BENIN CITY, NIGERIA. June 18, 2020… A total of Seven Hundred and forty-eight thousand, six hundred and eighty four (748,684) households of poor and vulnerable Nigerians out of an enrolled figure of 755,375 targeted in the Nigerian Social register received a total of ₦13,069,896,000 representing 80 percent of the total N16,337,370,000 from the recovered $322.5million Abacha Loot returned from Switzerland during the January-April 2020 payment cycle which was used as palliatives by the Federal Government in addressing needs of the poor during the COVID -19 lockdown. The payments are being made under the Conditional Cash Transfer of Nigeria’s Social Investment Programme (SIP) of the Federal Government.
Executive Director of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor, leading CSOs monitoring the disbursement nationwide disclosed this today at a World Press Conference/Virtual Meeting in Benin City, Edo State to formally present MANTRA Field Monitoring report to stakeholders and the Nigerian public.
Rev David Ugolor who is the Head of Monitoring Transparency and Accountability in the Management of Returned Assets, MANTRA, project, a sub-sect of Anti-Corruption in Nigeria (ACORN) programme of DFID/UKAid further disclosed that the benefiting households were drawn from 24 states. Eight (8) states targeted were yet to be paid as at the time of this report. They include: Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Edo, Enugu, Kebbi, Ondo and Zamfara.
The delays, Rev Ugolor explained were occasioned by the fact that some of the payment providers do not have capacity to effect electronic transfer payment to CCT beneficiaries. Some had issues in reconciling the previous payments of September-October and November-December 2019 and unable to refund unpaid balance. The reconciliation, we were told is at the final stage now.
Ugolor disclosed that there were issues of intimidation of beneficiaries by community leaders to part with some amount of their allowance for the community / themselves for enrolling them in the programme, issues of family conflict arising from the death of the caregiver, insecurity in some locations, overcrowding and crowed management crisis and the mix-up on the issue of CCT and COVID-19 palliative. These concerns were clearly manifested in kogi State.
“Poor understanding of the cash transfer programme and the evolution of the social register by the public
“Beneficiaries were paid 20,000 Naira each covering January – April 2020. In some instances, some beneficiaries were paid arrears and some were paid less than 20,000 depending on when they were enrolled while a few others were paid additional top up of 10,000 Naira as was seen in Anambra State.
“Payment agents were short of cash in some instances. This happened repeatedly in Kogi and Oyo States among other States.
“Some payment points were too far away from the benefiting communities and that is responsible for some enrollees not to benefit from the payment round.
“In some communities, deductions of various forms ranging from 500 to 2000 were discovered. CCT Officials informed the DSS and a culprit was arrested and ordered to refund the money within 24 hours, which was later confirmed to be done. This happened in Hashidu Ward, Dukku LGA, Gombe State.
Given the field observations, the MANTRA project made the following recommendations to the Federal Government:
First, “the NCTO should expedite action in addressing the challenges that led to payments not happening in 8 states and ensure they are paid as poor in such states have expressed marginalization to MANTRA team.
“In future payments, issues of crowd management, delay/ lateness in payment, fairly effective COVID-19 measures around payment location and accountability around the activity of the cooperative society should be properly addressed.
“Greater emphasis should be placed to public awareness around the GRM so that the beneficiaries can effectively report grievance on a timely manner.
“The National Cash Transfer Office should critically and regularly review and clean up the payment register to ensure that dead persons are delisted from the register.
“More CSOs advocacy across the Southern States of Nigerian is needed to get State government to give strong political support to the cash transfer programme and other aspects of SIP, and provide the needed infrastructure that would boost the enrolment of more beneficiaries.
“Additional payment points should be created in some States to address the issues of overcrowding during payment. This will also ensure that payment points are made closer to beneficiaries primary locations.
The returned Abacha loot is being disbursed by the National Cash Transfer Office now located in the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development through payment operators to the beneficiaries in line with a MoU between the Federal Government of Nigeria, Switzerland Government and the World Bank as witnessed by Nigerian Civil Society led by ANEEJ at the inaugural GFAR meeting in Washington DC in 2017. The use of the returned loot for Cash Transfer Programme, according to Ugolor is in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goal 16.4, Global Forum on Assets Recovery principles, and United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) provisions on asset recovery for which Nigeria is signatory to all these instruments.
ANEEJ is working with 8 partners in the project across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. They are: Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) Abuja (North Central), Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRISED), Kano (North West), Bayelsa Non-Governmental Forum (BANGOF),Yenagoa (South-South), FAHIMTA Women and Youth Development Initiative (FAWOYDI) ( North East), New Initiative for Social Development (NISD), Ado-Ekiti (South West) and Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC), Enugu (South East).
The rest are: -Economic Research and Development Centre (SERDEC), Lokoja New Apostolic Church Centre for Development (NAC), GRA, Benin City which focus on behavior change programmes of MANTRA.