Re: First Lady and N500b social investment assessment
Our attention has been drawn to an editorial titled: “First Lady and N500B Social Investment Assessment”, published in The Guardian Newspaper on Friday, June 14, 2019.
In the publication, The Guardian editorial drew hasty conclusions on the implementation of the Federal Government’s National Social Investment Programmes (SIPs), claiming that the management of the Scheme has been haphazard.While we welcome concerns and constructive criticisms, which we strongly believe will help better planning and management of the SIPs to achieve intended objectives, the National Social Investment Office, NSIO, which coordinates the various social safety-net programmes of the Federal Government is surprised that a reputable media outfit in the class of Guardian could take a position to cast aspersions on genuine and well intended efforts of Government based on an individual opinion.
Unfortunately, rather than continue in the leading lights of balanced editorials, the Guardian chose to further muddle up the conversation by feasting on the obvious misinterpretations of the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari’s comments, with evident bias and without clarifying facts.
Making such unfounded claims without balancing it with the facts on the scheme is most regrettable and a brazen affront to the ethical considerations of the noble Journalism profession.Nevertheless, it is important to state that the overall success and transparency in the management of the SIPs and its positive impact on communities and millions of Nigerians across the country, is not in doubt.
The Guardian publication comes amid several other highly orchestrated media reports seeking to discredit genuine efforts by the Federal Government to close the huge poverty gap in Nigeria through the SIPs coordinated by the National Social Investment Office which is domiciled in the office of the Vice-President.
Again, for the avoidance of doubt, the SIPs had been implemented and managed in the most transparent and efficient manner possible, especially in the selection of beneficiaries and the disbursement of funds and other logistics. It is no gainsaying that globally acceptable standards were adopted in the implementation of the SIPs. For instance, disbursements were made directly into beneficiaries’ bank accounts rather than third parties as evident in the Cash Transfer scheme, the GEEP components (TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni) and even in the N-Power scheme.
Recall that in 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Social Investment Programmes designed to reach and improve the living conditions of poor, vulnerable and unemployed Nigerians, irrespective of the religion, tribe or political affiliation.
Prior to its launch in 2016, there was no significant social welfare scheme implemented by a government at any level to tackle the problem of unemployment and poverty, amongst others, in Nigeria. As at the end of March 2019, the Social Investment Programmes has over 12 million direct beneficiaries and about 30 million indirect beneficiaries, comprising family members, employees of beneficiaries, cooks and farmers, and members of the community, is regarded as the largest social safety net in sub-Saharan Africa. The NSIP has four main components (N-Power; Conditional Cash Transfers; National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme; and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme) targeting different subgroups of Nigerians for empowerment. Consequently, in less than four years of vigorous implementation of the various programmes, all 36 states of the Federation, including the Federal Capital Territory have felt the impact of the social intervention initiatives of the Buhari administration.
The School Feeding Programme has recorded 20 per cent increase in school enrolment with over 9.5 million pupils currently being fed a free meal daily in 31 states. Also, millions of Nigerians have benefitted from GEEP schemes, while the microcredit schemes have empowered over 2 million micro-enterprises with collateral-free, interest-free loans to grow their businesses.
Over 1.7 million petty traders have received the interest-free TraderMoni loans across the country. The scheme is designed to assist petty traders and artisans nationwide to expand their trade through the provision of collateral and interest-free loans starting from N10, 000. The loans are repayable over a period of six months, after which the traders get an increased loan of N15, 000. They get additional sums up to a N100, 000 along the way as they repay the loans.
The N-power job creation and skills acquisition scheme is another major success story of the Buhari administration’s SIPs. Over 500,000 young graduates and non-graduates have been engaged under the different components of the programme, providing varied services in schools, health centres and agricultural establishments.
The Buhari government, indeed, has the people’s welfare at the heart of its economic plan. This feat is being achieved amid shortfalls in Budgetary releases since 2016. It is important to also note that out of an annual approved budget of N500 Billion, between 2016 and 2018, the total sum of N470,825,522,694.62 has so far been released to the NSIO and expended on the above-mentioned programmes as follows
2016 – N79.9 Billion
2017 – N140 Billion
2018 – N250.8 Billion
It is also incorrect to say that the $322m recovered Abacha loot was disbursed without going through appropriation by the National Assembly. Also note that following the FG’s agreement with the Swiss government, the repatriated loot is being distributed through the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme to poor families, under the supervision of the World Bank. The CCT, which provides a monthly base cash transfer of N5,000 to the poorest and most vulnerable households in the country, with the aim of taking them out of absolute poverty, has been able to reach about 400,000 in Nigeria. In addition, findings from Independent Civil Society Organisations monitoring the use of the repatriated loot show that the money is being given to poor Nigerians. Again, the call for a detailed presentation of how the SIP funds had been disbursed is tantamount to overstating the obvious, as the officers in charge of the various components of the scheme have, at different forums, given account of the implementation of the various schemes. The information is in the public domain.
The call for a detailed presentation of how the SIP funds had been disbursed amounts to overstating the obvious as the officers in charge of the various components of the scheme have, at different forums, given account of the implementation of the various schemes. It is pertinent to inform Nigerians, particularly those who are being used by detractors to undermine and discredit the social intervention programmes of government that the SIPs target 20 million beneficiaries under the first phase with plans to raise the number as the scheme progresses. It is also pertinent to state that the former Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment Programmes, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, has in the past three years brought her wealth of experience and rich knowledge in both public and private sector to bear on her assignment.
The NSIO would ordinarily have ignored such ill-intended media reports, but we are forced to respond based on the notion that when falsehood is allowed to spread too frequently, it begins to sound like the truth; hence the need to set the records straight for better understanding of the workings of the SIPs. Reducing poverty is not a task that can be achieved overnight, but with sustained efforts coupled with the political will displayed by the Buhari administration to ensure strict implementation of the SIPs, more Nigerians would be enrolled to benefit from our various programmes, which have made a significant impact on the lives of over 12 million Nigerians since inception in 2016. We are not oblivious of the suffocating poverty situation in the country worsened by mismanagement of state resources by past administrations. The SIPs is a timely intervention to ease the disturbing situation and take millions of poor and vulnerable Nigerians out of the poverty line. What distinguishes the current social intervention programmes from similar initiatives in the past is the fact that they have been structured in a manner that eliminates any form of corruption or sharp practices.
To provide a level playing field for applicants, the application and selection processes are structured to be technologically-driven, with verification conducted by Nigeria Inter Bank Settlement System NIBBS (through the BVN) and subsequently at the state level, by the states, working with the NOA and other partners. A direct payment system to the beneficiaries through the Bank Account and BVN is part of the structure after deployment. The NSIO will not be distracted by the antics of some desperate and self-serving individuals and groups seeking political relevance and patronage through sponsored media contents designed to put the office on a collision course with initiators of the programmes and Nigerians. We will redouble efforts in our work until every Nigerian on and below the poverty line wins. It is obvious that many Nigerians have benefitted from the Social Investment Programmes and it would be unfair to rubbish such achievements with misleading editorials with subtle intentions. The call by the First Lady was never an indictment of the entire scheme. Rather, it was for authorities to look at the scaling up the SIPs, which continue to impact millions nationwide.
Umukoro, National Social Investment Office
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