Senate C’ttee Queries Unclear Status of Beneficiaries of N500bn NSIP

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  • Questions N800m NIWA security budget

Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

The Senate Committee on Poverty Alleviation has queried the lack of clarity of the beneficiaries of the N500 billion appropriated for the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.

The members of the committee at the budget defence session yesterday with the Special Adviser to the President on the programme, Mrs. Mariam Uwais, said the impact of the disbursement of the fund was yet to be felt despite appropriation in 2016 and 2017.

The Chairman of the Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, presided over the defence session after the death of the Chairman of the Poverty Alleviation Committee, Senator Ali Wakili, three weeks ago.

Goje disclosed that many lawmakers are dissatisfied with NSIP, and recalled that in the last two budget cycles, they have complained about not seeing the impact of the project, despite the amount of money involved.

“If you remember when you first came two years ago, I raised a point about your capacity as of then, to handle N500 billion. I was called names by the powers that be. I had to go and explain myself to the powers that be,” he said
Goje added that as a former governor, and a serving senator, he was yet to feel the impact of the programme in his state or meet a single beneficiary.

“Many other Nigerians are saying the same thing. N500 billion for 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) 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 (APC) 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 further explained that as one of the key campaign promises of President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Assembly appropriated the same amount of money in the 2016 and 2017 budget, because the lawmakers did not want to be seen as opposing the president.

“N500 billion is about to be spent the third time. Because of this, we felt you have to explain to Nigerians, how far this your programme has gone, because it has not achieved the desired effect as far as I am concerned in my constituency,” he added.

He added that the impactful implementation of the NSIP would help boost the party’s chances in the 2019 polls.

Senator Tayo Alasodura said from the inception of the programme, it was obvious there were going to be challenges.

“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,” Alasoadura said.

He urged that the programme be stopped if it cannot be better handled.
Uwais in her response, said the programme has been affected by inadequate releases as N90 billion was released in 2016 and N85 billion from the 2017 budget, despite the appropriation of N500 billion each year.

In the two budget cycles, a total of N175billion has therefore been released for the programme which currently has 300,000 Nigerians on its pending list of beneficiaries, Uwais explained.
The committee members however threatened to reduce the money, based on the performances of the last two appropriations.

In another development, the Senate Committee on Marine Transport raised eyebrows at a curious budgetary demand of N800 million, by the Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) for the purchase of security equipment in its 2018 budget estimate.

The sum of N800 million was also appropriated for the agency in the 2017 budget.
The Acting Managing Director of NIWA, Mr. Danladi Ibrahim, speaking during his agency’s budget defence before the committee yesterday, said the equipment is intended for different parts of the waterways.

He added that N790 million of the N800 million appropriated for same purpose was spent in 2017. The committee members were however dissatisfied by his explanation.
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima, said there were no clear details on the expenditure of the N790 million.

“You said you want to do something; the same amount last year, the same amount this year. There are no details, no explanations, no form of specification whatsoever. This is unacceptable,” Yerima said.

Senator Mohammed Hassan also noted that the agency did not provide enough details on how it spent over N1.1 billion for capital projects, out of the N1.2 billion appropriated.
“You are doing construction, the locations are not known. You have a project of N1.2billion which you requested for in 2017, you have received over 90 per cent, you requested for the same amount in 2018. The right thing should have been for you to request for the remaining balance,” Mohammed said,

Senator Chukwuka Utazi said the agency’s preparation of its budget documents, is shoddy.
“Budget preparation is a professional job. It is a public document. Any body who looks at what you have prepared will not know your intention. It is only what you have presented that will be considered, not your intention. If you don’t know how to do it you bring in consultants. If you go to other West African countries, things are done properly. When you come to Nigeria, things change. It is unacceptable,”Utazi said.