The Nigerian government released $104 million (N31.8 billion) in the August/September 2018 to September/October 2019 payment cycle for the delivery of social investment programmes across the country.
The Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment, Maryam Uwais, said this in her keynote address on Monday at a two-day Experts’ Training and Advocacy on Tracing and Recovery of Illicit Funds and Assets organised by the Human Environmental Development Agenda HEDA, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
She said $76,538,530 of the money was from the Abacha loot while $27,099,028 was an International Development Association (IDA) credit.
She was quoted in a release signed by the communication manager of the programme, Justice Bibiye.
Mrs Uwais said the Federal Government, through the National Social Investment Office, has been channelling the recovered “Abacha loot” and the IDA/World Bank credit towards programmes and policies designed to address the plight of poor and vulnerable Nigerians.
She said the funds are specifically being disbursed to beneficiaries of the National Cash Transfer Programme (a component of the National Social Investment Programme N-SIP).
Mrs Uwais said the gesture was positively changing the fortunes of many Nigerians who find themselves below the poverty line, based on the data collated in the communities and hosted on the National Social Register.
She said the register is a strategic way of ensuring better administration of government’s social investment programmes across the country.
Mrs Uwais said the decision to distribute the Abacha loot and IDA funds to poor and vulnerable citizens was reached by the Swiss Government, the World Bank and the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The decision was to ensure that the funds are well utilised and not diverted to private pockets, “as was the case in the past.
“In December 2014, a Swiss Judge gave a Forfeiture Order to the effect that monies ($322.5m) recovered from the family of late General Abacha would be returned to Nigeria, one of the conditions being that the World Bank would be involved in monitoring disbursements therefrom. Presumably, this was as a consequence of the opaqueness that surrounded the application of recovered funds.
“It is common knowledge that the funds from the Abacha loot (as is often termed) and the World Bank IDA credit is being utilized to effect N10,000 bi-monthly transfers to our cash transfer beneficiaries, through the operations of the National Social Investment Office, originally under the auspices and supervision of the Vice President of the FGN, and now operating from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.”
Impact of Corruption on the Poor
Mrs Uwais said significant progress would have been recorded in terms of service delivery if the huge amounts of money looted by a few privileged Nigerians had been judiciously utilised.
She said efforts to tackle poverty in Nigeria must also take into consideration the basic and peculiar needs of the people, who ought to be carried along in the formulation and implementation of poverty alleviation policies and programmes for greater impact and appreciation of such efforts.
She said millions of Nigerian citizens who have never felt the presence of government in their lives, continue to struggle, to eat even one meal a day.
“Unfortunately, there seems to be a disconnect between many of us who live in urban areas, with people whose daily living is a constant struggle. This is why we hear questions like how can an N5,000 monthly stipend make a positive difference in a citizen’s life? What is N10,000 to the petty trader? Surely, we should be looking at larger amounts? Indeed, it is the only infrastructure that can help our people. It does not occur to some that this infrastructure is out of reach to the very poor.
“By all means, provide the tangible structures, but having schools in their communities make no sense to the family whose priority is to find something to eat, even once a day. Unless we can address the challenges that these citizens face, these children would continue to farm, hawk, and remain as statistics of our out-of-school numbers,” she said.
She listed the key achievements of the Cash Transfer Programme funded with the Abacha loot and IDA loan facility to include enrollment and payment of 620, 947 beneficiaries across 29 States; N567,429,471,30 saved by beneficiaries in 17 states from their monthly five thousand naira stipends and 3,695 trained to support beneficiaries.
In his remarks, the Chairman of HEDA Resource Centre said the capacity-building forum aimed to mobilise sustained engagement of activists and anti-corruption movements in anti-graft initiatives in the recovery of illicit funds and assets acquired with proceeds of corruption.
The forum was facilitated with the support of several partners including Finance Uncovered UK, The Corner House UK, the Kent Law School, Premium Times, CSOs and other media.
MacArthur Foundation and OSIWA had sponsored the training sessions around the country, to hone the skills of investigative journalists in the tracking, monitoring and detecting illicit funds.