Leadership of the National Assembly said on Thursday that its observations on the modus operandi of the National Social Investment Programme, N-SIP captured the views of many Nigerians, especially feedback from the people they represent who are the targeted beneficiaries of the scheme.
The leadership, led by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had at an interactive session with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouk, called for more inclusiveness of poor Nigerians in the distribution chain of funds earmarked for the programme.
They specifically faulted the modus operandi being used for implementing the programme, saying “largest percentage of the poorest of the poor the funds are meant for across the country, don’t have telephone lines, bank accounts let alone Bank Verification Number, BVN, being used as platforms of channeling funds to beneficiaries.”
They consequently urged the minister to redirect the scope of the programme by capturing the actually poor people in the rural areas across the country for it as against doing so through online registration.
But 24 hours after the interaction on the strength of stories written on it, the Special Adviser to President Muhamnadu Buhari on Social Investment, Maryam Uwais accused the National Assembly of wanting to hijack the programme.
Uwais who supervised the programme from 2016 to 2019, said there is no way in the world where such poverty alleviating programme is given to politicians to make inputs as against community based leaders.
She added that only N619 billion was cash backed out of the N1.7trillion appropriated for it between 2016 and 2019.
In their reaction to Uwais’ attack, Lawan and Gbajabiamila said the federal legislature took strong exception to the innuendo by the presidential aide that her rejoinder was issued towards “safeguarding the entitlements of the poorest of Nigerian citizens, whose benefits are likely to cease because they are not known or connected to NASS members or any other person of influence.”
The leadership, in a statement by the Special Adviser on Media to the Senate President, Ola Awoniyi, maintained that “that insinuation is unfair to the members of the National Assembly and entirely baseless.”
“Public office holders should be receptive to constructive ideas and suggestions expressed to enhance service delivery and to improve the performances of public projects and institutions.
“The leadership of the National Assembly is committed to sustaining its cordial working relationship with the other arms of government as it has seen the benefits of this approach in the improved environment and speed of policy and decision making.
“But this commitment will never deter or discourage it from asserting its considered views in the promotion and defence of good governance,” the statement stressed
It maintained that “the leadership of the National Assembly would not have suggested an enabling legislation for the NSIP if it does not believe in the relevance of the scheme.”
“It is true that the leadership of the National Assembly pointed out gaps in the implementation of NSIP. As the representatives of the people, it is a key constitutional mandate of the legislature to oversight, review and makes recommendations for better implementation of important programmes of government,” it added.
The statement however blamed media reportage of the observation made by the two presiding officers of the National Assembly as being responsible for the rejoinder and comments made by Uwais.
“We believe this misrepresentation misled the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs. Maryam Uwais to issue a rejoinder containing unfortunate insinuations which were totally extraneous to the discussions at the meeting and the contemplations of the National Assembly,” it said.
Uwais, had in her rejoinder to some allegations generated during a meeting between the leadership of the National Assembly and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk, disclosed that a total of N619 billion was released to the NSIP between inception in 2016 and 2019.
According to the response, titled “Lawan, Gbajabiamila got it wrong”, she said the National Assembly leadership had claimed that the programme, under her watch, received a total of N2 trillion in budget allocation, however, she said a total of N1.7 trillion was the budget allocation for the three years of her run as manager of the programme and that only N619.1 billion was ever released from the budgeted amount.
The Presidential Adviser described allegations that beneficiaries of the programme were made to register through the internet and required BVN, as not true.
She added that the allegations that the NSIP information was not accessible to the National Assembly and that the National Social Register, NSR was a scam, were also not true.
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