Thursday, February 25, 2021
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Senate writes off N1.5tr social investment project

The Senate Committee on Appropriations, yesterday, frowned at the implementation of the N1.5triilion National Social Investment programme of the Federal Government, describing it as abysmally low. Based on this rating, the Committee pointed out, therefore, that it was obvious that Nigerians were not feeling the impact of the programme, lamenting that the purpose of the programme was being defeated.

 

Consequently, the Committee cautioned that the National Social Investment Programme was gradually going the way of the disbanded Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) of the immediate past administration. The lawmakers further threatened to drastically reduce the yearly allocation of N500 billion to NSIO if its performance failed to improve in the 2018 fiscal year.

 

Funds for NSIO are provided under the Service Wide Vote, which is currently under the Presidency. The Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje, made the threat when the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, appeared before the committee to make explanations on the proposed budget implementation.

 

The Presidential Aide, however, told the committee that NSIO had received N175 billion in 2016 and 2017 financial year. She said: “You may kindly recall that a sum of N500 billion was appropriated for the NSIP budget in 2017, out of which N100 billion was allocated for the Social Housing Scheme under the Federal Ministry of Finance.

 

“Furthermore, out of the balance of N400 billion, only N90 billion was released to the NSIO for the year 2017.” She also said that they received the sum of N85 billion in 2016. Goje stressed the importance of the programme to the wellbeing of Nigerians, noting that by the end of three years, the NSIO would have handled unprecedented sum of N1.5 trillion. He said: “Many people are complaining that they have not seen the impact of the programme considering the magnitude of the fund involved. “I am from Gombe State.

 

I represent Gombe Central. I am yet to see one single boy who came to tell me that he has benefited from your N500 billion. “Many other Nigerians are saying the same thing. N500 billion for 36 states is about N13 billion. If you spend N13 billion in one year in Gombe State, there is no way I would not have known, other people will also know. “If you spend N500 billion in one year in Nigeria, Nigerians will know. No single All Progressives Congress person in Gombe State has benefitted from your School Feeding Programme. No single person from Gombe State has benefitted from your N-Power. We don’t know about your N-Power. As far as many of us are concerned, we are completely dissatisfied with what you are doing.”

 

He also said that there was no indication to show that N100 billion was deducted from source for Social Housing Scheme by the Ministry of Finance. He said: “Senate does not know about N100 billion going for Housing Scheme. The money is given to you for social investment.”

 

But Uwais said: “Unfortunately, N100 billion is deducted at source for Housing Scheme by the Federal Ministry of Finance.” The budget defence session almost degenerated into shouting match between the committee members and Mrs. Uwais. A member of the committee, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, who was highly embittered over the matter, noted that they foresaw the problem at the beginning of the programme. He said: “Those of us who approve the budget, we don’t know what is happening. We should know what is happening in our constituencies. “You have spent N85 billion this year. You spent N90 billion in the first year 2016 making it N175 billion.

 

A programme that has been on for two years, and I don’t know what is happening. It is terrible. The governors you say are also complaining did not allocate money for this programme. We did.” Alasoadura suggested that the programme should be scrapped if its implementation would continue to be a source of worry.

 

However, Goje intervened and insisted that his interest was for the programme to succeed, “because I am also APC. We called you because you are handling big money. N500 billion is half a trillion. The National Assembly has been approving N500 billion with deduction. Unfortunately, most Nigerians do not know what you are doing. Your publicity is zero. Most importantly, the people who are approving the money do not also know what you are doing. “We have asked you to give us detailed report of all you are doing.

 

If we get the report, we will know whether to give you N500 billion. “In 2017 fiscal year, we appropriated N500 billion. In 2018, we will appropriate according to performance. We are going out of our way to make this programme to succeed. We are not against the programme, we want it to succeed.” Senator Francis Alimekhena warned that if care was not taken, the programme would go the way of SURE-P, noting that NSIO should not use World Bank template in the country because it would not work. Senator Sunny Ogbuoji, who is the Deputy Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, noted that for two years, NSIO had accessed N175 billion out of N1 trillion.

 

He demanded to know if the NSIO had the capacity to use N500 billion judiciously. Responding to Ogbuoji’s inquest, Uwais said that they had the capacity, especially when they also worked in conjunction with some ministries. On N150 billion recurrent and N350 capital expenditure, the committee wondered why a ministry with permanent secretary and directors would receive N3 billion to N5 billion recurrent expenditure, while NSIO without permanent secretary and directors would receive a whopping N150 billion recurrent expenditure. The committee asked the presidential aide to submit names of beneficiaries of its programme today for its verification, stressing that the names of beneficiaries became necessary to ensure that the money was not going into wrong hands.

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