Leaders of the two chambers of the National Assembly have faulted the manner in which the Social Investment Programme SIP of the federal government is being implemented during the lock-down occasioned by the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking, at a meeting with Sadiya Umar Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, in Abuja on Tuesday, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan said those who ought to be beneficiaries have been shut out under the current arrangement.
Lawan said there is a need for reforms so that the programme would be more effective and efficient. Lamenting that some of those who ought to benefit from the scheme cannot because of the laid-down conditions such as enrolling through the internet and providing Bank Verification Number BVN.
He said: “We feel that we need to work together with you to ensure that there is effectiveness, there is efficiency, that those who are supposed to benefit, benefit directly.
“When for example, some conditions are set, that those who will benefit will have to go online, through the internet or BVN 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. They have no access to the 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.
“Now with coronavirus, they need our attention more than ever before. The time has come that we review the ways and manner we use to deliver the services under the SIP to Nigerians.
“We need to be better in terms of strategy for delivery and definitely, what we have been doing in the past cannot deliver exactly what will solve the challenges of the most ordinary and most vulnerable 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.”
On his part, the House of Assembly Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila was more concerned about the parameters used by the government to implement the programme.
He said: “When you walk into a system, no system is 100 perfect. The word reform is something we use all the time, and this is the one time when that word reform must be used in the truest sense of that word.
“The questions are going to be asked, how do you come about your list, how comprehensive is your distribution list? What are the parameters? What is the geographical spread?
“So these are tough questions that are going to be asked but I want you to look at them as frank questions that we need to ask.
“If you really want to define the meaning of representation, if that was being practiced in the real meaning of representation, then we shouldn’t be here. Because all the questions we want to ask, we should already have the answers.”
The Speaker also revealed that the Committees in the House have been complaining bitterly even before the Minister took over the scheme, about the inability to access information about the programme which he likened to the Unemployment Insurance Act in the UK and the Social Security Act in the US.
He stated: “There is a lot of take away from this COVID-19. One of them is the International Best Practices. My point is that these things are backed by law. They are codified by the legislature so that these issues and these questions will not arise.”
The Minister, Farouq however disclosed that the Social Investment Programme was moved to her ministry for “sustainability and institutionalisation.”
She stated: “I am very pleased to hear that we are going to work together to see that we give legal backing to this program because that is the only way to go.”
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