Abuja, Nigeria. June 23, 2023… In December 2017, Switzerland returned USD322.5 million of stolen funds (illicitly acquired by the late General Sani Abacha’s family) to the Federal Government of Nigeria. The Federal Ministry of Finance requested that the funds be used to finance the $500 million IDA-financed National Social Safety Net Program (NASSP) in the form of Conditional Cash Transfers to poor and vulnerable Nigerians, which is one of the poverty alleviation programmes under the National Social Investment Programme.
A Swiss court had in March 2015 ordered that the funds be repatriated on the condition that the World Bank monitors their use. Consequently, a Memorandum of understanding was entered into between the Nigeria government, the Swiss government, and the World Bank, which also identified Network on Asset Recovery1 (NAR) made up of civil society organizations led by ANEEJ as an independent monitor for the purpose of providing an independent report on the use of the funds.
The Federal Ministry of Justice then developed and finalized terms of reference for civil society organizations monitoring the 322.5million recovered Abacha loot and recognized ANEEJ as one of the CSOs representing the NAR in interactions with the Federal Government of Nigeria. The task was to monitor and report on the use of the funds to targeted beneficiaries.
In 2018, ANEEJ commenced the monitoring exercise under the Monitoring of Recovered Assets in Nigeria through Transparency and Accountability (MANTRA) project with support from FCDO. Through the MANTRA project, ANEEJ worked with 6 regional partners, and engaged a total of 35 CSOs and over 500 monitors for the exercise in 6 geopolitical zones of the country. The exercise produced the first disbursement report of the $322.5million covering the August/September 2018 payment round to beneficiaries in 19 States.
Since then, ANEEJ and its MANTRA partners have been monitoring the process, engaging relevant institutions such as the federal ministry of justice, National Cash Transfer Office (including their States and Local Government Offices), National Social Safety Net Coordinating Office, Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, third part monitors, other CSOs, media and have produced series of reports for the public from 2018 to date. Four states: Edo, Enugu, Kebbi, and Ondo were left out of payment since 2019 owing to technical issues. ANEEJ and its partners advocated for the resolution of the issues.
It is against this background that ANEEJ is holding this press conference to provide an update on a monitoring exercise or spot check on payment to beneficiaries of the national cash transfer programmes, conducted in four States.
Reprieve came the way of beneficiaries of the National Cash Transfer Programme in Edo, Ondo, Enugu and Kebbi States where payment has been stalled, as beneficiaries trooped out to receive their payment in designated centres across the four States.
The exercise started with screening of the beneficiaries on the 19th April 2022 at Kokani Ward in Jega Local Government Area of Kebbi State while the Payment to the beneficiaries commenced on Monday afternoon, 25th April 2022. A total of
N1,920,000,000 was disbursed to 46,780 beneficiaries across 6 LGAs in the State.
In Ondo State, the payment commenced on Tuesday morning, April 26, 2022 at Oba-Ile Ward in Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State. A total of
N120,544,000 was disbursed to 3,673 beneficiaries in 6 LGAs across the State.
In Edo State, pre-disbursement meeting was held on the 19th of April 2022 while payment to beneficiaries began on Friday 29 April 2022 at Oredo LGA, Benin City. A total of N360,704,000 was disbursed to 8,705 beneficiaries in 5 LGAs across the State. Payment was not done in Etsako Central LGA, one of the benefiting LGAs in the State.
On the 4th of May 2022, payment eventually commenced at Owo development Centre, Nkanu East LGA in Enugu State at 2.30pm. A total of N129,560,000 was disbursed to 3,144 beneficiaries in 5 LGAs across the State. The exercise was conducted in the designated centres between 4th – 27th May 2022 in Enugu State.
In Kebbi, Ondo and Edo States, beneficiaries were paid backlogs covering 8 months (January 2020-August 2020), each beneficiary received the sum of N40,000 only. While, the beneficiaries in Enugu State received the sum of N50,000 covering the backlogs for 10 months, between the period of January 2020-October 2020.
ANEEJ- MANTRA partners were on the field to witness both the screening and the payment sessions accordingly in the four States and the name of the payment service providers (PSP) that issued the payment in the four states was NIPOST.
Some of the key findings and observations include the Late arrival of the payment service provider resulting in late commencement of payment and long wait of the CCT beneficiaries. An unreliable payment schedule by the payment service provider made the payment points very congested, Orderliness and a peaceful atmosphere were observed at the payment centers. The period of disbursement coincided with the farming season in Ondo State and as such some beneficiaries were absent in payment locations. In Edo State, Etsako Central LGA was excluded from the current payment of the supposed six benefiting LGAs. Police, Civil Defense corps, and Local Vigilante groups were on the ground to ensure maximum security in all the four States.
We recommend that extensive public awareness activities be put in place to notify the beneficiaries before payment commences. The huge cash payment in communities constitutes a security risk as those with bank accounts could be considered for easy transfer of funds.
In conclusion, the payment to beneficiaries of the national cash transfer programme in the four States was conducted in the designated centres between April 25 2022 – May 27, 2022. The beneficiaries were visibly happy upon eventual receipt of the long-expected cash. However, we are still reviewing the data from the field with the upstream data as the reconciliation process is on-going. We have also been notified of the online payment to beneficiaries which is currently being implemented in all the States for the completion of the disbursement of the return of $322.5 Abacha loot plus the accrued interest.
Rev. David Ugolor is ANEEJ, Executive Director.