NATIONAL SOCIAL INVESTMENT PROGRAMME AND COVID-19

The present lockdown in the country occasioned by coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed the fraud or inadequacies in the implementation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s National Social Investment Programme (NSIP).

At the inception of the present administration in 2015, President Buhari conceived the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), as instrument for lifting Nigeria out of poverty.

Because of the importance he attached to the scheme, he decided to domicile the programme in the Office of the Vice President, for proper funding and effective supervision.

He then appointed Mrs. Mayram Uwais as Special Adviser on National Social Welfare Programme, and charged her with the responsibility of implementing the project.

Saddled with that task, Mrs. Uwais began implementing the NSIP scheme, the best she could. But majority of Nigerians at that time, appeared to be ignorant of the programme, and thus paid little attention to its implementation, until perhaps, it was too late.

In his second term of office, President Buhari changed gear. He removed NSIP from the Office of the Vice President and created a separate ministry, known as Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, headed by Sadiya Umar Farouq, to supervise the programme.

Earlier, in December last year, while giving update on the implementation of the programme, Mrs. Uwais told a joint committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives on Poverty Alleviation that N300 billion had been spent on poverty alleviation by the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) since 2016, when the scheme fully took off.

She further revealed that “so far, we have 11.5 million direct beneficiaries on all our programmes and nine million indirect beneficiaries”, adding that NSIP had “700,000 people on its National Social Register, and pays 300,000 people under its conditional cash transfer scheme”.

But this revelation was not enough to startle or to arouse the curiosity of Nigerians to begin to raise some pertinent questions as to how the N300 billion was utilized in three years; how NSIP came about with the 11.5 million beneficiaries on its programmes; where and where did these beneficiaries come from; and what were their names?

Again, if actually 11.5 million people had benefitted from the NSIP scheme, why is it that Nigeria still remains the poverty capital of the world, etc.?

Everybody kept quiet, and did not press these issues until the advent of COVID-19 with its attendant lockdown and the difficulties associated with it, and in particular, when President Buhari announced that he had given directives that two months’ stipend be paid to the beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer scheme, as palliative, to cushion the effect of coronavirus.

Suddenly, we woke up from our slumber and became interested in the money. From nowhere, rumours began to fly that the federal government was paying N20,000 to every Nigerian, as palliative for the coronavirus lockdown. As a result, some people began to give out their BVN numbers to some unknown people for them to be paid N20,000 into their bank accounts, and were defrauded!

When then we realized ourselves, we began to ask: who really are the beneficiaries of the National Social Investment Programme, in particular, the 300,000 beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer scheme, under which each household was receiving N5,000 every month since 2016? What is the geographical distribution of these beneficiaries, and what were the parameters used in selecting the beneficiaries, etc?

That was when it was dawned on many of them that the implementation of the NSIP was skewed to favour some particular sections of the country, that the beneficiaries were not fairly distributed across the country.

There were also some insinuations that majority of beneficiaries of the scheme were actually not the poorest of the poor, as the programme had envisages, and that the process for capturing and verifying the beneficiaries were too porous and insincere that many people who were not supposed to be there, would have been squeezed into the scheme.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, obviously not satisfied with the implementation of the NSIP scheme, during a meeting between the leadership of the National Assembly and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, demanded for a reform of the programme, while Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, wondered about the parameters the government had used in implementing the scheme.

They therefore recommended that “the implementation process be fine-tuned and the scheme be backed with legislation to make it more efficient, effective and in accord with global best practices.”

Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, was more equivocal, audacious and blunt in criticizing the implementation of the programme. He alleged that Southern Nigeria was completely marginalized in the implementation of the conditional cash transfer scheme.

According to Nnamdi Kanu in a twit, Katsina and Jigawa States had got more than the entire South East, South West, and South South in the scheme, basing his assertion on a chart that allegedly emanated from the conditional cash transfer office.

Nnamdi Kanu’s twit read as follows: “#Conditional Cash Transfer data fraud typifies. WICKEDNESS that drives #Biafra mad. Jigawa & Katsina (88,831). Got almost the DOUBLE of the total of S/W & SE/South (52,816). Yet the OIL that funds #Nigeria comes 100% from SE/South. We sent HIGHEST donations, but got a paltry (3,253).”

If anybody would dispute Nnamdi Kanu’s assertion, certainly not here in Enugu State, because I do not know of anybody in the state, in my local government area, in my own community, who has received even a farthing from this free money being paid from our common wealth by the federal government to some Nigerians since 2016 when the scheme was started. Yet, we have thousands of extreme poor people in Enugu State, in my local government area, and in my community, begging for help.

This, therefore, is a wake up call, both to our state government, and to those who represent us in government. They should rise to the challenge, to ensure that we are no longer marginalized, not only in the NSIP scheme, but also in all other projects, and that we get our due share from the national patrimony. That was why we elected them.

HAPPY EASTER.

DR. DONS EZE

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