By Yinka Kolawole
The Federal Government said it has intensified efforts to track down and prosecute those who are sabotaging its Social Intervention Programmes (SIPs) by exploiting beneficiaries for personal gains.
Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs Maryam Uwais, stated this in a statement, disclosing that the National Social Investment Office (NSIO) is working with relevant security agencies to ensure that culprits are arrested and prosecuted.
She added that the dragnet will be extended to people who are sensationalising untruths to discredit the programmes’efforts at uplifting poorer citizens of the country from poverty.
Uwais made the remark against the backdrop of reports quoting her to have accused monarchs and other traditional rulers in the country of collecting bribes from beneficiaries of SIPs, urging members of the public to dismiss such reports as sensationalism and a total misrepresentation of facts.
She denied ever mentioning monarchs or traditional rulers as among those involved in demanding kickbacks from SIP beneficiaries in rural areas.
Uwais stated: “At a similar event held sometime ago, a young man had publicly reported that some beneficiaries were being short-changed in his community, so I promised to have it investigated. This investigation was carried out by Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), the principal monitor of disbursements of the Abacha restituted funds.
“The report of the investigation revealed that the disclosures were essentially factual. Some community leaders and LGA officials were in the habit of demanding levies after payment is concluded in the communities. So we resolved to undertake measures to counter those adverse practices in the field. Indeed, we are planning an event in the communities to engage the beneficiaries with a view to building their confidence, so they can refuse to accede to such demands.
“We urge the media to avoid sensationalism and keep striving towards upholding the lofty principles of truth, fairness, objectivity and accuracy in their reportage of events of National concern.
“In addition to field reports we get from our independent monitors and volunteers, we have continued to encourage and welcome feedbacks from members of the public, on acts of infraction and other challenges that can assist government to achieve better results in the implementation of the Social Safety Net Programmes.”