Senate raises alarm over possible abuse of N500bn social fund
By Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye
The Senate yesterday raised the alarm over possible mismanagement of the N500 billion social intervention fund captured in the 2016 budget.
The upper chamber lamented that already over N80 billion of the fund had been disbursed supposedly to the poor without any noticeable evidence of where the money went to.
It asked the Federal Government to take another look at the disbursement of funds under the intervention programme especially by incorporate manual registration of beneficiary from all wards and local governments in the country.
The measure, the Senate said, will enable the government to avoid the pit falls of the past intervention schemes.
The upper chamber said that it is concerned that “with the way the programme is being run, nothing of meaningful value is going to be achieved with the N500 billion, neither is it going to create the future value it could, if not implemented effectively.”
The resolutions followed the consideration and adoption of a motion entitled “The Need to avoid the Mismanagement of the 500bn Social Intervention Funds,” sponsored by Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume
The Senate also resolved to ask the Federal Government to “present a clear framework that does not marginalize any segment of our society no matter where they may be in the country and present same to the National Assembly for passage into law.”
The lawmakers wanted the government to “ensure that the implementation of the intervention programme going forward is framed to be robust enough to reach the poorest in our community for whom the program was first conceived.”
It said that “a clear channel of accountability for the implementation of the program must be created and be audited on a continuous basis and its report presented to the National Assembly.”
Ndume in his lead debate observed that one of the cardinal policy thrusts of the current All Progressives Congress (APC” government has been the use of social-safety nets through interventions schemes to foster inclusive growth and opportunity for our people;
He expressed his supports for all programmes of government aimed at creating opportunities for the less privileged and the reduction of poverty through intervention schemes.
Ndume noted that the 8th National Assembly in consonance with the Executive’ request, “fully approved the huge sum of N500bn in the 2016 annual budget for the purpose of facilitating the Federal Government 500bn social intervention fund for this objective.”
He acknowledged that of this amount, government stated that it intended to create job opportunities for 500,000 teachers.
“It also stated that 5.5 million children are to be provided with meals through school feeding programmes, conditional cash transfer schemes, financial support to one million vulnerable beneficiaries.
“The programme also targets to have a complementary enterprise programme which is targeted at empowering up to one million market women; 400,000 artisans and 200,000 agricultural workers nationwide,” Ndume said.
He said that the National Assembly without insisting on the implementation template approved the programme in the budget in order to fast track the process of implementation of the programme for the benefit of the poor;
He observed that the current economic situation and the need to have a social intervention scheme that could lift the people out of poverty, was the overriding concern of the National Assembly when it did not insist on having a proper framework for the implementation of the fund made available before it approved the programme.
He expressed concern that “the implementation of such a huge programme is now being carried out in the same manner as the other failed social interventions funds like the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme SURE-P, without a proper framework which led to their failure.”
He further observed that “in the light of the recent petitions and complaints from our constituencies this money will not be well spent, nor will it achieve any major benefit to the economy despite the good intentions of Government because of the way it’s been structured.”
Ndume reiterated that “the one size fit all of online registration of beneficiaries have the tendency to exclude and marginalize the very segment of the population it should target which are the poor and their children.”
Ndume said that there is nothing on the ground to do a proper oversight on the project as it is yet unclear how each state, local govemment to the ward level of the country is going to benefit from this programme.
He noted that the new concept on MPower requiring teachers, market women and graduates, to register online, is faulty and discriminates against rural women and men who are technologically disabled.
The situation, he said, is especially so with the people of Borno State in general who are technically off grid and off line.
He voiced concern that the intervention programme was set up for “the poorest amongst us meaning those of us that can hardly afford to eat and meet their basic needs, but the implementation targets those who are far ahead of these segment, those who are not only connected to but can afford technology and are able to use them effectively.”
He noted that “these are not the most vulnerable of our society, they are not the neediest amongst us, and they may be vocal but not the segment we believe this intervention should target.
“A proper social intervention scheme that we need must be robust enough to capture all segment of the Nigerian population; we are not building a nation for elites alone, but a nation for all citizens.”