Abacha Restituted Funds: Another Re-loot In The Camouflage Of National Safety-nets Projects?

By Israel Olatunji

This story is a result of Orodata’s Micro-Grant support to journalists to produce in-depth investigative and data-driven stories on thematic areas like Development, Healthcare, Covid-19, and Covid-19 Vaccine.

Nigeria confirmed its first case on 27th February 2020, since then, the number of confirmed cases has risen exponentially. On March 29, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari announced a total lockdown on COVID-19 hotspots in the country, including the commercial hub, Lagos, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja. The president had said the lockdown was part of efforts to curb the spread of the deadly disease

Before the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) could take concrete steps towards slowing down the virus, all the 36 states including the FCT were locked down.

During the first 14 days of the lockdown, many households were left with little or nothing to feed on. The President set up a Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.

The PTF coordinates Nigeria’s multi-sectoral inter-governmental approach to COVID-19. The Federal Government rolled out several measures and directives to ease the burden of the lockdown on poor and vulnerable households (PVHHs) in response to curtail the pandemic among them was the Conditional cash transfer (CCT).

Response to curtail the pandemic among them was the Conditional cash transfer (CCT).

As of the end of December 2020, the program has 33 states and the FCT participating. The data released from the National Cash Transfer Office (NCTO),  indicated that a total of 1,414,983 beneficiaries with 7,068,629 individual household member beneficiaries have been enrolled, covering 487 Local Government Areas, 4,716 Wards and 37,628 Communities.” Nigerians however have expressed displeasure with the exercise and have questioned the credibility of the data used in identifying beneficiaries

The National Cash Transfer Programme (NCTP), also known as the Household Uplifting Programme with code (HUP-CCT) is one of the four social investment programs anchored by the Federal Government of Nigeria. It started in 2016 and it is a component of the National Social Safety-Nets Projects (NASSP) which is supported by the World Bank to provide financial support to targeted poor and vulnerable Nigerian households. The NCTP is designed to deliver timely and accessible conditional CCT to beneficiary households and build their capacity for sustainable livelihoods.

The Conditional Cash Transfer supports the poor and vulnerable with N5,000 (Five Thousand Naira) per month, to improve consumption, with the aim of reducing poverty, preventing the vulnerable households from falling further down the poverty line, and building their resilience to withstand shocks. Figures released from the National Cash Transfer Office (NCTO) show that 1,126,211 households have benefitted from the CCT as of April 9th, 2020.

Challenges of the National Cash Transfer Programme

The Federal Government has terminated the contracts for two Payment Service Providers (PSP) over failure to meet up with the contractual agreement to commence Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) to beneficiaries in four states.

The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development made the disclosure in a statement on Tuesday signed by the Special Assistant on Media, Salisu Dambatta in a series of tweets via their verified twitter handle. The minister said the termination was with immediate effect.

Different reports also shed light on the racketeering that accompanied the programme as many have said they were asked to pose for pictures with the money and were later given N2,000 (Two Thousand Naira) behind the camera  instead of N20,000 (Twenty Thousand Naira) accumulated from January to April 2020.

How are Beneficiaries of the CCT selected?

This question has continued to be on the lips of Nigerians, according to the parameters made available by the NCTO, beneficiaries are said to be identified through a combination of geographic and community-based targeting mechanisms: Geographic targeting, Community based targeting, and Proxy means test.

The identified household’s socio-economic data is subjected to Proxy Means Testing (PMT) for ranking the poor and vulnerable in the National Social Register (NSR). These mechanisms seem to have fallen below the expectations of many Nigerians.

This investigative report reveals that the category identified as urban poor has been marginalized. These are people who depend on the informal sector to earn their livelihood – they are daily wage earners and people living with disabilities.

The poor execution of the program and incoherence in the compilation of the NSR has made many Nigerians draw the conclusion that the program got off on the wrong foot, not leaving out the fact that many of them could not point at any beneficiary within their neighborhoods. 

This Investigative Report is supported by Orodata Science.

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