The Nigerian Senate on Tuesday asked the Executive Arm of Government to provide the National Assembly with a clear framework that would allow for proper administration of the 500 billion Naira Special Intervention Fund, staying action on the executive’s requests for funds.
The request, according to the Senate, would enable the lawmakers ensure that the failure of the past social intervention schemes was avoided.
President Buhari on September 25 forwarded a request to the lawmakers, seeking the approval of the National Assembly for virement of funds appropriated for special intervention to be used to fund some recurrent and capital items.
He is seeking a total of 180 billion Naira to cover the shortfalls in recurrent and capital expenditures.
In the letter read on the floor of the Senate and House of Representatives, President Buhari said the request is necessary because of the shortfalls in provisions for personnel costs and inadequate provision for the Amnesty Programme.
‘Discriminates Against Rural Dwellers’
Deliberations on the request opened on Tuesday with Senator Ndume pointing out some flaws in the initiative.
He insisted that the directive that all the beneficiaries should register online had the tendency of excluding and marginalising the targeted population.
Pointing out that the request by the Senate was not targeted at stopping the initiative, Senator Ndume stated that the Senate fully approved the request of the executive in the 2016 Budget to facilitate the 500 billion Naira fund.
Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, who opened the debate on the motion he raised on the need to avoid the mismanagement of the 500 billion Naira intervention funds, further observed that current economic situation and the need to have a social intervention scheme that could lift people out of poverty, was the overriding concern of the National Assembly when it did not insist on having a proper framework before approval.
“But I expect the social intervention fund to get to all the 9,572 Wards of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he says.
He further highlighted a variable in the initiative – MPOWER – which he said required people to register online, saying “it is faulty and discriminates against rural dwellers”.
Giving his opinion on the issue, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said he could not find any beneficiary of the programmes of the Social Intervention Funds in his LG.
On his part, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah said the aspects of the implementation of the Social Intervention Funds run afoul of the Constitution.
Senator Na’Allah questioned how the people in the hinterland and localities without internet services that are supposed to get online to register on the website.
Before the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, asked Senator Ali Wakili to shed light on some of these concerns, Senators Hope Uzodinma and Biodun Olujimi condemned the implementation plan, saying it was not far-reaching to all nooks and corners of Nigeria.
Explaining the Social Intervention Plans of the Executive Arm of Government Senator Wakili said the fund was not domiciled in any ministry but managed in Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s office through consultants.
Senator Wakili told the Senate that he expected that the National Assembly, as the representative of the people, ought to be carried along “but this isn’t the case”.
Push For Manual Registration
Another issue that Senator Dino Melaye raised was that Nigeriens, Beninoise and Camerounians could as well claim being Nigerians and apply since it was online.
He concluded that a programme of action on the implementation of the Intervention Fund had to be brought to the Senate.
After the deliberations, the Senate resolved that manual registration of beneficiary from all Wards & LGs in Nigeria be incorporated in the 500 billion Naira Intervention Programme.
The Senate also resolved that a clear accountability channel must be created, continuously audited and submitted to the National Assembly.
Giving his final words on the issue, the Senate President said that despite the good intentions, the 500 billion Naira might not achieve what it was supposed to achieve with the current implementation.
Dr. Saraki further asked the appropriate committee to work with the executive to ensure the success of the Social Intervention Fund.
This Senate decision is coming months after the House of Representatives demanded for the framework and details of the 500 billion naira Special Intervention Fund.
The lower chamber had directed a joint committee to ensure that the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Social Protection Programmes made available the framework.