By Thomas Ola Adebanwi
One issue which kept the media space buzzing almost endlessly last week was the threat by the Senate to cut down the budget for the National Social Intervention Programme (NSIP) on reason no well meaning Nigeria considered as serious and rational.
The Senate issued the threat through its Chairman Appropriation Committee during the 2018 Budget Defence by NSIP led by Mrs. Maryam Uwais, the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on NSIP.
It was apparent that some federal lawmakers have been ogling the fast paced activities and record breaking achievements by the NSIP Office amid of a fantastic impression that huge monies must have been crossing hands without them being direct beneficiaries.
Some Committee members must have resolved to ambush the NSIP anchors with intent to arm-twist and make them backpedal on serving personal interests of lawmakers.
The Senate Committee Chairman on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje chose the right moment to breath down the neck of NSIP representatives during the Budget Defence, threatening to ensure a cut in the N500 billion budgeted for NSIP in the 2018 Appropriation.
Goje was exasperated that the Presidency did not carry the lawmakers along as NSIP got into the stream, and that the officials failed to convince his Committee that the amount voted for the scheme was being judiciously utilized.
Goje, former governor of Gombe state may appear to be altruistic in his position over NSIP funding and expenses, given the high level of corruption that usually footnotes operations of agencies of government.
This time, however, he could not be taken serious on the basis of suspicion by Nigerians that their lawmakers are capable of unexplained mischief on money matters. Nigerians are well ahead with information on how federal lawmakers submit to untamed greed, rapacity and roguery in arm-twisting government agencies to part with monies.
It was part of the reasons many, almost instantly, took to the social media to condemn the threat by Goje, while also highlighting the achievements of the NSIP over a short period, and the reason the programme should not fail.
Senator Goje appeared ill informed about the financial outlays of NSIP and its balance sheet for the current fiscal year, given the facts presented to him by the Presidential Adviser. According to Mrs Uwais, although the Federal Government voted the sum of N500 billion for NSIP, the programme only received between 2016 and 2017 the sum of N175 billion.
According to the President’s aide, from the N500 billion vote, the sum of N100 billion was allocated for the Social Housing Scheme under the Federal Ministry of Finance, adding that from the balance of N400 billion, only N90 billion was released for the year 2017.
She told the Senate Committee that the NSIP received only the sum of N85 billion in 2016.
The explanations by NSIP notwithstanding, Goje and members of his Committee appeared not impressed. In voicing displeasure on the NSIP Concept, Goje blurted; “Many people are complaining that they have not seen the impact of the programme considering the magnitude of the fund involved.
No single person from Gombe State has benefited from your N-Power. We don’t know about your N-Power. As far as many of us are concerned, we are completely dissatisfied with what you are doing.”
However, reason for Goje’s outburst against NSIP could be anchored on the mind set by lawmakers that no government programme is deemed to be perfect and better executed if lawmakers were not deeply involved.
Fears had been expressed that had the lawmakers been involved all along, the entire NSIP would have been politicized, hijacked and rendered a complete failure, leaving the government, which owned the initiative to sulk.
From past experiences, when lawmakers got involved directly in any project, they exercised no restraint in holding down such by reserving the choicest portions for concubines, relations, cronies and hangers on. Nigerians who genuinely needed to be considered were usually denied. But the NSIP, from indications discouraged that from the start.
It is against this background that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari deserves some praises. For instance, when the N-Power which so far has offered employment opportunities to 200, 000 graduates was launched, the process was subjected to openness and transparency in which case, those who really needed the opportunity got enlisted without going through any third party.
N-Power simply stands out as one of the initiatives by the Buhari’s government that won the hearts of the Nigerian youths who are waiting for the second leg to kick off.
In all, NSIP programme comprises N-Power, National Home Grown School Feeding, Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme, and the National (conditional) Cash Transfer Programme.
Coordinated directly from the Office of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the programme has recorded not less than 6.8 million direct beneficiaries, with additional 1.75 million secondary beneficiaries comprising cooks, farmers, the Poor and Vulnerable Household members.
The Vice President in his address at the recent Bola Tinubu Colloquium in Lagos reeled out the achievements of N-Power Programme, stating that additional 300,000 unemployed graduates are on the waiting list to grab fresh jobs aside the 200, 000 current beneficiaries of the scheme.
He added that over 7 million children are being fed daily in 22 States so far; while beneficiaries of micro-credit loans under NSIP are rising to about 300,000; while also almost 300,000 households are benefiting from conditional cash transfers.
In a nutshell, Nigerians who are direct beneficiaries of the initiatives by the government of President Buhari should rise to take ownership in order to benefit more.
Allowing lawmakers known to be selfish and gluttonous to hijack the schemes will not augur well for those who have been savouring the benefits already.
Thomas Ola Adebanwi, APC Chieftain Contributed this piece from
Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.