National assembly leaders have faulted the federal government’s Social Intervention Programme, which includes the Conditional Cash Transfer programme to poor households as one of the palliatives measures against the outbreak of Coronavirus in the country.
In a meeting held on Tuesday April 7 with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq and some top officials of the Ministry, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila faulted the scheme.
The National Assembly leaders stated that the Social Investment Programme which was established in 2016 under the Presidency, needs to be reformed to become effective and efficient.
In a statement released by Special Adviser (Media) to the Senate President Ola Awoniyi, it was learnt that the meeting was also attended by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, Deputy Speaker Idris Wase and some other principal officers and members from both Chambers.
Lawan who insisted that the poorest of the poor are not captured in the scheme, said;
“We feel that we need to work together with you to ensure that there is effectiveness, there is efficiency, that those who are supposed to benefit, benefit directly.
“When for example, some conditions are set, that those who will benefit will have to go online, through the internet or BVN and the rest of it.
“I want to tell you that the majority of those who are supposed to benefit have no access to power. They have no access to the internet. They have no bank account, so no BVN.
“In fact, many of them don’t even have phones and these are the poorest of the poor. Yet, some of the conditions or guidelines which you set inadvertently leave them out.
“We believe that when we work together, the Executive side of government and the National Assembly as representatives of the people, we will be able to reach much more of these people who are in serious distress even before the Coronavirus.
“Now with Coronavirus, they need our attention more than ever before. The time has come that we review the ways and manner we use to deliver the services under the SIP to Nigerians.
“We need to be better in terms of strategy for delivery and definitely, what we have been doing in the past cannot deliver exactly what will solve the challenges of the most ordinary and most vulnerable Nigerians.
“So we need to put on our thinking cap and work out some strategies on how to identify the poorest persons in Nigeria. I think we have not been able to reach far out there to get them properly captured.”
On his own part, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila questioned the parameters employed in knowing those the programme is meant for.
“Your job right now, is probably the most important as we speak, because you are saddled with the responsibility of alleviating ‘poverty’ or the hardship, due to no fault of anyone, being thrust upon Nigerians, and I know that you came into a system, or you met a system that has nothing to do with you, but what we will be asking you to do is for you to change that system.
“When you walk into a system, no system is 100 perfect. The word reform is something we use all the time, and this is the one time when that word reform must be used in the truest sense of that word.
“The questions are going to be asked, how do you come about your list, how comprehensive is your distribution list? What are the parameters? What is the geographical spread? So these are tough questions that are going to be asked but I want you to look at them as frank questions that we need to ask.
“If you really want to define the meaning of representation, if that was being practiced in the real meaning of representation, then we shouldn’t be here. Because of all the questions we want to ask, we should already have the answers. We should be providing those answers to the Nigerian people we represent.
“But if they ask me, as the speaker of the House, or ask the Senate President or any of my colleagues here, we are going to be struggling for answers. If we were really representing, then we will not need to ask because we will have the answers.”
The Speaker also revealed that the Committees in the House have been complaining bitterly even before the Minister took over the scheme, about the inability to access information about the programme which he likened to the Unemployment Insurance Act in the UK and the Social Security Act in the US.
“There is a lot of take away from this COVID-19. One of them is the International Best Practices. My point is that these things are backed by law. They are codified by the legislature so that these issues and these questions will not arise.”
The Minister, Sadiya Farouq however disclosed that the Social Investment Programme was moved to her ministry for “sustainability and institutionalisation.”
“I am very pleased to hear that we are going to work together to see that we give legal backing to this program because that is the only way to go.”
The SIP has gulped over N2 trillion since 2016 when the special intervention fund was created, as annual budgetary allocation targeted at the poor. The sum of N500 billion was provided in the budget every year since 2016.