By Isiaka Garba
Less than three months to the end of 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari may have backed out of the N500 billion Social investment funds meant to alleviate the poverty of the citizenry. According to sources in the National Assembly, the office of the Special Advicer to the President on Social Investment, headed by Mrs. Maryam Uwais, only the sum of N20 billion has so far been received out of the N500 billion budgeted for its activities.
The inability of the government to release the funds, a member of National Assembly noted, may not be unconnected with paucity made possible by falling prices of crude oil in the international market.
“The Buhari government is facing a serious threat regarding the implementation of the social investment funds. With no money to execute the programmes, the government may have abandoned the entire programme, as it will be difficult to source N480 billion to execute the programmes of activities,” the source disclosed.
According to sources in the upper legislative chamber, it is very clear that the present government headed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) cannot meet the financial expectations of the funds that is estimated to cost half a trillion naira.
“It is very clear that the Buhari government cannot provide funds for the social intervention funds. There is no way the government can get money to bankroll the school feeding programmes, including the payment of N5000 for unemployed youths. If such failed expectations continue, the prospects for success by APC at the polls in 2019 may be darkened. We need to wake up and fulfill the promised change as contained in the campaign promises of the APC-led government,” lamented the source.
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Poverty Alleviation, Mohammed Ali Wudil, said the release of N20 billion so far for the social intervention funds reveals that it would amount to an impossibility to have the total amount released with9n the remaining three months.
Wudil spoke recently at a Civil Society Organisation, CSO’s engagement on monitoring Federal Government’s Social Protection and Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.
According to him, lawmakers are engaging the executives to speed up actions on the programme to ensure that citizens, who are supposed to benefit from it are not left to continue to suffer.
He expressed concern that the year would wind down in about four months without achieving any meaningful impact on the lives of the poor.
Wudil said over eight million Nigerians were expected to benefit from the N500 billion social intervention, adding that apart from the social intervention, jobs would also be created by infrastructural projects that would be restored and the new ones that would soon be taking off.
“The huge budget of N500 billion remained idle amid increasing socio-economic pressures on the would-be beneficiaries.
“Definitely, the office of the Special Adviser, Social Investments in the Presidency is facing challenges rolling out plans for the implementation.
“The huge amount that was allocated to the office needs to be justified, particularly now that poverty has gone so high in the country,” he said.
Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Investment, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, who outlined different Special Intervention Projects of the Federal Government, said it is designed for delivery under five sections.
These include the N-power, designed to help young Nigerians acquire and develop life-long skills to become solution providers in their communities and to become players in the domestic and global markets.
There is home grown school feeding for primary school children through locally sourced foods within the country; direct cash transfer of N5,000 monthly to targeted poor and vulnerable households, targeting one million people.
Also speaking, the Head Partnership and Local Rights Program, ActionAid, Suwaiba Jubrin, said the civil society is engaging the government to ensure that the program implementation is actualized. She observed that it was laudable for the present administration to invite the CSOs to participate in holding the government accountable for the project via monitoring and evaluations.
Lamenting the slow economic growth over the years in the country, which has been bedeviled by inequality, Jubrin said increasing poverty and rising unemployment are grave threats to national development, adding, “Nigeria’s capacity to generate revenue to support pro-poor development has remained extremely limited.”