Nigerians laud Buhari on Social Investment Programme, seek improvement, better funding

Mrs. Mariam Uwais, Esq, SA to President on SIP.

By Ibeawuchi Ambs Uwaleke.

A cross section of Nigerians have commended President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for the idea and implementation of the Social Investment Programme (SIP) which is impacting positively on the people irrespective of their social, cultural or religious backgrounds in the society.

In a poll conducted by this Medium, a lot of them showed appreciation for the President for the laudable programme his government created to assist Nigerians at the lowest cadre to earn a meaningful living and support their families and dependents through the government support programmes.

However, they asked the administration to expand the programme to get to all the parts of the country for a more inclusive opportunities, and to provide more funding and improved facilities so that the impact will be roundly felt by the people.

The question now is whether this programme as laudable as it is and its present implementation level is sustainable in the long run. The presidency has been offering some explanations on why it should be sustained as a people’s oriented investment programme.

A top official of the Office of the Vice President who is connected with SIP said: “Upon assuming office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari Administration took it upon itself to design programmes that would improve the lives of all Nigerians irrespective of religion, political affiliation and social class. The Administration structured the programmes to be impact oriented, specifically catering to the needs of the poor, vulnerable, unemployed and those at the bottom of the pyramid (without access to finance).

Four broad programmes (N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfers, National Home-Grown School Feeding and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programmes) emerged. Each uniquely targeting different subgroups of Nigerians for empowerment, domiciled in the office of the Vice President with His Excellency, the Vice President as the Chair the Steering Committee that oversights the National Social Investment Office (NSIO), the NSIO provides standard delivery mechanisms, with objectivity, collaboration, synergy transparency, efficiency and pro-active monitoring in mind.

“This Steering Committee comprises Ministers with portfolios relevant to education, health, agriculture, investment, productivity, youth, information, finance, budget and national planning (being the Secretariat) was established to advise and guide the Office in its activities. To assure of close collaboration and impact, focal persons from each State were nominated by the Governors, to supervise the State‚Äôs activities in relation to each of the four programmes. The various programmes are running in various degrees across the 36 States, and have impacted the lives of Nigerians both directly and indirectly to varying degrees.

“The N-power and GEEP programmes are running in every State, however, because applications are made directly, either online or through agents in the market, whereas the school feeding and cash transfer programmes have been slower in implementation, basically because State structures and commitment are a pre-requisite for commencement. Compliance is encouraging, but not completely effective. We are hopeful that by the end of 2019, we would have covered the entire country.

N-Power imagine 500,000 people spread across 774 LGAs teaching in public schools, acting as health workers in our primary health centres and as agricultural extension advisors to small holder farmers in our communities. N-Power is the employability and enhancement programme of the Federal Government of Nigeria aimed at imbibing the learn-work-entrepreneurship culture in youth between 18 and 35 for graduates and non-graduates. To provide a level-playing field, the application and selection process is structured to be technology driven, with verification conducted first by NIBSS (through the BVN) and subsequently at the State level, by the State working with the NOA and other partners.

“N-Power graduate volunteers are given devices preloaded with learning modules along with a monthly stipend of N30,000 for a period of two years. The non-graduate category, made up of N-Build, N-Tech (Software and Hardware) and N-Power Creative, train beneficiaries for a period of 3 months after which they become interns through a close collaboration with industry councils. N-Build has revived the apprenticeship culture by training beneficiaries in 7 trades, N-Power Tech trains beneficiaries in the repair of hardware devices and software training, N-Power Creative trains beneficiaries in 2D/3D Animation, Graphic/Illustration, Script writing, Voice Acting and Post Production. We currently have about 526,000 N-Power youth (both graduates and non-graduates) engaged by the programme. Their identities are authenticated through their BVN and bank details (submitted online) by NIBSS. Neither at the States nor the Federal level are officials able to interface with, influence or interfere in the selection or payment processes as it is technology driven. We are also about to commence the N-Power STEAM Junior programme which was structured to engage pupils in 12 government primary and secondary schools (as a pilot) to learn, as part of their school curriculum, computer programming, graphics, animation, etc. This is in a bid to develop the knowledge economy, with an eye on the future.

