Nigerian lawmakers repeatedly tried to manipulate the list of beneficiaries of the government’s social investment programmes (NSIP), a presidential aide has said.
The Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Investments, Maryam Uwais, accused members of the Senate and the House of Representatives of repeatedly attempting to insert names of would be beneficiaries. She said her office resisted the attempts, which may have influenced the recent criticism of the programme by the lawmakers.
Mrs Uwais, who said this in a statement on Wednesday, was responding to the leadership of the National Assembly which faulted the implementation of the Buhari administration’s programmes.
The NSIPs include the school feeding programme for primary school pupils, the N-Power for jobless graduates, the conditional cash transfer for elderly cum vulnerable Nigerians, and the government empowerment programme that includes tradermoni – giving out of micro loans to smalll-scale traders.
The lawmakers recently criticised the approach adopted by the federal government to distribute social grants to Nigerians who suffer the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.
They 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, had expressed their concerns at a meeting with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Farouq, and some officials of the ministry on Tuesday.
The meeting, convened by the leadership of the National Assembly, was against the backdrop of the ongoing federal government interventions aimed at reducing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the most vulnerable Nigerians, following the lockdown order given by Mr Buhari on March 29.
The Manipulation Plot
Mrs Uwais lamented the attempt to insert names of beneficiaries of the programme by the lawmakers, describing it as “regrettable and dangerous”.
The lawmakers had alleged that the beneficiaries “are not known personally to the them” and the National Social Register (NSR) is a scam which needs to be reformed through a process that is “more inclusive of the NASS.”
In response, Mrs Uwais explained that 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,” she explained in her statement.
She said the identities and status of the beneficiaries can be verified as it had been done.
“It should be noted that Nigeria has signed a financing Apagreement with the World Bank, in which the process of identification of beneficiaries was set out. Any departure from the process, would place at risk the accessibility to the IDA Credit and the recovered funds from the Abacha family,” she said.
‘Repeated Demand For Inclusion’
“The demand for the inclusion of candidates to the NSR from the NASS has been a recurring issue from the inception of the NSIPs,” Mrs Uwais said. “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.”
She explained that 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.
“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.”
She said the the various communities take ownership and support 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.”
Manipulation of such programmes and beneficiaries by top politicians is commonplace in Nigeria. PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Buhari’s ministers, including transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi, hijacked a Chinese scholarship scheme for Nigerian students to study railway engineering in China.
Applicants who had no godfathers were denied the opportunity of applying while the ministers and other senior officials nominated the eventual beneficiaries of the scholarship.