Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
Despite an annual budget of N500 billion budget provided for the National Social Intervention Programme (NSIP) in the last three years, the federal government has so far released only N220 billion, translating to an average of N73.3 billion per annum.
The programme was established in 2016 as an interventionist fund to empower vulnerable sectors of the society, improve the quality of life, provide affordable credit for medium small and micro enterprises (MSMEs), reduce inequality and wide disparities as well as increase access to education and health services, among others.
However, despite an annual budgetary provision of N500 billion made between 2016 and 2018 (a total of N1.5 trillion), only N220,141,586,000.00 has been released so far.
A source in the National Social Intervention Programme Office (NSIPO) in the Presidency, who is conversant with developments in NSIP told THISDAY at the weekend that only N80,141,586,000.00 was released for 2016, N140 billion for the 2017 budget year, while nothing has been released as far as the 2018 Budget is concerned.
But in spite of the poor funding of the programme, our source maintained that there had been relatively significant progress in the various project areas, including job creation and youth empowerment (N-Power), National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), Government Enterprise and Employment Programme (GEEP) and the National Cash Transfer Programme (NCTP).
According to him, 9.76 million persons had benefited from the programme, lamenting however, that by now, it would have attained a higher level of success if funds were released as projected.
“The development has stalled some of the projects that would have been flagged off in all the states of the federation by now,” he added.
For instance, he observed that both the N-Power and GEEP programmes would have attained a much higher level of success than they have achieved if the budgeted funds were released for the projects.
But he was quick to add that the attitude of some states in providing counterpart funding for the school feeding system had also contributed to the failure of the programme to cover the entire country by now.
In his estimation, the social intervention programme has been a success story, adding that it had succeeded in taking a lot of young Nigerians off the streets and has given a good number of them an opportunity to look forward to a reasonable livelihood in the future.
According to him, about 9.7 million young Nigerians have directly benefitted from the various programmes under the NSIP as at June this year.
“So, there has been an appreciable impact although it would have been much higher,” he added.
He disclosed that more than 8.9 pupils are being fed daily in 26 states while more than 90,670 cooks have been empowered, apart from local farmers who now have ready market for their farm produce.
“The school feeding programme was initially designed to target 5.5 million school children, but it has exceeded its target by 50 per cent as at June 2018. Already, N40,006,103,632.00 has been spent on feeding of school children across the 26 states,” he disclosed.
But he lamented that out of the 100,000 targeted in the non-graduate N-Power programme, only 7,163 non-graduates have so far been trained in the N-Build category in 32 states while an additional 10,000 are undergoing training in skills acquisition centres.
The plan to establish eight technology innovation hubs across the country, one in each geopolitical zone, has also been hamstrung as a result of the slow release of funds.
Only one of such facilities has so far been commissioned in Bauchi, our source noted, adding, “These would have gone far by now in the designated areas but have been stalled by lack of funds.”
NSIP is under the purview of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and is headed by Mrs. Maryam Uwais, the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment Programme.
Uwais had recently identified the challenges faced while executing the programme to include corrupt practices in the states, where officials allegedly engage in shortchanging, racketeering and harassment of beneficiaries.
Similarly, she said due to poor levels of literacy, the vulnerable ones are often exploited just as monitoring and communication in terms of insufficient awareness and publicity pose a challenge.