Nigeria: Nigerian Govt Denies Claims of Senators Hijacking Social Investment Programmes

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The National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) has debunked reports that some Nigerian senators were trying to hijack the budget of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Social Investments, Ismaeel Ahmed, spoke with journalists on Wednesday concerning the allegation.

There were reports recently in the Nigerian media that politicians wanted to hijack the NSIP programmes.

The NSIP was set up by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016 to improve the living conditions of millions of poor Nigerians across the country. It started under the office of the vice-president, Yemi Osinbanjo, until this year when it was moved to the newly-established Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development.

The programmes include N-Power, National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), National Cash Transfer Project (NCTP), and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP).

The Cable had reported sources revealing how the special adviser to the president on social intervention, Mariam Uwais, and the new Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Relief and Social Development, Sadiya Farouk, were not allowed to speak on the programme at the budget defence during the budget defence with federal lawmakers on October 25.

“My colleagues accused Uwais of shutting them out of the contract benefits and even appointments of vendors, they threatened to deal with her, using the budget process. They did not allow her to talk,” the newspaper reported, quoting an unnamed senator.

However, Mr Ahmed has dismissed the claims that lawmakers tried to compromise the programme.

“All the allegations are not true, he said. “And I do not know who it is that wants to pit us against the National Assembly, and I say they are entirely not true,” he said.

“And I think it is important for people to know that the National Assembly has been absolutely cooperative and at no point has anyone tried to hijack the programme, ” Mr Ahmed said.

He said the meeting in question with the lawmakers was not a budget defence but a familiarisation visit to interface the programme managers and officials of the new minister, Mrs Farouk.

He said in the course of the budget defence, the lawmakers’ realised that the hardcopy document showing the details of the 2019 expended budget was missing, among other documents presented to the committee, which he said was an error of oversight by the NSIP.

Mr Ahmed also said the lawmakers only demanded to be informed prior to the execution of any activities of the programme to enable them to carry out their oversight function.

“They called us for familiarisation to meet with the programme managers and the federal ministry itself and that was when we went there we were given another date to come for the budget defence. We submitted all the documents and we submitted a soft copy.

“But I think when we sat down for a budget defence, they realised that a very important document that was missing which was the 2019 expenditure, which is part of the protocol of budget defence. Before you go defending the next budget you should be able to provide documentation for how you spent the last budget that was approved by the National Assembly.

“And they did not find that documents within their documents, and they queried us on that, and when we wanted to speak with myself and the special adviser (Mrs Uwais) only the minister because she was new and they apologised to her and they told her they cannot take our budget that day,

“As we would have to submit the 2019 expenditure, which was submitted in softcopy but was not communicated effectively to them because it was not in hardcopy.

“So we took that as our fault and we went back and got the 2019 expenditure and resubmitted it and they admitted us the following time and the budget defence held. So it was not targeted, it was just only we missed an important document that we were supposed to submit and they told us to come back.”

On the use of recovered looted funds of the former Head of State, Sani Abacha, for the NSIP, Mr Ahmed said there is an existing structure for monitoring and supervising the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT).

He said the World Bank would have pulled out of the programme if the money was not utilised.

Mrs Uwais, in October, had said that the Federal Government was channelling the recovered Abacha loot, $103.64million; and the International Development Association /World Bank credit towards programmes and policies designed to address vulnerable Nigerians.

The presidential aide said from the August 2018 to the October payment cycle, the total amount disbursed from the Abacha loot was $76,538,530 and $27,099,028 from the IDA credit.

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