COVID 19: Humanitarian Affairs Minister Possibly Misquoted on $322.5million going to poor Nigerians –ANEEJ Clarifies

BENIN CITY, NIGERIA. April 9, 2020…The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), a renowned Civil Society watchdog leading other CSOs under the umbrella of Monitoring Transparency and Accountability in the Management of  Returned Assets (MANTRA) project being supported by DFID under the Anti-Corruption in Nigeria (ACORN) programme has weighed in on news reports credited to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq that the money being paid to poor Nigerians is all loan from the World Bank, saying the minister might have been quoted out of context.

Executive Director of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, the Rev David Ugolor in a reaction to the comments credited to the Minister at a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly said that data obtained from the National Cash Transfer Office and the World Bank,  the Cash Transfer Programme of the Federal Government is composed of 80 per cent returned $322.5million Abacha loot and 20 per cent World Bank loan.

“This clarification becomes important in view of the implication of the message to Nigerians and those following us  as we monitor the use of the returned $322.5million Abacha loot which from the MoU signed between the Nigerian and Swiss Government at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) summit  in Washington DC in 2017, was agreed to be spent on Conditional Cash Transfer Programme. The payment of N5,000 monthly to poor Nigerians under the scheme commenced August 2018 and was paused in December 2019. Given the outbreak of COVID 19 in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, in a nationwide broadcast directed the minister to continue the payment to all those in the National Social Register enrolled in the Cash Transfer Programme as beneficiaries. They are being paid N20,000 each representing four months, January- April, 2020 and our monitors are in the field monitoring the disbursement nationwide. So, we strongly believe that the Honourable Minister would have been misquoted,” anti-corruption expert, Rev. David Ugolor said.

On the question of how the beneficiaries were identified and selected raised by House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, to the Minister, Ugolor explained that the cash transfer programme in Nigeria uses a global model known as the community-based targeting.

“It is a model where members of an indigent community identify what poverty means to them and who the community considers the poorest households among them. The NCTO works in collaboration with the World Bank in the use of this model.

“Through this arrangement or model, the National Social Safety Nets Coordination Office (NASSCO) has over the years built up a national register of the poorest households in Nigeria in collaboration with all the state governments irrespective of the party in power in the states. It is from this National Social Register of Poor and Vulnerable households that the Conditional Cash Transfer Office makes payments to the poorest households in the country.” Ugolor explained, adding that this must not be politicised so that Nigerians do not travel the road of SURE-P funds disbursements that was heavily politicised again.

The ANEEJ helmsman lauded the leadership of the National Assembly for taking interest in the Social Protection and Welfare Programme of the Federal Government, and implored the leadership of the House and other members alike to dig deeper into understanding how the system works and the success recorded since it was introduced, pointing that there may have been challenges as identified during ANEEJ-MANTRA monitoring exercises, those challenges are not enough to discredit the scheme in its entirety, Ugolor advised.

“I like the idea of the Speaker who is of the view of legislating the institutionalization of the Social Investment Programme in Nigeria as it is done in other countries of the world. This is a welcomed idea and ANEEJ is willing to work with the leadership of the National Assembly to have this piece of legislation passed expeditiously. But it is important to caution that the legislation should ensure the continuation of the global best practice in identifying the poorest amongst us and for community ownership. The National Social Register must be insulated from partisanship” Ugolor advised.

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