Barrister Maryam Uwais, Special Adviser to the President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Investment Programme (SIP), has described as unfortunate the comments attributed to the leadership of the National Assembly on how SIP funds were spent.
President of the Upper Legislative Chamber Senator Ahmad Lawan and the speaker of the Lower Legislative Chamber Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has questioned the implementation of the SIP and the funds budgeted to the programme were spent.
Who is Mrs Uwais?
Maryam Uwais was an Abuja-based lawyer, appointed by Buhari a few months in office as his Special Adviser for Social Investment Programme. She is a wife of Muhammadu Uwais, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria.
In 2019 when pressure mounted on how the government was spending money recovered from Nigerian’s late dictator, Uwais told Nigerians that at least 80 per cent of Abacha loots were channelled into SIP and othe youth empowerment programmes.
What caused the exchange of words?
Following the 14-day lockdown announced by President Buhari as a measure to curb the spread of coronavirus across the country, several billions of naira were donated while the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, coordinated sharing of N20, 000 to some people in Abuja and other parts of the country.
They claimed that the beneficiaries were the most vulnerable and poorest Nigerians which sparked reactions from Nigerians on social media.
Nigerians asked the authority to make public the formula the government used in reaching out to the poor.
When the minister appeared before Lawan/Gbajabiamila-led National Assembly, they said the most vulnerable ones are those without bank accounts, no BVN, those who do not have access to data-enabled phones.
And called on the Buhari-led government to restructure in order to reach out to the real poor people across the country.
Lawan, Gbajabiamila’s comments are unfortunate -Uwais replies
Mrs Lawan shocked the leadership of the national assembly Wednesday saying it is untrue that beneficiaries were made to meet requirements such as presenting a bank verification number (BVN) as claimed by Lawan.
She said, “That as part of the conditions for poor and vulnerable beneficiaries to be engaged, they are made to apply online, through the internet and they require a BVN for payment. UNTRUE.”
Clarification on the use BVN
Making clarification, Uwais said only N-Power beneficiaries were meant to provide their BVN for verification purposes, “The utilization of the BVN for N-Power beneficiary payment is also as a means of identity (since the NIN number can be generated from the BVN) and to facilitate the tracking of payments and further ensure accountability.
“The identities of the cash transfer beneficiaries are protected by law (the FOI Act), as the consent of recipients of social grants is a prerequisite, before disclosure.
“The Leadership of the Senate also stated that the NSIP information was not accessible to the National Assembly. UNTRUE.
“The monthly reports of 3,000 N-Power monitors, spread across the 774 LGAs, are available to both Poverty Alleviation Committees of the NASS. It should also be noted that the accounting and procurement aspects of the NSIPs were handled by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning on behalf of the NSIO, and not the OVP,” she said in a statement.
She described as REGRETTABLE & DANGEROUS comment of Lawan and Gbajabiamila that the beneficiaries are not known personally to the NASS members.
Responsibility for SIP
Mrs Uwais, a lawyer, said she handed over the running of the NSIPs to Sadiya Farouq in October 2019, “I assume no responsibility for the operations thereafter as the Ministry is well positioned to handle the NSIPs and take decisions thereupon,” she said.
Your comment is baseless – Lawan replies Uwais
In the meantime, the Senate President Lawan, a senior lawmaker from Yobe, has responded to Mrs Uwais’ comment describing her comment as ”unfair and baseless”
Lawan said, “The leadership of the national assembly is committed to sustaining its cordial working relationship with the other arms of government as it has seen the benefits of this approach in the improved environment and speed of policy and decision making.”
Why the exchange of words?
The actors of the SIP imbroglio – Lawan, Gbajabiamila, Uwais, Sadiya- are members of the ruling All Progressive Congress, but some of the programmes of the SIP started failing after 2019 general elections.
Also, there are hundreds of Nigerians who complain about the impact of the programme.
Several others have also testified to the impact of the N-Power, which engaged 500, 000 people in 2016 and 2017.
Some of them are now financially independent while hundreds of others are still finding it hard to hold their feet on the ground.