The national social investment programme, known as NSIP, is undergoing a major metamorphosis — even if it is not exactly the way many would expect it to be, insiders have told TheCable.
The programme, which was under the office of the vice-president and managed by Maryam Uwais, special adviser to the president on social intervention, has been moved to the ministry of humanitarian affairs, disaster management, and social development.
Under the NSIP — President Muhammadu Buhari’s version of poverty alleviation programmes — Nigerians considered to be “poor” receive support directly from the government.
Primary school children are fed under the national home grown school feeding programme (NHGSFP), the “poorest of the poor” get monthly conditional cash transfer (CCT), petty traders and SME owners get loans through TraderMoni and MarketMoni under the government enterprise and empowerment programme (GEEP) while the N-Power programme engages youth graduates.
However, many politicians, most notably Danjuma Goje, the senator representing Gombe central, have complained that they do not “know” the beneficiaries while Aisha Buhari, the president’s wife, also openly said the north did not benefit from the programme — claims that were disputed by the office of the vice-president and Uwais herself.
Insiders told TheCable that Uwais has been having a running battle with politicians who want to hijack the programme for political purposes, especially with an average annual budget of N500 billion — complemented by the $322 million Abacha loot restituted to the country in 2018 by the Swiss government.
Several civil society organisations have defended the programme, describing it as the most impactful poverty-alleviation intervention by the federal government.
The transfer of NSIP from the office of the vice-president is meant to institutionalise the intervention, according to Buhari, but recent developments have raised fears that politicians may hijack it.
On Friday, October 25, 2019, Uwais was involved in a major face-off with senators during the budget defence of the programme.
Online journalists, generally viewed as “hostile” and “uncompromising” in government circles, were asked to leave the room — apparently to black out the impending development.
Umar Kabir, clerk of the senate committee on special duties, walked out online reporters — despite an invitation extended to the press corps by Yusuf Yusuf, chairman of the committee on north-east development, migrants and IDPs.
Shortly before the session commenced, the clerk asked journalists in the hearing room to introduce themselves and then said they did not want online media — who were there with other print journalists – because they were not “regulated” and “backed by law”.
The face-off was, thence, blacked out by the “lawful” media.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF RAPPROCHEMENT
“My colleagues accused Uwais of shutting them out of the contract benefits and even appointments of vendors,” a senator told TheCable after the session.
“They threatened to deal with her using the budget process. They did not allow her to talk.”
Sadiya Umar Farouq, the minister of humanitarian affairs, was however allowed to talk.
“Only the minister was allowed to speak during the session and she appealed to all the journalists present to go blank.”
The minister then spoke in a “cordial” tone with the senators, who were angling for “opportunities”.
The budget defence eventually went “smoothly” the following Monday.
WHAT IS THE FUTURE?
Insiders have, however, expressed fears to TheCable that NSIP is now effectively going the way of many government programmes.
“The payment process to ordinary Nigerians that was perfected over the past four years has been disrupted. The ministry of budget and planning and finance has become powerless,” an insider said.
“The minister has failed to approve the payment of vendors of the school feeding programmes, and the N-power beneficiaries too are still waiting for payment. The mobilised and recruited new N-power beneficiaries are stranded in Ondo state as we speak.”
At the office of NSIP, “you can feel the frustration of the staff” — according to another insider.
“Some of them have not been paid for months. While vendors and beneficiaries are yet to be paid, the minister recently applied to buy a generator for her office from the funds,” the insider further said.
“This request was queried by the budget and planning ministry as extra budgetary and illegal.”
All eyes will now be on Farouq to prove the Doubting Thomases wrong.