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.