National Legislators Want Control of N500B SIP, Government Officials Say


Some members of the National Assembly have set their sights on a fat

new pie: President Muhammadu Buhari's N500B Social Investment Programs

(SIP).

Officials of the Budget and Planning Ministry, which is responsible

for disbursing the fund, say the Senators and Representatives have

tabled a list of their demands regarding how they can share of the

money.

The sources say the legislators are demanding that unless they are

allowed to select the beneficiaries of the SIP as well as award and

take contracts under the scheme, they would simply terminate the

program, which is designed to benefit ordinary Nigerians including the

most vulnerable and the poorest, as well as unemployed youths.

One Senator from one of the Niger Delta States threatened to "kill the

entire program," if Senators are not allowed to choose beneficiaries

of the N-Power jobs for unemployed graduates, while a Representative

from Kano State specifically demanded contract benefits. According to

a Kano State government source, it took the intervention of the

governor of that state to call the Representative to order.

Similarly, some Senators have demanded of the Presidency that Senators

be allowed to nominate 50 beneficiaries each for N-Power. That is in

opposition to a selection system that would guarantee equal

opportunity for all Nigerian youth by means of an online application

process. That system has already allowed in 200,000 Nigerian

previously unemployed graduates who got in without needing to press

any buttons whatsoever.

The Presidency has explained that the beneficiaries of all the SIPs

are being produced through that fair online application process, which

is also easily audited and cross-checked.

In several instances, some of the National Assembly and other partisan

political operatives have been reported to be selling illegal

application forms to unsuspecting Nigerians and charging illegal fees

in the process.

Said a government official, "They simply don't understand that

President Buhari would not tolerate any form of diversion of the

resources. Many of them still think it is business as usual. Why are

National Assembly members so desperate and when did it become a duty

of the legislator to implement or execute policies?"

An informed source explained that if the Buhari administration ever

succumbs to the demand of legislators to choose beneficiaries, not

only would they produce bogus lists, they would also exploit them by

taking significant percentages of their stipends and other monetary

proceeds.

While it is true that the SIP budgetary allocations in the 2016 budget

is the largest of its kind in the country, similar efforts of its kind

are known to have been compromised in the past by political

opportunists who see such programs as opportunities to enrich

themselves rather than to deliver services to the targeted

demographics.

It would be recalled that already all the SIPs of the current

government have taken off. They include the employment of 200,000

graduates; the National Homegrown School Feeding program, in seven

states; and the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), which is being paid

to beneficiaries in nine states and is aimed at one million Nigerians

in its first budget cycle.

There is also the Government Economic and Enterprise Program, (GEEP),

which giving interest-free soft loans to Nigerians in over 13 states

of the federation in sums ranging from N10,000 to N100,000 each. GEEP

is meant to benefit about 1.6m Nigerian traders, and artisans, as well

as market men and women.

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