Mrs Maryam Uwais says Federal Government of Nigeria is judiciously using recovered stolen funds to uplift the living standards of poor Nigerians.
Says Poverty Alleviation Efforts must factor in the immediate needs of the people, calls on Journalists, Others to step up monitoring on the SIPs
Mrs Maryam Uwais, the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, has said that the Federal Government, through the National Social Investment Office NSIO, has been channelling 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.
Mrs Uwais, who said 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), noted that the gesture 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).
Delivering the keynote address on Monday, 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, the Presidential aide said from the 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 the decision to distribute the Abacha loot and IDA funds to poor and Vulnerable citizens, 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 of Nigeria, to ensure that the funds are well utilized and not diverted to private pockets, as was the case in the past.
"In 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 to 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 are 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"
Lamenting the negative impact which acts of corruption have had on Nigerians, particularly the poor, Mrs Uwais imagined the significant progress that Nigeria would have recorded in terms of service delivery if the huge amounts of money looted by a few privileged Nigerians had been judiciously utilized.
She said efforts to tackle poverty in Nigeria must also take into consideration the basic and peculiar needs of the people, who ought to be carried along in the formulation and implementation of poverty alleviation policies and programmes for greater impact and appreciation of such efforts.
The Presidential aide expressed regret that there are millions of Nigerian citizens who have never felt the presence of government in their lives, saying many of them have continued to struggle, to eat even one meal a day.
"Unfortunately, there seems to be a disconnect between many of us who live in the urban areas, with people whose daily living is a constant struggle. This is why we hear questions like how can a N5,000 monthly stipend make 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 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.
Mrs Uwais listed the 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, N567,429,471, 30 saved by beneficiaries in 17 states from their monthly five thousand naira stipends and 3,695 trained to support beneficiaries.
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 including Finance Uncovered UK, The Corner House UK, the Kent Law School, Premium Times, CSOs and media, among other things, 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. MacArthur Foundation and OSIWA have sponsored the training sessions around the country, to hone the skills of investogative journalists in the tracking, monitoring and detecting illicit funds.
Justice Tienabeso Bibiye.