By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
The Federal Government Monday, disclosed disbursing $76,538,530 million recovered Abacha loot to transform lives of poor Nigerians under the National Social Investment Programme, N-SIP, as more beneficiaries emerge from the National Cash Transfer Programme.
This was disclosed by the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs Maryam Uwais, in a keynote address at a ‘Two-day Experts’ Training and Advocacy on Tracing and Recovery of Illicit Funds and Assets’ organized by the Human Environmental Development Agenda, HEDA, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, as contained in a statement signed by the Communication Manager to the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Justice Tienabeso Bibiye.
According to Uwais the funds, which are specifically being disbursed to beneficiaries of the National Cash Transfer Programme (a component of the National Social Investment Programme N-SIP), is positively changing the fortunes of many Nigerians who find themselves below the poverty line, based on the data collated in the communities and hosted on the National Social Register (comprising each of the State Social Registers).
She further stated that through the National Social Investment Office NSIO, has been channeling the recovered “Abacha loot” and the International Development Association IDA/World Bank Credit towards programmes and policies designed to address the plight of poor and vulnerable Nigerians.
According to her from August/Sept 2018 to the Sept/Oct payment cycle, the total cumulative value so far disbursed from the Abacha Loot is $76,538,530, and $27,099,028 from the IDA credit.
She said key achievements of the Cash Transfer Programme funded with the Abacha loot and IDA loan facility to include enrollment and payment of 620, 947 beneficiaries across 29 States, was N567,429,471, while 30 saved by beneficiaries in 17 states from their monthly N5,000 stipends and 3,695 trained to support beneficiaries.
She also explained that the decision to distribute the Abacha loot and IDA funds to poor and vulnerable Nigerians, who are mined from a National Social Register NSR, collated by the National Social Safety Net Coordinating Office, NASSCO, was reached by the Swiss Government, the World Bank and the Federal Government, to ensure that the funds are well utilized and not diverted to private pockets, as was the case in the past.
The statement reads in part, “On December 2014, a Swiss Judge gave a Forfeiture Order to the effect that monies ($322.5m) recovered from the family of late General Abacha would be returned to Nigeria, one of the conditions being that the World Bank would be involved in monitoring disbursements therefrom. Presumably, this was as a consequence of the opaqueness that surrounded the application of recovered funds.
“It is common knowledge that the funds from the Abacha loot (as is often termed) and the World Bank IDA credit is being utilized to effect N10,000 bi-monthly transfers to our cash transfer beneficiaries, through the operations of the National Social Investment Office, originally under the auspices and supervision of the Vice President of the FGN, and now operating from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.”
However, she lamented the negative impact of corruption on Nigerians, particularly the poor, and if not significant progress would have been made in socio-economic development in terms of service delivery, had it been if huge looted public funds by a few covetous Nigerians had been judiciously utilized.
She said efforts are currently on with strong political will to tackle poverty, but the citizens are to be carried along in the formulation and implementation of poverty alleviation policies and programmes for greater impact and appreciation of such efforts.
“Unfortunately, there seems to be a disconnect between many of us who live in urban areas, with people whose daily living is a constant struggle. This is why we hear questions like how can an N5,000 monthly stipend makes a positive difference in a citizen’s life? What is N10,000 to the petty trader?
“Surely, we should be looking at larger amounts? Indeed, it is the only infrastructure that can help our people. It does not occur to some that this infrastructure is out of reach to the very poor.
“By all means, provide the tangible structures, but having schools in their communities make no sense to the family whose priority is to find something to eat, even once a day. Unless we can address the challenges that these citizens face, these children would continue to farm, hawk, and remain as statistics of our out-of-school numbers”, she added.
In his remarks, Chairman of HEDA Resource Centre, organisers of the training said the capacity-building forum which is facilitated with the support of several partners aims to mobilize sustained engagement of activists and anti-corruption movements in anti-graft initiatives in the recovery of illicit funds and assets acquired with proceeds of corruption.