As it came into office in 2015, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration announced an initiative tagged Social Intervention Programme (SIP), a social scheme that aims to provide easy-to-access jobs for the unemployed, feeding for school children and N5,000 monthly handouts to some of the nation’s poorest people.
The government said it will be spending N500 billion annually on the social investment programmes for Nigerians.
During the 10th Bola Tinubu Colloquium held in Lagos in Lagos March 29, the vice president, Professor Yemi Osibajo, talked about the social investment programme and described it as the biggest in sub-Saharan Africa, and unprecedented in Nigeria.
He said:“…We also decided to put in place an audacious Social Investment Programme to the tune of N500 billion, the largest pro-poor programme in our nation’s history, and the largest social safety net, at least in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
According to Premium Times, the government claims that more than 7.4 million primary school pupils in 22 states have been fed, while almost 300,000 poor Nigerians are also receiving N5000 monthly cash transfer.
It said almost 300,000 Nigerians benefited from micro-credit loans of between N10, 000 to N100,000.
How true is the government’s claim that 500 billion naira is being spent annually on the programme?
The simple fact is that the claim is false.
The Buhari administration has not spent N500 billion annually on social investment programmes for Nigerians.
The government itself confirmed that the N500 billion annual social investment programme has not been backed by cash, that is, it has not been getting the required budgetary allocation.
If the initiative is implemented as the government repeatedly claims, at least N1 trillion would have been expended between 2016 and 2017 when the government fully administered the national budget.
The amount would be more if a part of 2015, when the SIP started, is considered.
The administration, over time, has not clarified that only a comparatively small chunk of the budgeted amount was released.
According to Premium Times, as at February 3, the administration said it had spent N109 billion of the total budget release of N110 billion for the programme.
The government has reportedly spent only N175 billion in three years as against N1.5 trillion many Nigerians are led to believe.
The government itself confirmed this after the Senate Appropriations Committee questioned the programme, with lawmakers from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) questioning its impact on Nigerians.
At a session with the special adviser to the president on social investment, Maryam Uwais, members of the Senate committee picked holes in the implementation of the initiative and challenged Mrs Uwais to provide names of the beneficiaries of the social intervention programme from their various states.
“You have N500 billion every year, which is unprecedented, totalling N1.5 trillion in three years. I am from Gombe State, and I’m yet to see one single boy or girl that has benefited from the programme. I have been active and politicking for 40 years. As far as I am concerned, I don’t know of anybody who has benefited from your programme and this is N13 billion every month,” chairman of the committee, Danjuma Goje (APC-Gombe) said.
In reaction to Goje’s comments, Laolu Akande, the vice president's spokesman, issued a statement condemning the remark as “irresponsible.”
Nonetheless, it was the Senate’s query that triggered a disclosure of the actual amount spent on the programme over three years. This was revealed in the statement released by the VP’s spokesman.
The statement read in part: “To restate the facts, while indeed we have budgeted a total of N500bn for the 2016 & 2017 budgets each, including the N100B for the Family Housing Fund in the 2017 budget, only a total of N175bn has so far been released since the commencement of the historic Buhari Social Investment Programme.
Akande, however, dismissed allegations of wrongdoing on the part of the administration, saying the fact that money was not released was not sufficient to jump into conclusion.
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“What I know is that this is the amount that the government could afford at this time,” Akande told Premium Times.
He said the government would continue to budget N500 billion as projected annual expenditure for the programme, even though it couldn’t implement half of it in the last two budget cycles and without assurances that much would change within the next fiscal year.
He said: “You don’t know what is going to happen in future.
“It is the intention of the Buhari administration to spend a significant part of our resources in investing in our people. This is our own plan. This is our own projection and we will continue to push.
“The fact that we were unable to get the money in the past does not mean we would lower our ambition and aspiration for the Nigerian people. It is important that the resources of this country are spent on the generality of the Nigerian people."
In an earlier report by NAIJ.com, President Buhari said that he is more focused on the economy and the security of the country and delivery of the dividend of democracy to Nigerians.
The president made this comment during his bilateral meeting with British prime minister, Theresa May, at 10 Downing Street on Monday, April 16.
In a statement by Femi Adesina, the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, President Buhari said while other politicians are focused on the 2019 elections, his focus is on the promises he made to Nigerians and how to achieve them.
He commended British companies that have invested in Nigeria and called for more investments.
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