The federal government’s decision to share the $322.5 million recovered Abacha loot to poor Nigerians was agreed with the Swiss government, the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) has said.
ANEEJ is the civil society group implementing the Monitoring of Recovered Assets through Transparency & Accountability (MANTRA) project.
The group is independently monitoring the utilisation of the returned Abacha loot in the cash transfer programme by the federal government in all the 36 states of the federation.
The Executive Director of ANEEJ, David Ugolor, said in an explainer sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday that the Swiss court that handled the negotiations towards the final repatriation of the funds ordered the involvement of the World Bank in supervising the use of the funds as a condition to prevent mismanagement and re-looting.
Mr Ugolor said ANEEJ shared in the concerns of most Nigerians on the choice of using the funds for the conditional cash transfer programme, and believed a legacy project with more visibility and impact should have been the beneficiary.
However, he noted that the use of the funds for cash transfers was an outcome of months of negotiation that enabled the repatriation of the funds in the first place.
To enable the mandatory involvement of the World Bank in the process, Mr Ugolor said the money had to be used in a subsisting programme of the Bank in Nigeria, to enable it use its existing monitoring and broader institutional resources to monitor the use of the funds.
“Since the Bank already had a social investment programme running in the country, the decision was to channel the funds to the cash transfer component of the programme to allow the funds to be used for the benefit of Nigerians, which was another condition in the memorandum of understanding (MOU),” he said.
In recent times, the decision to share the recovered funds among poor Nigerians has been a subject of serious controversy among a section of Nigerians, with some politicians criticising the criteria for selecting prospective beneficiaries.
On Sunday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) called on the federal government to make public names of all persons allegedly involved in siphoning the recovered funds to show transparency in its handling.
The party said publishing the list of the persons was important following allegations the repatriated funds were being siphoned.
Besides, the PDP said releasing the names of the people allegedly involved would enable “Nigerians know those superintending over the stealing of the repatriated fund under the guise of sharing it to the ‘poorest of the poor.”
But, ANNEJ also explained that beneficiaries of the cash transfer programme would be selected from identified households contained in the National Social Register developed by the National Social Safety-Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO) in collaboration with the World Bank.
The register, he said, was developed using three targeted mechanisms to identify poor and vulnerable people across the country.
The mechanisms include geographical targeting (using a poverty map of existing classifications of poverty across all states of the Federation); community-based targeting (using community members and leaders to decide local eligibility for the poorest and vulnerable households in their communities).
The other is a proxy mean test (using observable household individual characteristics such as location and quality of the household’s dwelling, education and occupation of its adult members, etc).
Although only 19 states are currently benefitting from the programme, Mr Ugolor assured there were plans to involve all the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory by the end of this month.
He however said the inclusion of states in the programme was dependent on certain preconditions, including the readiness of the social register for each state and the state government’s preparedness to provide basic infrastructure and manpower for the programme in the state.