• April 17, 2021

The More Things ‘Change’ In Nigeria…

By Yinka Odumakin

THE Office of the  Accountant-General of the Federation went up in flames lately as those distributing cash around markets to unknown people have done a great job that is so difficult to account for.

The fire chose the moment of the epic COVID-19 distraction and those in government know us well that they are not even giving it any serious attention. Mr. Clem Agbo, Minister of State for National Planning (never heard of him) visited the place and without any investigation told us the cause of the fire and that no records were destroyed even when he admitted that “no inventory was taken”.

The minister said the fire was caused by a spark in one of the air conditioners on the fourth floor. “There is no destruction, so we haven’t lost any record. As a government I want to assure you that our records are intact, a few documents are burnt, we haven’t started recovery to check what actually burnt, but all our financial transactions are intact. We would be doing a full scale investigation using the right professionals to determine exactly what happened.”

 Full Scale Investigation

Also speaking, Ahmed Idris, AGF, said there would be a “thorough” investigation of the incident. “For emphasis, our data centre is intact, no harm in any way except for the cooling system which we are now working hard to put back to operation,” Idris said.

new low was added to our national calamity this season when Mrs. Maryam Uwais, Special Adviser to President Buhari on Investments said on national television that the poor she assisted Osinbajo to distribute cash to would consider it infradig if their names are released as poor people. She came a long way with the Vice President from the days of Pfizer trial over drug trials in Kano.

She got loads of facts in her diatribe against the Senate President and Speaker of House of Representatives only she is unable to produce those they distributed money to. See excerpts from her long turenchi:

“My attention has been drawn to the online report of The Nation newspaper of April 7, 2020. Indeed, several other online publications carried similar stories, alleging that the National Social Investment Programmes 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 calibre of persons involved, it has become necessary to clarify the issues in the public domain.

1.That the National Social Investment Programme has gulped over N2trn since 2016, when the fund was created. Untrue.

2a) Although the total appropriation by the National Assembly from inception for the four NSIPs is N1.7trn, 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 N619.1bn, constituting 36.4 per cent of the total appropriation from the NASS.

3b) The monies released for the N-SIPs can be further broken down into 14.03 per cent (2016); 35 per cent in 2017; 43.5 per cent in 2018 and 57.8 per cent (as at September 2019) of the N500bn in 2016 and N400bn appropriated for the subsequent years. It should be noted that for 2017 to 2020, the sum of N100bn 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.

1.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 seven 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.

2.) 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.

3.aThat 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 process involves a poverty mapping of the LGAs in each State, community mobilization, targeting and identification supported by trained enumerators at State and LGA levels, after which each of the households identified by the communities is visited and data collated, which information includes fields such as the size of household, age, gender, persons with disability (if any), assets, vocation of head of household, educational qualifications (if any), dwelling house conditions, etc.

Finally, all the data collated is subjected to a proxy means testing formula to determine those who merit the grants and the accompanying training. Even though each State hosts its own information, all of the data is hosted at the National level as the National Social Register. As at March 31, 2020, the NSR comprised 11,045,537 individuals from 2,644,495 households, collated from 35 States, 453 LGAs, 47,698 communities. Each and every beneficiary has a generated unique number and can be tracked.

2020. b) Furthermore, payment service providers have been selected in an open procurement process to pay the cash beneficiaries at their locations, as many of them reside in communities where there is a dearth of banking infrastructure. Even though the majority of beneficiaries are not financially literate, the National Social Investment Office, NSIO, then under the Office of the Vice President, commenced the pilot exercise of payment of beneficiaries in six States through microfinance banks in September 2019, with a 93 per cent success rate. The exercise was preparatory to full digitization, especially with the impending cashless policy in March 2020.

2021. c) It is also pertinent to mention that the National Economic Summit Group, (working with Accenture and the Busara Centre for Behavioural Sciences) formed the Policy Intervention Unit for the NSIO.

Furthermore, in addition to the World Bank’s strict auditing responsibilities, the African Network of Environmental and Economic Justice has provided over 700 monitors across all the LGAs where the NSIP beneficiaries exist. The link to the Report is to be downloaded at: https://aneej.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Mantra-Field-Report-final-compressed.pdf. Indeed, the ICPC, EFCC and the DSS were also invited to monitor the process to protect the beneficiaries, after they receive the benefits in the field.

1. d) It is only in respect of the Job Creation programme that applications are made online. That particular programme was initiated for youth who consist of graduates and non-graduates, as with JAMB candidates who continue to apply for their own admission, online. Indeed, all the LGAs around the country currently have N-Power beneficiaries serving in sundry capacities.

The utilization of the BVN for N-Power beneficiary payment is also as a means of identity (since the NIN number can be generated from the BVN) and to facilitate the tracking of payments and further ensure accountability.

1.e) The identities of the cash transfer beneficiaries are protected by law (the FOI Act), as the consent of recipients of social grants is a pre-requisite, before disclosure. They can, however, be found and verified through the LGA community facilitators, CTFs, who have been trained to support them by weekly visits to the wards. The names, wards, LGAs, states and phone numbers of the CTFs can be found at http://n-sip.gov.ng/resource-data/, as the data collation continues to grow around the country.

2.The Leadership of the Senate also stated that the NSIP information was not accessible to the National Assembly. Untrue.

3. a) It is, however, on record that all invitations to public hearings and meeting by the NASS were honoured by myself (as the supervisor of the NSIPs) and the cluster teams, while documents relating to the structure, activities and progress of the NSIPs were routinely shared with them, over the period that the NSIO supervised the NSIPs under the auspices of the Office of the Vice President, OVP. Furthermore, the monthly reports of 3,000 N-Power monitors, spread across the 774 LGAs, are available to both Poverty Alleviation Committees of the NASS.

Requests For Information

1.b) It should also be noted that the accounting and procurement aspects of the NSIPs were handled by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning on behalf of the NSIO, and not the OVP. All requests for information related thereto were responded to, by that ministry.

2.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.

3.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 April 7, 2020, which allegations were made in respect of certain aspects of the NSIPs from inception in November 2015 to September 2019. “

So Who Got What Ma?

Having listened to all the “waka” the Humanitarian Affairs has been singing on cash transfers so far, the Maryam Uwais case would be a child’s play the day she would be called to give account .

It is worrying that the more things “change” in Nigeria, the more they remain same or worse.

*** Yinka Odumakin is the Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, a pan Yoruba Socio-political organization

Agenda Watchdog

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