On the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), the official has this to say: “The main aim of the NHGSFP is to provide one nutritious, balanced meal for 200 school days in a year, to pupils in classes 1 to 3 in public primary schools to boost enrolment, increase the cognitive function in children and battle malnutrition. In the past four years, the programme has helped increase enrolment in primary schools by over 20%, empowered cooks, small holder farmers and communities as a whole. Our cooks are selected through an open and inclusive recruitment committee exercise set up by the State, with a focus on applicants who are known and trusted within the vicinity of the schools. Selected cooks are then screened medically and then trained on financial skills, hygiene and nutrition, then thereafter on-boarded into banks. Thereafter, direct payment commences through the validation of the BVN by NIBSS, to their accounts. This process facilitates financial inclusion, identification and efficient measurement, as well as tracking payments in a transparent manner. Nigeria is fast on its way to becoming the leader in Africa in the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, by feeding over 9.5 Million pupils and still counting. It is instructive to note that the Federal Government has achieved this feat within the space of 3 years. Today, we have 103,992 cooks on our payroll, feeding 9,514,342 pupils in 53,715 government primary schools around 31 States, while all the remaining States are at various stages of meeting the criteria we have laid, for feeding to commence. These children are able to eat a balanced diet, towards improving their learning outcomes. Furthermore, the agricultural value chain has been increasing by the day, assuring of a sustainable income for the small holder farmers, especially those that reside around our public schools. For instance, in each week of the programme, the NHGSFP requires 94 metric tons of fish, 7,260,862 eggs and 767 cattle slaughtered for the pupils being fed. Fruits, vegetables and grains are part of the carefully thought-out balanced diet for all of the pupils. The impact on our rural economy has been remarkable

Regarding the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme, he stated: “The National Cash Transfer programme is designed to deliver timely and accessible cash transfers to beneficiary households, as well as build their capacities for sustainable livelihoods, through a meticulous selection process. The process has adopted a community-based targeting structure that ensures only the poorest of the poor (and the most vulnerable) are supported, with both cash, training and mentoring within the wards where the beneficiaries reside.

“Prior to the advent of this Administration, a Social Register had begun being developed under the World Bank-assisted Youth Empowerment and Social Support Operation (YESSO) programme in the Federal Ministry of Finance. That Register, as at 2015, hosted about 67,000 households across 8 States in the country. This Register was also managed using basic excel sheets. One of the first things we did therefore, was to commence the cleaning and ramping up of a National Social Register (comprising the initial 8 States Social Registers) of data relating to poor and vulnerable households through a tried and tested community-based targeting method, from which the cash transfer beneficiaries are mined. As at today, however, the NSR is currently in different stages of development across 34 States and the FCT with about 1,091,000 households representing over 4 million individuals captured. Through this effort, the NSIO is also collating critical data relating to nearest functional primary and secondary schools, primary health centers, payment service providers, access roads, connectivity and power supply to the community, to support social inclusion. The Social Register is hosted in the Ministry of Planning of each State, after the State and LGA officials are trained to support the identification process by the community. One caregiver (and one alternate) in the identified households are thereafter issued with an ID card and enrolled for cash payments, training and mentorship through the State Cash Transfer Office. Direct payment is made to caregivers in the locality of residence through mobile money agents selected in an open and transparent procurement process. From the days of paper reconciliation, our mobile money agents now have a built-in backend technology that enables us view the payments in a timely manner, which makes reconciliation seamless, trackable and transparent.

“In addition to the money paid to our beneficiaries, Local Government Community Facilitators are trained in every ward, who conduct weekly visits to the beneficiaries to train, mentor and support them on the formation of savings groups, financial skills, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition. We have enrolled 422,992 caregivers in 26 States currently, being paid N10,000 every two months, and supported to ensure they save and become productive, thereby taking ownership of their lives.

On the issue of Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, he said: “The Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme is tasked with providing collateral and interest-free financial support to businesses at the bottom of the financial pyramid. Funds for the programme are managed by the Bank of Industry (BOI). There are currently 3 GEEP products; FarmerMoni, MarketMoni and TraderMoni. For the first two, funds between 10,000 to N350,000 are paid into the accounts of the successful applicants who must belong to a registered cooperative or association (even if registered at LGA level), and have a bank account linked to a BVN. Where repayment is effected within the 6 months period, they become eligible to larger amounts as an incentive.

“For TraderMoni, however, trained enumerators go into the market and clustered business areas to register traders who fit the set profile; these petty traders would include a phone, a verifiable place of trade (kiosk, table-top, spot, area of hawking). The registered traders are then processed for disbursement of a N10,000 loan. Upon repayment within 6 months, the beneficiary becomes eligible for a larger amount, at which point she/he must open a bank account, with a BVN.

