By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
In continuation of collaborative efforts between the National Social Investment Office NSIO and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission ICPC aimed at checkmating corrupt practices in the National Social Investment Programme NSIP, State Operatives of ICPC have been trained on how to use technology to identify, track, apprehend and prosecute persons who abuse the Social Protection Initiative.
About 50 ICPC State operatives drawn from fifteen States of the Federation and the FCT Converged on Abuja, for the one-day training program which was also attended by National officials of the anti-graft agency, as well as Principal Officers and Cluster Heads of the NSIO.
Addressing the participants during the opening session of the Programme held on Thursday at the State House, Auditorium in Abuja, Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs Maryam Uwais, described the partnership with ICPC as a strategic gesture with great potentials of drastically reducing corruption practices in the SIPs.
Mrs Uwais said at the federal level, the implementation team of the N-SIP has made successful efforts to plug leakages of corruption that can emanate from a multi-billion naira programme, that is currently changing the economic fortunes of millions of poor and vulnerable citizens across the country.
According to her, as part of the strategies adopted to promote transparency in the implementation of the SIPS, the deployment of technology ensures that beneficiaries of the Programme have Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs) or unique numbers for easy identification and the direct payment of benefits.
She said the only exception to this are the Cash Transfer beneficiaries, who due to their limited exposure to banking structures and processes, are being paid by hired Mobile Money Agents that make such payments (using a back-end technology) on the payment procedures in the field.
The Presidential aide noted that the NSIO and ICPC partnership became necessary to check reported cases of extortion and intimidation of cash transfer beneficiaries and other infractions in the N-SIP.
“What we are worried about is that our beneficiaries at the other end are being exploited and intimidated. Many of them are receiving five thousand naira for the first time in their lives. But some persons at the community level insist on getting their own share from that amount, threatening the beneficiaries that they can delist them from the programme if they do not comply.
“Even though we have monitors, some of whom appear to also be part of the problem, we need as many eyes as possible in our monitoring efforts to ensure that the beneficiaries fully utilize their benefits to achieve the intended objectives of the Programme”, Mrs Uwais added.
Also speaking, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Social Investments, Barrister Ismaeel Ahmed, described the Social Investment Programmes of the Buhari Administration as a huge initiative with significant impact on the lives of economically disadvantaged citizens.
He listed some of the key achievements of the programme to include one quality meal per school day for nearly 10 million pupils across 33 states of the Federation under the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, Nearly 600 thousand young Nigerians engaged in the N-Power Programme, over 600 thousand beneficiaries of the Cash transfer program and over 2.2 million small scale business men and women currently benefitting from soft interest-free loans from tradermoni, farmermoni and marketmoni under the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP)
Chairman of ICPC, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, who was represented at the Programme by the Spokesperson of the Commission, Mrs Rasheedat Okoduwa, said the NSIO/ICPC partnership is crucial to reducing incidences of corrupt practices in the implementation of N-SIP, calling on the participants to take advantage of the training to get acquainted with the activities of the N-SIP to be able identify areas of vulnerabilities for effective monitoring.
“This partnership is critical and those who are bent on shortchanging N-SIP beneficiaries would be visited with the full weight of the law”, Mrs Okoduwa said.
A statement by Communications Managervif NSIO, Justice Tienabeso Bibiye said the participants who were introduced to the operations of the various components of N-SIP by the cluster Heads, also learnt how to use technological devices to track and get feedback on cases of infractions in the programme