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SERAP demands details of planned N729b payment to poor Nigerians

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Hajiya Umar Farouk

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has requested Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, Ms. Sadia Umar-Farouk, to publish details of proposed payment of N729billion to 24.3 million poor Nigerians for six months.

In the details, SERAP wants the minister to include the mechanisms and logistics for the payments, list of beneficiaries and how they have been selected, projected payments per state, and whether the payments will be made in cash or through Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) or other means.

The organisation also wants Umar-Farouk to explain the rationale for paying N5,000 to 24.3 million poor Nigerians, which translates to five per cent of the country’s budget of N13.6 trillion for 2021, and to clarify if this proposed spending is part of the N5.6 trillion budget deficit.

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According to SERAP, Umar-Farouk had, last week, disclosed that the Federal Government would pay about 24.3 million poor Nigerians N5000 each for six months as part of measures to help those impoverished by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the Freedom of Information (FoI) request dated January 23, 2021 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization stated that publishing the details of beneficiaries and selection criteria, as well as the payment plan for six months would promote transparency and accountability, and remove risks of mismanagement and diversion of public funds.

The group added that transparency and accountability in the programme would improve public trust, allow Nigerians to track and monitor its implementation and to hold authorities to account in case of diversion, mismanagement and corruption.

The body further urged the minister to invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor the payments.

The FoI request, read in part: “We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.

“Providing support and assistance to socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians is a human rights obligation, but the programme to spend five-percent of the 2021 budget, which is mostly based on deficit and borrowing, requires anti-corruption safeguards to ensure the payments go directly to the intended beneficiaries, and that public funds are not mismanaged or diverted.”

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