Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja
Officials engaged by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to implement its Cash Transfer Programme (CTP) have revealed that insecurity and bank in charge of the initiative are frustrating its ongoing cash transfer programme in Kebbi, Zamfara and Sokoto states.
According to both coordinators of the project in Zamfara and Kebbi states, Mrs. Maryam Shantali and Isah Usman, the activities of bandits operating freely in Zamfara and Kebbi states have adversely affected the programme.
Speaking during a two-day media dialogue on: “Cash transfers for improvement of girls’ enrolment in schools in Kebbi State,” Mrs. Shantali revealed that some of the beneficiaries of the programme have been dispersed to other communities following the activities of bandits.
This, she said, has recorded a major setback following difficulty in reaching out to some of the beneficiaries, adding that “the communities chosen in Kebbi and Zamfara states to benefit from the CTP have the largest number of out-of-school Children and they are the most rural communities.
“Recently, they are the most hit by the activities of bandits. This has affected the CTP because some of the beneficiaries of the programme have been displaced to neighbouring communities.
“Despite all odds, we have been able to pay the second and third payment but for those communities that have been destroyed, we are trying to track the caregivers. UNICEF is helping us to track their whereabouts and to see whether their children have been going to school”, she said.
On his part, Usman, identified the non-release of the fund by Standard Chartered Bank where it was domicile for onward disbursement to states as a major challenge to the project.
“Standard Chartered Bank has been a great challenge; the beneficiaries don’t get their money paid as a result of delay from the bank.
This is affecting our mode of operation because we have to wait for bank agents who sometimes may not show up for payment.
“Everyone involved in the project agreed on a schedule of work. But the bank, for unknown reasons, chose to operate otherwise. We wrote to them on several occasions especially during payment, to know if they are ready.
But most times, they don’t reply our mails neither do they honour their commitments. That had greatly frustrated our efforts.
“In their usual ways, they would allow us to assemble parents and beneficiaries at different payment points amidst security threats, and they won’t show up with the funds for disbursement, neither would they explain to us the reason for their actions.
In most times, it will take strong intervention of UNICEF leadership for the bank to react”, Usman said.
He added that the cash transfer intervention under the “Educate A Child” programme has been designed to reach over 41,391 child beneficiaries and their female caregivers in four years; 31,044 in Kebbi State and 10,347 in Zamfara State.
Earlier, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the high number of out-of-school children in the north poses a serious danger to the children and the nation at large.
Represented by Uche Chuta, an assistant director at the ministry, Mohammed identified the major causes of the high number of out-of-school children as poverty, early marriage, teenage pregnancy and illiteracy.
UNICEF is currently implementing CTP as an intervention programme in some northern states as a means of encouraging parents to get their children particularly females enrolled and remain in school.
Through the programme, UNICEF and its partners disburse N8, 000 to the children every term to encourage them to remain in school and get formal education.
Evidences have confirmed that the CTP project had succeeded in mobilising more children back to school.