Thursday, April 09, 2020 / 12:27PM / By Maryam Uwais / Header Image Credit: Ecographics
My attention has been drawn to the online report of The Nation newspaper of 7th April 2020, with the above caption. Indeed, several other online publications carried similar stories, alleging that the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIPs), as supervised under the Office of the Vice President, were a 'scam'. Given the gravity and implications of the narrative conveyed, as well as the caliber of persons involved, it has become necessary to clarify the issues in the public domain.
1. FG social investment initiative excludes poor Nigerians - National Assembly - Punch Newspapers, Apr 08, 2020
2. Coronavirus: Lawan, Gbajabiamila fault FG's relief package distribution model - Premium Times, Apr 07, 2020
That the National Social Investment Programme has gulped over N2 trillion since 2016, when the fund was created. UNTRUE!
a) 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.
b) 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. These releases covered operational activities and payments to 13,363,680 beneficiaries across all the 4 NSIPs, all of whom can all be verified either through their BVN numbers or their unique numbers generated by the National Social Register, those identities having been generated for the poorest of the poor who do not own bank accounts for sundry reasons.
c) 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.
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. UNTRUE!
The Leadership of the Senate also stated that the NSIP information was not accessible to the National Assembly. UNTRUE!
It was further asserted, apparently, that because the beneficiaries are not known personally to the NASS members, the National Social Register is a 'scam' and needs to be reformed through a process that is 'more inclusive' of the NASS. REGRETTABLE & DANGEROUS!
a) 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. Verification of their identity and status is possible, as has been for all investigative journalists and monitors, through the CTFs.
b) 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.
c) The demand for the inclusion of candidates to the NSR from the NASS has been a recurring issue from the inception of the NSIPs. My role and singular focus has simply been to comply with the terms of Agreement and the MoU entered into by the Federal Government of Nigeria, as well as to establish an objective, efficient and transparent process for uplifting the poor out of poverty through structures and mechanisms that are credible and sustainable. I have consistently reminded both NASS Committee Chairmen on Poverty Alleviation that there is no social protection programme in the world in which politicians are responsible for selecting the beneficiaries of cash transfers. All successful social protection programmes extract their beneficiaries from an objective community platform, if only to ensure that the poorest of the poor are supported out of poverty in an inclusive community driven and timely manner. The data being collated in each household enables the accurate and scientific measurement and tracking, to assure of analysis and research towards resolving poverty. Since poverty knows no ethnicity, religion or political affiliation, the process must be insulated from influences that are likely to deviate from achieving the desired objective of alleviating abject poverty, rather than be used for patronage or as compensation for loyalty.
d) The tripartite process for identification of cash transfer beneficiaries is in accordance with similar established best practice the world over, as the communities in which the poor reside know who is most in need. The community takes ownership and supports the process, if engaged in the identification of the needy. While not perfect, the process is as near authentic as is possible in the circumstances, as we continue to strive towards improvement. Building the State Social Registers has been a painstaking and continuous collaborative effort, with huge amount of funds expended in striving to achieve the credibility that would be put to waste, if discarded as suggested. Reform is certainly welcome, but not the 'reform' that would introduce influence and partisanship into the NSR, thereby making a mockery of the critical data so far collated around the country.
The NSIPs have been handed over to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs since October 2019, but it has become necessary to respond to 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 response is necessary for the purpose of:
Disregarding the process set out in the F.A would risk the suspension of the utilization of the IDA Credit and the recovered funds for the cash transfer beneficiaries. That balance which is currently over $500m, would be placed at risk. In the current Nigerian situation, we cannot afford to lose such a huge amount of resources that have been provided to support the poorest of the poor out of poverty.
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.
About the Author
Maryam Uwais (MFR) is the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments.