Nigerian lawmakers to partner Presidency on SIP, faults distribution so far

Nigeria’s lawmaking body, the National Assembly, and the Presidency have agreed to work together in implementing the Social Investment Programme.

This decision was made at a meeting between the leadership of the two federal lawmaking chambers and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouk, with top officials of the ministry.

Leadership of the NASS faulted the SIP initiative, observing that “some of the conditions or guidelines” the ministry set to reach out to the poorest of the poor actually excluded them from the government palliative.

Nigeria had, through the ministry, begun the distribution of cash to poor citizens, and this raised dust based on the exclusion of some areas where it assumed has no poor citizens.

Chairman of the NASS and Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, who led the legislative team to the meeting, said an effective implementation of the programme would help those who were supposed to be beneficiaries directly benefit from the programme as they were not difficult to identify.

He said, “We feel that we need to work together with you to ensure efficiency, so that those who are supposed to benefit will benefit directly.

“Some conditions are set, that those who will benefit will have to go online, through the internet or must have Bank Verification Number and the rest of it. I want to tell you that the majority of those who are supposed to benefit have no access to power and internet. They have no bank account, so no BVN. In fact, many of them don’t even have phones, and these are the poorest of the poor. Yet some of the conditions or guidelines which you set inadvertently leave them out.”

Lawan stressed that the partnership would help the government achieve more in reaching those who are in serious distress.

“We believe that when we work together, the executive side of government and the National Assembly as representatives of the people, we will be able to reach many more of these people who are in serious distress, even before the coronavirus outbreak.

“Now with coronavirus, they need our attention more than ever. The time has come for us review the ways and manner we use to deliver the SIP to Nigerians. So we need to put on our thinking cap and work out some strategies on how to identify the poorest persons in Nigeria. I think we have not been able to reach far out there to get them properly captured,” he added.

Lending his voice, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said, “Your job right now is probably the most important as we speak, because you are saddled with the responsibility of alleviating poverty or the hardship, due to no fault of anyone, being thrust upon Nigerians.”

He advised the minister to consider some tough questions based on how comprehensive the distribution list is, the set parameters, the geographical spread in helping her ministry to make laudable achievement at this particular time.

Responding, Farouk expressed happiness to partner with the legislature for legal support “because it is the only way to go.”

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