“Since inception, BOI has made 1,378,804 loans available to successful applicants in all the States and the FCT. Repayments are made through selected agents, which in itself has provided payment opportunities, across the country NSIP HUBS The N-Power- Innovation Hubs Programme was designed for encouraging Nigerians provide solutions to local problems based on the prevalent economic activities in the region. Currently, 7 technology hubs have been established in 6 geopolitical zones including Lagos state. However, there are plans to establish one more hub in the FCT. In the South South, the Hub was established in Edo State. In the South West, the Hub has been established in Akure, Ondo State, while in the South East we are supporting the Hub in Enugu State. In the North Central we are supporting the Hub in Kaduna, in the North East we have partnered with the PCNI and the ICRC to establish the Humanitarian Innovation Hub in Yola, Adamawa State (with a branch in Maiduguri). In Lagos we are partnering with the Lagos Business School to establish the Nigeria Climate Innovation Center as part of the World Bank’s Climate Technology Program With all of our Technology Hubs, the States, tertiary institutions and development partners we will continue to provide the platforms to stimulate and foster the creativity of our citizens with bright ideas.

“From humanitarian issues, to clean energy, communal conflicts, agriculture, oil and gas, etc, we have been inundated with innovative solutions for our sundry challenges, from diverse sectors. The innovation within our citizenry is being garnered and unleashed, for the benefit of our dear country. As at the end of April 2019, the National Social Investment Programmes have cumulatively made a direct impact on 12,069,153 beneficiaries, and over 30m secondary beneficiaries, comprising the cooks, farmers, families, employees and members of the community.

On Budgetary releases, he said, “It is pertinent to note that out of an annual approved budget of N500 Billion, between 2016 and 2018, the total sum of N470,825,522,694.62 has so far been released to the NSIO and expended on the above mentioned programmes as follows, being 31% of the appropriated amount for the period; 2016 – N79,985,158,705.32 2017 – N140,000,000,000.00 2018 – N250,840,363,989.30

“In conclusion, “We would like to place on record our gratitude for the immense support from so many partners, without whose strong collaboration we would never have come so far. The National Assembly has been consistent in the budget appropriation of N500 Billion, and the State Governors have continued to provide the support and the space for impact in their various jurisdictions. The Federal MDAs, including the Ministry of Budget and National Planning (who have served as our accounting and procurement arm) have worked seamlessly with us, all through these formative years. In addition to the Ministries that serve as our Steering Committee members, agencies like NOA, UBEC, NBS, NDDC, NYSC, NPHCDA, DSS, CBN, NDE, BOI, NIRSAL, NITDA, GALAXY Backbone, NIMC and NSCDC have remained consistent as our friends and close partners. The media has been of immense support, in publicizing our efforts, both good and bad. The good encourages us, while the bad keeps us on our toes and enables us improve on the outcomes. Our development partners, such as the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Food Programme, UNICEF, DFID, ActionAid, Save the Children, the Partnership for Child Development, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers, Alvarez and Marshall, Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and the ICRC, have continued to provide technical assistance and financial support in some instances.

“Back home, the Dangote Foundation, Venture Garden Group, IITA, the National Economic Summit Group, Softcom, Accenture, the Lagos Business School, NIBSS and many of our tertiary institutions have remained formidable pillars of support in sundry areas. The support has been overwhelming; from lawyers, to economists, civil society organizations and monitors such as those led by ANEEJ, social scientists, and other well-meaning Nigerians. We cannot thank Nigerians enough for the faith they have in the efforts of this Administration, to overcome our sundry challenges. We have begun the journey, that is indeed marathon, bearing in mind the needs and ambitions of this Administration. A 5-year Road Map has been designed and is being considered by relevant policy makers, while a Bill creating a legal entity for the NSIPs has been drafted and receiving attention, for sustainability. We need to actively explore the fiscal space for continued funding for the journey ahead. We are optimistic that we can overcome poverty in our lifetime; and improve on our human capital indices. It is only with political will, a concerted effort, the funding and the backing of Nigerians that we can enhance the conditions of our citizens. We need to have faith that we can achieve positive outcomes. We must commend the leadership of this country for its vision and sincerity, driven by compassion and empathy for the majority of our citizens. Today, we can proudly boast of driving one of the largest Social Investment Programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. The process has begun; the foundation has been laid. We are committed and shall remain faithful to our mandate of serving our dear country, Nigeria”.

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