• Queries N800m NIWA Security Vote In 2018 Budget
The Senate yesterday expressed dissatisfaction with the implementation of the Federal Government’s N1.5 trillion National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) and described it as a failure.
It lamented that the programme has not made serious impact on Nigerians. Consequently, the Senate threatened to cut budgetary allocation for the scheme.
Funds for NSIP are captured under the Service Wide Vote for the presidency.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Mohammed Danjuma Goje, made the threat when the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, appeared before the panel to provide clarification on proposed budget implementation.
The presidential aide told the committee that NSIP received N175 billion in 2016 and 2017 fiscal year.
“You may kindly recall that N500 billion was appropriated for the NSIP in 2017, out of which N100 billion was allocated for the Social Housing Scheme under the Federal Ministry of Finance. Out of the balance of N400 billion, only N90 billion was released to the NSIP for 2017.”
She also said that the programme received N85 billion in 2016. Goje, who stressed the importance of the programme, noted that by the end of three years, the NSIP would have handled an unprecedented sum of N1.5 trillion.
“Many people are complaining that they have not seen the impact of the programme, considering the magnitude of the funds involved. I am from Gombe State, I represent Gombe Central. I am yet to see one boy who came to tell me that he has benefited from your N500 billion.
“Many other Nigerians are saying the same thing. N500 billion for 36 states is about N13 billion. If you spend N13 billion in one year in Gombe State, there is no way I would not have known, other people will also know.
“If you spend N500 billion in one year in Nigeria, Nigerians will know. No single All Progressives Congress (APC) person in Gombe State has benefitted from your School Feeding Programme. No single person from Gombe State has benefitted from your N-Power. We don’t know about your N-Power. As far as many of us are concerned, we are completely dissatisfied with what you are doing.”
Goje also said that there was no indication that N100 billion was deducted from source for the social housing scheme by the Ministry of Finance. “Senate does not know about N100 billion going for housing scheme. The money is given to you for social investment.”
Mrs. Uwais insisted that “unfortunately, N100 billion is deducted at source for housing scheme by the Federal Ministry of Finance.”
The budget defence almost degenerated into a shouting match between the lawmakers and Uwais.
A member of the committee, Tayo Alasuadura, said they foresaw the problem at the beginning of the programme.
“Those of us who approve the budget, we don’t know what is happening. We should know what is happening in our constituencies.
“You have spent N85 billion this year. You spent N90 billion in the first year 2016 making it N175 billion. A programme that has been on for two years, and I don’t know what is happening. It is terrible. The governors you say are also complaining did not allocate money for this programme. We did.”
Alasuadura said that the programme should be scrapped if its implementation would continue to be a source of worry.
Goje intervened and insisted that his interest was for the programme to succeed “because I am also APC. We called you because you are handling big money. N500 billion is half a trillion. Unfortunately most Nigerians do not know what you are doing. Your publicity is zero. Most importantly, the people who are approving the money do not also know what you are doing.
“We have asked you to give us detailed report on what you are doing. If we get the report, we will know whether to give you N500 billion.
“In 2017, we appropriated N500 billion. In 2018, we will appropriate according to performance. We are going out of our way to make this programme to succeed. We are not against it, we want it to succeed.”
Senator Francis Alimekhena warned that if care was not taken, the programme would go the way of SURE-P.
He said the NSIP should not use a World Bank template in the country because it would not work.
The committee asked the presidential aide to submit names of beneficiaries of its programme today for its verification. The lawmakers said the names became necessary to ensure that the money was not going into wrong hands.
Also yesterday, the Senate queried the N800 million which the presidency proposed in the 2018 budget for the purchase of security equipment by the Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).
The query was handed down to NIWA Acting Managing Director, Danladi Ibrahim, when he appeared before the panel on Marine Transport to defend the agency’s 2018 budget.
The committee wondered why the authority requested N800 million in the 2018 budget for the purchase of security equipment, the same amount it received in 2017 budget for the same purpose.
It said that out of the N800 million, the authority spent N790 million in 2017 which is over 90 per cent of the appropriated fund.
The Chairman of the committee, Ahmed Sani Yerima, observed that the authority failed to provide details and specifications of how it planned to spend the money for which it requested approval.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives lawmakers from Kaduna State have expressed support for the decision by the Senate to reject the $350 million foreign loan requested by Governor Nasir el-Rufai, saying there was no time they endorsed the proposal.
Besides, the lawmakers who issued a statement to condemn an attempt by Governor El-Rufai to over-burden the state and the indigenes with foreign debts, said there was no time they condemned the decision of the Senate in rejecting the loan request.
According to the lawmakers: “Our attention has been drawn to stories making the rounds in some national dailies, television stations and social media alleging that 15 members of the House of Representatives from Kaduna State have faulted the Senate’s disapproval of a $350 million World Bank loan requested by the Kaduna State Government.
“The news said that the Leader of the Kaduna State House of Representatives caucus, Datti Babawo (representing Sabon-Gari Federal Constituency, Kaduna State), stated that all the 15 members out of 16 actually approved the $350 million loan for the state because of the enormous benefits the state would derive from it.
“We would not have responded to this, but stories like this have a way of convincing members of the public if not countered. Therefore, we would like the public to note that first and foremost, the Kaduna State caucus in the House of Representatives has not elected a leader. It is, therefore, strange for Datti Babawo to arrogate such powers to himself.
“As members of House of Representatives from Kaduna State, we never at any given time met to discuss the $350 million loan, let alone taking a decision on it. We operate a bicameral legislature in Nigeria, and to that extent, the House has no business questioning the decision(s) of the Senate. Both chambers operate independently and have mutual respect for each other in the spirit of the constitution.
“We, therefore, wish to reiterate that not all members from Kaduna State are in support of the loan issue. It is on record that some members have spoken against incurring such a huge debt on the people of Kaduna State. And in view of the above, we wish to dissociate ourselves from the views expressed by Datti as they are entirely his own.”