By Emman Ovuakporie & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—THE House of Representatives, yesterday, resolved to conduct investigative hearing on the involvement of the Ministries of Finance, Budget and National, the Vice President’s Office, and state coordinators on the four social intervention schemes of the Federal Government.
The House also directed its Committees on Finance and Poverty Alleviation to extend the investigation to the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Poverty Alleviation.
The resolution arose from the motion sponsored by Mark Gbillah
The House, in the resolution, mandated the Committees on Finance and Poverty Alleviation to conduct an investigative hearing involving the Federal Ministries of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Vice President’s Office, States Coordinators and all stakeholders to ascertain the method of identification and selection, the lack of involvement of all critical stakeholders and confirmation of the identities of beneficiaries and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.”
The four schemes are Conditional Cash Transfer, CCT, Homegrown School Feeding Programme, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, GEEP, and N-Power.
The House said based on reports, it appeared that most of the beneficiaries were loyal members of some big shots in political parties and the various state governments.
The lawmakers said they were concerned about the efficacy of the methodology and criteria employed for identification and selection, veracity of identity of the beneficiaries and the certainty of selection of the targeted demography without extraneous and political influences.
They alleged that the identification and selection processes were ceded to the states to be superintended by coordinators appointed by state governments without the involvement of the federal institutions that conceptualized and approved the appropriation of funds for the schemes.
In his lead debate, Gbillah, (APC-Benue), argued that only members and supporters of the ruling party were being selected for the scheme to the detriment of the poor, especially by officials of state governments and local government councils.
Gbillah, who applauded the vision behind the scheme, noted that the Home Grown Feeding Programme, where local vendors would be selected to prepare required meals for about 5.5 million primary 1 to Primary 3 school pupils in all the states, was commendable.
He said: “Other aspects of the scheme include the N-Power please which targets university graduates and non-graduates who will be trained and equipped as teachers and agricultural and health workers on a monthly stipend of N30,000 for graduates among them.
“The scheme include the CCT of N5,000 (which will be augumented by the World Bank with an additional N5,000) to be paid monthly to one million Nigerians and the GEEP which is a loan scheme of between N10,000 to N100,000 for market women, artisans, small businesses and the unemployed youths.”
He, however, lamented that the scheme had been hijacked by some states, and stressed the need for the House to exercise its constitutional powers to oversight the utilisation of the funds appropriated to the scheme, with a view to ensure the actualisation of the social intervention set objectives.
He said: “I appreciate the efforts of the Federal Government to fulfill its promises but, we should be concerned about the efficacy of the methodology and criteria employed for identification and selection, the veracity of the identity of the beneficiaries and the certainty of the selection of the targeted demographic without extraneous and political influences which still leave cause for concern and reservations by Nigerian.’’
Speaking in support of the motion, Emmanuel Egwu said a large number of low income earners and the unemployed in Nigeria were still unaware of the modalities of keying into the scheme.
In his remarks, the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, canvassed a thorough probe of the funds appropriated in 2016 Appropriation Act as well as additional funds proposed for the scheme in the 2017 budget.
Ogor reiterated his call for a legal framework to guide how the scheme was executed, saying “I am aware that consultants in the scheme have to be consulted by people before they are admitted into scheme.”
While ruling on the motion, the speaker, Yakubu Dogara, who presided over the plenary, mandated the joint committees to investigate the allegations of favouritism and lopsided selection of beneficiaries of the N500 billion Federal Social Intervention scheme and report back to the House within four weeks for further legislative action.