The collection of fees and charges by some state governments and local officials for the federal government’s social investment programmes is illegal and should be stopped forthwith, the presidency has said.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how some state governments charged applicants various fees, particularly for the N-Power programme.
About 200,000 jobless Nigerians across the country have started benefitting from the first phase of the N-Power programme and are to receive N30,000 stipend monthly to teach in schools or work in the agricultural sector.
In Abia, hundreds of applicants onDecember 6 protested exploitation by state officials who made them pay N500 each as application fee and still refused to attend to them.
In its reaction to such complaints, Laolu Akande, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Office of the Vice President, said “we have been receiving reports about instances where Nigerians are being asked to pay application fees for SIP forms. We want to make it clear that such action is illegal and could warrant criminal prosecution.”
Read Mr. Akande’s full statement below:
No scheme under the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programmes, SIP, attracts an application fee and Nigerians should refuse paying anyone money, the presidency has said.
The presidency also disclosed that five more states would join in the implementation of the Homegrown School Feeding Programme.
Making this disclosure on Sunday while giving a weekly media update on the SIP, Laolu Akande, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Office of the Vice President, said “we have been receiving reports about instances where Nigerians are being asked to pay application fees for SIP forms. We want to make it clear that such action is illegal and could warrant criminal prosecution.”
“Let us make this very clear: in order to benefit from N-Power, you don’t have to pay any application fees at all. The way to apply is to go online to the N-Power portal. But it is not open right now as we are still working on the 200,000 unemployed graduates already engaged.”
Regarding the Conditional Cash Transfer, CCT, he also explained that there are no application forms or fees to be paid either.
According to him, “we are using a Community-Based Targeting template of the World Bank and as we have explained this is the mode of identifying the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable.”
He observed that there were instances during the N-Power online application process when some leaders decided to gather information of their people and then upload them onto the N-Power Internet portal to meet the online application requirement.
“We don’t frown on such an effort as long as the information of the N-Power applicants are properly in-putted online. But we frown at anyone selling forms to Nigerians for this programmes,” he said.
On claims that some party agents have been involved in such illegal form sales, Mr. Akande said “the rule affects everyone. No one should sell forms for N-Power or any of the President’s Social Investment Programmes. That is exploitation and it is fraudulent.”
On the progress so far recorded on the CCT, Mr. Akande said payment is now taking place in all the 9 pilot states, adding that altogether the federal government has already made cash available to keep the payments going.
Mr. Akande said while the CCT payments have started in the pilot states, not everyone in those states have been paid due to logistics and banking challenges. He disclosed that three banks Stanbic, Access and GTB have been very helpful in the process, including supporting the implementation of aspects of the CCT pro bono.
Equally the Vice President’s spokesman disclosed that the Homegrown School Feeding Programme would also proceed this week with the addition of five states who will now be getting FG funding to ensure that primary school pupils in those states start enjoying one hot meal a day.
Those states are Ogun, Oyo, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Osun. When added to Anambra where the school feeding programme kicked off last year, there would now be 6 states implementing the scheme using federal government funds.
At least 5.5 million Nigerian primary school pupils would be fed for 200 school days under the free Homegrown School Feeding Programme, according to the 2016 budget, which has an allocation of N93.1 billion appropriated for the feeding scheme.