President Muhammadu Buhari’s Social Investment Programme to cushion the harsh effects of the coronavirus crisis has come under a severe attack.
The programme came under the hammer of the leadership of the National Assembly on Tuesday in Abuja. Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila have faulted the implementation of the programme.
At a meeting with the Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development Minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq, and top officials of the ministry, Lawan and Gbajabiamila called for enabling legislation in line with global best practices after making their reservations about the scheme.
They were speaking as government commenced the disbursement of N446.6 million to 22,380 poor and vulnerable households in nine local government areas of Kaduna State, under the National Cash Transfer Programme.
The focal person on Social Investment Programme in the state, Mrs. Saude Atoyebi, claims each household will receive N20,000 as stipend due for the months of January, February, March and April, at N5,000 per month.
The disbursement, according to her, which commenced in Sanga, Kachia and Lere Local Government Areas, will be extended to Kauru this Wednesday.
Continuing, she says beneficiaries in the remaining five local government areas of Ikara, Kubau, Birnin Gwari, Chikun and Kajuru will be paid Tuesday and Wednesday next week.
Atoyebi said beneficiaries were drawn from the National Social Register and the state’s social register of poor and vulnerable households, pointing out that the money will significantly help households to cope with the hardship following the lockdown of some states to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The National Social Investment Programme also said it has commenced the payment of N20,000 to more than 34,456 beneficiaries in Kogi State.
Mr. Abdulkareem Onyekehi, the focal person of the programme in Kogi after monitoring the disbursement at some payment centres in Lokoja and Okene, said the exercise, which started on Monday, was smooth and hitch-free.
He noted that the disbursement was being carried out simultaneously across 21 local government areas.
Onyekehi explains that N20,000, being a payment from January to April 2020, was disbursed to 34,456 CCT beneficiaries in Kogi, in line with President Buhari’s directive to the Humanitarian Affairs minister, as part of palliatives to cushion the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have visited Lokoja and Okene pay points and the exercise is going on smoothly and peacefully, putting smiles on the faces of the thousands of poor and vulnerable people in rural communities of Kogi State”, he says.
While the Buhari palliatives programme is on, Nigeria is busy recording new cases of the coronavirus daily.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says the country has16 new cases which brings the total number of COVID-19 infections in Nigeria to 254.
Ten of the new cases were discovered in Lagos and two infections were confirmed in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Oyo State also recorded two new infections while Delta and Katsina States recorded their first cases of the worrisome virus.
In the meantime, Lawan and Gbajabiamila say the Social Investment Programme needs reform to make it more efficient and effective.
The meeting with the minister and her ministry top officials was, however, convened by the leadership of the National Assembly against the backdrop of the ongoing Federal Government intervention initiatives. It was aimed at assuaging the plight of the vulnerable Nigerians against COVID-19.
Lawan says the poorest of the poor have not been sufficiently captured by the programme, pointing out that the conditions and guidelines for the intervention programmes are too stringent for the most vulnerable Nigerians, the targeted beneficiaries.
Responding, the minister says the programme was moved to her ministry for “sustainability and institutionalisation.”