Abuja Nigeria, June 3, 2019…The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, a leading Civil Society Organisation working on the issues of asset recovery and management, as well as other Civil Society Organisations across the country currently monitoring the use of $322.5million Abacha loot returned from Switzerland under the aegis of Transparency and Accountability in the Return and Management of looted Assets (MANTRA) have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to personally intervene in the face-off between the First Lady and Special Adviser on Social Investment Programme (SIP), Mrs Maryam Uwais in the interest of poor Nigerians who are targeted with the scheme.
The Executive Director of ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor leading independent Civil Society monitoring of the recovered returned Abacha loot in his first official reaction generated by the controversy said “We wholeheartedly welcome the interest taken by wife of the President on the Social Investment Programme which goes to show her strong desire in the plight of Poor Nigerians. Her comments on the methodology in the disbursement of the Conditional Cash Transfer is worthy of note. Her renewed interest in SIP calls for a stakeholders’ summit in Nigeria to discuss how to strengthen the Social Investment Programme as a veritable tool to combating poverty in addition to other initiatives of government, “noting that the SIP alone cannot resolve the poverty problem of Nigeria recently adjudged the world’s poverty capital.
Continuing Ugolor said: “We equally wish to acknowledge and commend the successes achieved so far by the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment Programme, Mrs. Maryam Uwais. This is based on data and facts obtained from the Independent Civil Society field monitoring exercise of the returned $322.5million Abacha loot being distributed to the poorest of poor Nigerians. We monitored the disbursements end- to- end, that is, from the Central Bank through the distribution channels to the targeted beneficiaries which are the poorest of poor Nigerians in December 2018.
“We covered 30,778 households picking on a sample size of 10 per cent spread across eleven states of the country deploying over 560 monitors and supervisors in our December rounds of monitoring. The National Cash Transfer Office (NCTO) and the National Social Safety-Net Coordinating Office (NASSCO) being supervised by Mrs. Maryam Uwais provided every information and data we demanded for the monitoring exercise. We were not denied any information. Our findings confirmed that poor Nigerians targeted with the returned loot actually received N10,000 for the months of August and September and we have received further updates up till December last year of receipts by the poor Nigerians which we would be verifying in our next round of monitoring. There were challenges in the distribution chain which we observed and communicated to the Cash Transfer Office. They have addressed some of them and others are at various stages of being addressed. There is also a Grievance Redress Mechanism put in place to address all issues emanating from targeted beneficiaries which we also checked, and majority of such issues were promptly addressed. We therefore, wish to appeal that this must not be politicized.
“Nigeria at the recently organized Open Government Global Summit held from May 29-31 in Ottawa, Canada was celebrated for its success in the use of returned loot to finance Social Investment Programme under the Cash Transfer scheme and it is being invited all over the world to share its experiences and Learnings to help many other countries around the world that are facing similar widespread corruption and looting of public resources by politically exposed persons. The United Nations, Transparency International are inviting us to share our experiences and lessons learnt in Geneva and Addis Ababa this year alone. This would not have been happening without the contributions of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Mrs Maryam Uwais, World Bank, Switzerland and UK Governments as well as Civil Society closely working together. This, for us, is a good success story that we need to celebrate hence our quest for a multi-stakeholder summit in Nigeria to review whatever challenges associated with the implementation of the Social Investment Programme with a view to strengthening its operations as the whole world is looking unto Nigeria. This is why we our calling on our President to personally resolve the differences between our First Lady and Mrs Uwais because Mrs Uwais has done well,” Ugolor stated.
In a similar vein, the Secretary of Bayelsa Forum of NGOs (BANGOF), Yenagoa, Mr. Keme Opia, however, aligns with the findings of the Nigerian Economic Summit Groupbased on its Policy Innovation Unit Impact Evaluation report. “the NSIP has succeeded as a programme beyond political party lines as is evidenced by the adoption of State Governments that are not in the Ruling Party and therefore has the design framework for transparency, trust and equitable application across the Federation,” Mr. Opia notes of the ERGP report.
The Economic Summit Group in its evaluation report said that the NSIP are delivering the stated Federal Government Objectives and Outcomes; and that they have delivered measurable results even though it has only received 31% of the Annual Budget of N 500 Billion; and recommended that the NSIP should be allowed to scale towards National Impact Targets set in the ERGP.
“There is no one- size- fits- all in our quest to combat poverty in Nigeria and we believe that the Social Investment Programme of the Federal Government remains one right way to go. It should be strengthened and well-funded for it to achieve its impact,” adds Executive Director of New Initiative for Social Development, NISD, Mr. Abiodun Oyeleye.
The Executive Director of Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Kano, Mallam Zikirulahi Ibrahim stated that “For us, we celebrate this multi-stakeholder partnership that is working for the first time in Nigeria- Government, Civil Society, and other development partners as well as the Private sector working together for the common good of all Nigerians. This is what MANTRA represents and it is, for the first time showing that something good is happening in Nigeria. It is showing for the first time that the returned loot is not being re-looted. I think this should be jealously guarded and improved upon”
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