Your conditions for palliatives stringent, NASS tells FG

The leadership of the National Assembly Tuesday faulted the handling of the federal government’s Social Investment Programme (SIP), and therefore called for an enabling legislation in line with global best practices.

 Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila expressed their reservations at a meeting with Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq and some top ministry officials in Abuja

They made it abundantly clear that the SIP which was established in 2016 under the Presidency but which is now under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs needed a reform to make it more efficient and effective.

 In his opening remarks, Lawan said the National Assembly was very much interested in the current intervention initiatives of the ministry, particularly with respect to the disbursement aimed at assuaging the plight of the poorest of the poor Nigerians against COVID-19.

 “We feel that we need to work together with you to ensure that there is effectiveness, there is efficiency, that those who are supposed to benefit, benefit directly,” he said.

 He said the National Assembly was concerned about the conditions and guidelines for the intervention programmes which were specifically directed at the most vulnerable Nigerians.

 The Senate president picked holes in the implementation of the programme by condemning the practice of making those to benefit from the programme to go online and have BVN.  

He said: “Majority of those who are supposed to benefit have no access to power. They have no access to internet. They have no bank account and no BVN.

 “In fact, many of them don’t even have phones and these are the poorest of the poor. Yet, some of the conditions or guidelines which you set inadvertently leave them out.”

 To this end, the lawmaker said the poorest of the poor were not sufficiently captured by the programme.

 He however solicited for synergy between the executive and the legislature on how best to make the programme beneficial to the poorest of the poor at this critical time of lockdown over COVID 19.

“Now with coronavirus, they need our attention more than ever before. The time has come that we review the ways and manner we use to deliver the services under the SIP to Nigerians.

“We need to be better in terms of strategy for delivery and definitely, what we have been doing in the past cannot deliver exactly what will solve the challenges of the most ordinary and most vulnerable Nigerians,” he said.

 In a similar remark, Speaker Gbajabiamila told the minister that she was right now in the eye of the storm because all eyes were on her.

 “Your job right now, is probably the most important as we speak, because you are saddled with the responsibility of alleviating ‘poverty’ or the hardship, due to no fault of anyone, being thrust upon Nigerians, and I know that you came into a system, or you met a system that has nothing to do with you, but what we will be asking you to do is for you to change that system.

 “When you walk into a system, no system is 100 per cent perfect. The word reform is something we use all the time, and this is the one time when that word reform must be used in the truest sense of that word.

 “The questions are going to be asked, how do you come about your list, how comprehensive is your distribution list? What are the parameters? What is the geographical spread? So these are tough questions that are going to be asked but I want you to look at them as frank questions that we need to ask.

 “If you really want to define the meaning of representation, if that was being practiced in the real meaning of representation, then we shouldn’t be here. Because all the questions we want to ask, we should already have the answers. We should be providing those answers to the Nigerian people we represent.

 “But if they ask me, as the speaker of the House, or ask the Senate President or any of my colleagues here, we are going to be struggling for answers which is not good,” he said.

 He said: “Nigeria’s SIP is similar to the Unemployment Insurance Act in the UK and the Social Security Act in the US.

 “There are a lot of takeaways from this COVID-19. One of them is the International Best Practices. My point is that these things are backed by law. They are codified by the legislature so that these issues and these questions will not arise.”

 He therefore urged the minister to talk with the relevant committees and the National Assembly leadership on the best way to codify the scheme.

 Minister’s response

 In her response, the minister said the SIP was moved to her ministry for “sustainability and institutionalisation.”

“I am very pleased to hear that we are going to work together to see that we give a legal backing to this programme because that is the only way to go,” she said.

 The meeting was convened by the leadership of the National Assembly against the backdrop of the ongoing federal government’s intervention initiatives aimed at reducing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the most vulnerable Nigerians. 

It was attended by Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege, Deputy Speaker Idris Wase and some other principal officers and members from both chambers.    

Kaduna gets N446.6m

Meanwhile, he federal government has begun disbursement of N446.6 million to 22,380 poor and vulnerable households in nine benefiting Local Government Areas of Kaduna state, under the National Cash Transfer Programme.

The Focal Person on Social Investment Programme in the state, Mrs. Saude Atoyebi, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Kaduna that each household would receive N20, 000.

Atoyebi explained that the N20, 000 was payment for the months of January, February, March and April at N5, 000 per month.

She said that the disbursement, which commenced in Sanga, Kachia and Lere local government areas, would be extended to Kauru on Wednesday, April 8.

The focal person also said beneficiaries in the remaining five local government areas of Ikara, Kubau, Birnin Gwari, Chikun and Kajuru would be paid Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

She explained that the beneficiaries were from the National Social Register and the State Social Register of poor and vulnerable households.

According to her, the money would significantly help benefiting households to cope with the hardship being experienced following the lockdown of some states to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“The National Cash Transfer also known as Households Uplifting Programme is one of the four Federal Government’s Social Investment programmes which commenced in 2016.

“The implementation of the programmes is being carried out at the state level through the State Cash Transfer Unit,” she said.

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