NSIP: NASS leadership and transparency in distribution of palliatives

Both the Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker House of Representatives have reservations on the manner the COVID 19 palliatives are being distributed to needy Nigerians.  Taye Odewale writes.

Our observations

In apparent response to verbal altercation against them by some agents of the federal government in charge of the COVID 19 palliatives distribution, the leadership of the National Assembly said comments on the need for fairness and equity in the distribution of the relief materials were largely done in the interest of the government and the general public.

Lawan and Gbajabiamila, had during a meeting with Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, raised critical issues concerning the operation of the SIP. This did not go down well with some who felt the two NASS leaders were unduly critical.

But in a swift reaction Thursday, both in a joint statement said their  observations on the way the federal government relief materials and other donations made by individuals to Nigerians currently suffering the coronavirus lockdown were made in reflection of the feelings of those at the receiving end.

The image of the legislative arm of government dismissed the notion that their observations before those entrusted with the responsibility of identifying and locating Nigerians who truly deserved succour to cushion the harsh effect of the pandemic were not to hurt or bring down onyone.

The Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, said that their observations on the implementation of the National Social Investment Programme (N-SIP) were not in any way a denigration any official but to make the scheme more effective. They said their views represented the aggregate view of Nigerians who are at the receiving end and ought to rightly be the beneficiaries of the gesture.

The Special Adviser (Media) to the Senate President, Ola Awoniyi, in a statement in Abuja, said the National Assembly leadership “takes strong exception to the innuendo” by the Special Adviser to the President NSIP, Maryam Uwais, to the effect that that her statement was meant to protect poor Nigerian beneficiaries from the NSIP who are not connected to federal legislators.

According to the statement, though the leadership of the National Assembly is committed to maintaining good working relations with the executive, such and functional working relationship should not and will not stop it from “asserting its considered views in promotion and defence of good governance.”

“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 make recommendations for better implementation of important programmes of government.

It’s feedback from Nigerians

“That, in summary, was what was done at Tuesday’s meeting. The observations made by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and the Speakers of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, captured the views of many Nigerians.

“These observations also reflect feedback from the people they represent who are the targeted beneficiaries of the scheme.

 “We, therefore, take 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.’

Unnecesary attack on NASS

“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 promotion and defence of good governance.

“We urge officials and agencies of government to exploit their access to the Legislature in making clarifications before reacting to newspaper reports on its deliberations.”

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 Maryam 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.

The statement reads in part: “The attention of the leadership of the National Assembly has been drawn to reactions to some newspaper reports on its meeting with the Honourable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, which held on Tuesday 7th April, 2020.

“The leadership of the National Assembly had called the meeting as part of the Legislature’s collaborations with the executive arm of government for effective management of the Coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria and mitigation of the harsh effects of the measures adopted in this respect on Nigerians.

Reason for meeting with NSIP

“The focus of the said meeting was the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), which is the vehicle that Government is using to convey its palliative packages to the most vulnerable Nigerians against the backdrop of the lockdown called in many parts of the country to check the spread of the deadly disease.

“It is worth noting that NSIP has been in existence since 2016 and has been pursuing President Muhammadu Buhari’s determination to alleviate the conditions of especially the poorest in society.

“At the meeting with the minister, the leadership of the National Assembly made some observations on aspects of the NSIP and recommended that the implementation process be finetuned and the scheme be backed with legislation to make it more efficient, effective and accord with global best practices.

“Although the official Press Statement issued at the end of the meeting clearly conveyed the deliberations and resolution of the meeting, some misrepresentations appeared in the reports by one or two newspapers.

“Specifically, there was nowhere in the statement that NSIP was described as a “failure” or a “scam” as reported by some
national dailies. Also, there was no mention of N2 trillion or any amount whatsoever in the statement.

“The comments at the meeting were not made to denigrate any official but to make the scheme more effective in the delivery of its critical mandate and these comments were well taken by the honourable minister and her delegation.

“The minister was honest enough to admit that the NSIP had some ‘challenges’ and also bedevelled with ‘intrigues’ which she was yet battling with.

“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.”

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