained enumerators at State and LGA levels.
She added that each of the households identified by the communities is visited and data collated, including information such as the size of household, age, gender, persons with disability (if any), assets, vocation of head of household, educational qualifications (if any), dwelling house conditions amongst others.
She said the data collated is finally subjected to a proxy means testing formula to determine those who merit the grants and the accompanying training.
“Furthermore, payment service providers have been selected in an open procurement process to pay the cash beneficiaries at their locations, as many of them reside in communities where there is a dearth of banking infrastructure.”
“Even though the majority of beneficiaries are not financially literate, the National Social Investment Office (NSIO, then under the Office of the Vice President) commenced the pilot exercise of payment of beneficiaries in 6 States through microfinance banks in September 2019, with a 93% success rate.”
“It is also pertinent to mention that the National Economic Summit Group, (working with Accenture and the Busara Centre for Behavioral Sciences) formed the Policy Intervention Unit for the NSIO.”
She described as untrue, the statement by the leadership of the Senate that the NSIP information was not accessible to the National Assembly, stating that all invitations to public hearings and meeting by the parliament were honoured by herself and the cluster teams.
She said documents relating to the structure, activities and progress of the NSIPs were routinely shared with them, over the period that the NSIO supervised the NSIPs under the auspices of the Office of the Vice President (OVP).
“Furthermore, the monthly reports of 3,000 N-Power monitors, spread across the 774 LGAs, are available to both Poverty Alleviation Committees of the NASS.”
On the claim that beneficiaries are not known personally to the NASS members, and that the National Social Register (NSR) is a ‘scam’ and needs to be reformed through a process that is ‘more inclusive’ of the parliament, she described it as “regrettable and dangerous.”
“The NSR comprises persons selected by the communities directly, within the constituencies of each of the NASS members. No person has been imported from one community to the other. They have been identified as very poor by the communities in which they reside and may not necessarily be known by the lawmakers.”
“It should be noted that Nigeria has signed a Financing Agreement with the World Bank, in which the process of identification of beneficiaries was set out. Any departure from the process, which would place at risk the accessibility to the IDA Credit and the recovered funds from the Abacha family.”
She stated that the NSIPs have been handed over to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs since October 2019, but it has become necessary to respond to what she described as the unfortunate allegations made at the National Assembly on the 7th of April 2020, which allegations were made in respect of certain aspects of the NSIPs from inception in November 2015 to September 2019.
“This Statement is prepared to set the records straight on certain aspects of the processes, structure and activities of the NSIPs between November 2015 and September 2019 when I supervised the NSIO operations. Having handed over the NSIPs in October 2019, I assume no responsibility for the operations thereafter as the Ministry is well positioned to handle the NSIPs and take decisions thereupon.”