NASS replies Presidency over comments on COVID-19 palliative disbursement fund

Abuja – Controversy over Federal Government’s disbursement of palliative to cushion effect of the Covid -19 pandemic rages on as the leadership of the National Assembly fired back at the Presidency over attacks on observations made in the implementation of the National Social Investment Programme ( NSIP) two days ago .

Both the Senate President , Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives , Hon Femi Gbajabiamila , had at an interactive session with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs , Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouk called for more inclusivess of poor Nigerians in the distribution chain of funds earmarked for the programme .

The legislators knocked government on the mode of implementing the programme by saying ” largest percentage of the poorest of the poor the funds are meant for across the country, don’t have telephone lines, bank accounts let alone Bank Verification Number ( BVN) , being used as platforms of channeling funds to beneficiaries “.

The NASS leadership consequently urged the Minister to redirect the scope of the programme by capturing the actually poor people in the rural areas across the country for it as against doing so through online registration .

However, there was a twist in the narrative barely twenty four hours after the interaction as the Special Adviser to President Muhamnadu Buhari on Social Investment , Maryam Uwais accused the National Assembly of wanting to hijack the programme .

Uwais who supervised the programme from 2016 to 2019, said there is no way in the world where such poverty alleviating programme is given to politicians to make inputs as against community based leaders.

She added that only N619 billion was cash backed out of the N1.7trillion appropriated for it between 2016 and 2019 .

Reacting on Thursday through a statement by the Special Adviser on Media to the Senate President , Ola Awoniyi , the lawmakers insisted that there are ‘gaps’ in the executives implementation strategy for the NSIP initiative of government.

The statement said ” 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.” 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”

In a related development, the Chairman , Senate Committee on Health , Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe ( APC Kwara Central), expressed reservations over the implementation strategy which the federal government adopted in disbursing the Social Investment Programme (SIP) fund to poor Nigerians.

Oloriegbe, kicked against the selection process for the beneficiaries during a Television interview, saying no member of the National Assembly is aware of any beneficiary of the programme in his or her Senatorial District or Federal Constituency .

He lamented that there is no guarantee that the beneficiaries of the programme are actually the poor and vulnerable people in the society, adding that the executive should have consulted the lawmakers, whom he said are in better stead to guide the government, given the structures they already have on ground.

According to him, all efforts made to get details from the ministry incharge of implementing the programme have not yielded any result, due to the refusal of the ministry to provide answers to queries raised .

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However, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, while responding to the allegations, said her ministry, which oversees the implementation of the programme, will address the issues raised by the lawmakers.

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