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National Assembly deplores alleged fraud at social investment programmes

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Queries N12 billion monthly bill for school feeding project
Allegations of monumental fraud perpetrated at the Social Investment Programmes (SIPs) yesterday drew the ire of the leadership of the National Assembly.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, made their reservations at a meeting with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq and some top officials of the ministry in Abuja.

The two presiding National Assembly officers called for the immediate suspension of the register used for the scheme when informed by officials that accompanied the minister to the gathering that some N12 billion was being paid monthly for the school feeding programme without verification.

Another issue that provoked Lawan and Gbajbabiamila was the N100 million monthly payment to an unnamed consultant that purportedly handles some aspects of the project.

Hajia Farouq, it was learnt, had told the National Assembly leaders that she inherited the “mess.”

The minister was said to have told the lawmakers that she does not understand why the school feeding project was adopted for COVID-19, adding that “even other programmes have so many inadequacies that her ministry is still trying to unravel.”

Struggling to contain his annoyance, Lawan stated: “The way the poverty list was generated has raised all types of problems here. No one believes in the social register. Its a fraud and not fair.”

In a statement issued after the meeting by his media office said the National Assembly leadership urged enabling legislation to transform the SIPs in line with global best practices.

The forum was convened by the legislature against the backdrop of the ongoing interventions by the Federal Government to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on most vulnerable Nigerians.

In his opening remarks, Lawan had noted that the two legislative chambers were very much interested in the current initiatives of the ministry particularly the disbursements aimed at assuaging the plight of the poorest of the poor in the wake of the COVID-19 endemic.

“We feel that we need to work together to ensure that there are effectiveness and efficiency. We also want to ensure that those who are supposed to benefit, benefit directly,” he added.

Speaking in the same vein, Gbajabiamila noted: “Your job right now is probably the most important as we speak, because you are saddled with the responsibility of alleviating ‘poverty’ or the hardship, due to no fault of anyone, being thrust upon Nigerians, and I know that you came into a system, or you met a system that has nothing to do with you, but what we will be asking you to do is for you to change that system.”

He added: “When you walk into a system, no system is 100 perfect. The word reform is something we use all the time, and this is one time when that word, reform, must be used in the truest sense of it.”

The speaker urged the minister to liaise with relevant committees and the National Assembly leadership on the best way to codify the scheme.


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