The funds allocated and released for the financing of the National Social Investment Programmes (N-SIPs) of the Buhari administration have been domiciled in the Ministry of Budget and National Planning from inception, and not in the Office of the Vice President or anywhere in the Presidency.
The decision was taken very early in the implementation of the N-SIPs when President Muhammadu Buhari asked Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, to oversee the schemes. The Vice President then instructed that, while the coordination of the scheme would be led by the Presidency through the National Social Investment Office (NSIO) under the Office of the Vice President (OVP), all matters regarding financing, budgeting, procurement and disbursement should be done by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning.
Consequently, that Ministry commenced the management of the financial components of the N-SIPs. The Ministry also serves as the Secretariat of the Steering Committee that supervised the programme coordination, also responsible for presenting memos about the schemes each time that was required at the Federal Executive Council.
This clarification is important amidst insinuations in some quarters regarding the amounts budgeted and released for N-SIPs, following media reports on the alleged involvement of the Vice President in financial matters. It can be categorically said that His Excellency, the VP Yemi Osinbajo has never been involved in any of such financial transactions.
The Buhari administration’s Social Investment Programmes is the largest social investment programme in Nigeria’s history. Four broad programmes (N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfers, National Home-Grown School Feeding and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programmes) are under the N-SIPs, each uniquely targeting different subgroups of Nigerians for empowerment.
The design of the N-SIP structure never envisaged the awarding of contracts by the NSIO. Consequently, the procurement and disbursement of funds for the N-SIPs have never been done in the Office of the Vice President. Indeed, the National Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), being the custodian of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) server, supports the National Social Investment Office (NSIO) as its Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) In that capacity, NIBSS has facilitated the authentication of the unique identities of all our beneficiaries, before payment. The process adopted has been that the National Social investment Office merely provides the schedules of beneficiaries, comprising their names and banking details, to the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, who, as custodian of the funds, transmits the amounts slated, depending on the programme needs, directly to the beneficiary accounts, through the NIBSS.
The Steering Committee for the NSIO, chaired by the Vice President, supervises the implementation of the SIPs, The Steering Committee comprises 9 Ministers, including that of Finance; Education; Health; Agriculture, Trade and Investment, Youth and Sports, Women Affairs; Labour and Productivity; Information; with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning as the Secretariat. The Steering Committee meets regularly for updates, to review, advise, guide and approve the processes of the N-SIPs.
The NSIO has continued to prioritize transparency in disbursements. It has also ensured a level-playing field for all the beneficiaries, collated data and verified identities of beneficiaries of the different schemes, through a close collaboration with relevant agencies of government.
All payments on the programmes are transferred directly to beneficiaries from the Federal Government coffers. The only exception is in relation to the cash transfer programme, basically because the beneficiaries reside in areas where there is a dearth of banking infrastructure. Being much too poor to travel long distances to receive the monthly N5,000 disbursements, the decision was taken to ensure the funds are conveyed to them at their places of residence.
Furthermore, in departure from past experiences in similar programmes, whereby beneficiaries were selected in an opaque manner, this Administration’s Cash Transfer (CCT) beneficiaries are identified by members of the communities themselves, through a tripartite method, which includes technology, for objectively and scale. At commencement, geographical poverty mapping is utilized to determine the sequence of LGAs to commence work and spread from, after which the World Bank community-based targeting process was adopted to assure of community ownership of the process. Trained and equipped State and LGA enumerators then collate the requisite information of all the identified households on android devices.
Finally, a proxy means test is applied to the data of the households on the devices, to rank them in relation to their poverty status. This carefully collated data is cleaned up and hosted on a State Social Register, all of which State Registers combined, constitute the National Social Register.
Caregivers in each of the identified households are then enrolled for payment. All of the cash transfer beneficiaries that are paid by the National Cash Transfer Office (NSTO) are mined from the NSR. Because the beneficiaries reside in locations where there is a dearth of banking infrastructure, payment is made through mobile money agents that have been procured in an open and transparent process. To preclude fraud since payment is effected in cash (at least until there are fixed location agents in those communities), every mobile money agent must have a backend technology platform that enables the visualization of transparent disbursements and timely reconciliation, by the Federal office.
For the other NSIO programmes, such as the N-Power and the National Home-Grown School Feeding, payments are made directly into the accounts of the youth and the cooks, through accounts held by them, having initially been verified by the NIBSS as a pre-requisite of enrollment into the programmes.
Under the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) which provides collateral and interest-free financial support to businesses at the bottom of the financial pyramid, the payment process is also transparent. GEEP is being managed by the Bank of Industry (BOI) since the NSIO has deliberately retained a lean team, being a coordinating office. Moreover, the BOI has offices around the country, with accredited agents to support the collection of repayments.
For GEEP schemes such as Market Moni and FarmerMoni, the loans are paid to the beneficiaries who must belong to a registered cooperative or association and have opened bank accounts linked to a BVN. Consequently, the loans are easily paid directly to their accounts, once they meet the criteria.
For TraderMoni of N10,000 loans to petty traders, enumeration is done in the open markets and wherever the traders ply their trade. While BVN is not required for the first level of N10,000 loans, the criteria include having a phone, a verifiable place of trade (e.g. kiosk, table-top, spot) and the interest to apply for the loan. The registered traders are then processed for the N10,000 loan disbursement. Upon repayment within 6 months, the beneficiary becomes eligible for a larger amount of N15,000 and incrementally, all the way to N100,000 if and when the collateral-free loans are repaid within the designated time frame. It is at the 2nd stage, where the applicant indicates the interest to apply for a larger loan amount, that it becomes necessary for the applicant to open a bank account with a BVN.
Important to mention, also, is that the N-SIPs have also been monitored by an umbrella of non-government organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) which have all adjudged the processes to be transparent.
Organisations like Action Aid (Nigeria), the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), working with Accenture and the Busara Centre for Behavioral Sciences – have either monitored or evaluated the progress of the programmes. These entities continue to commend the NSIPs for meeting the urgent needs of Nigerians in different areas including providing employment, supporting small businesses and in poverty alleviation.
According to its 2018 Third-party Monitoring Report, Action Aid noted that the Social Investment Programmes, despite the challenges encountered, are effective and relevant in the States because their expected outcomes have been achieved.
Commending the openness and transparency entrenched in the process of disbursements, the Senior Adviser, Department for International Development (DFID)-UK, Sonia Warner, said ANEEJ played a pivotal role in the Monitoring of Recovered Assets in Nigeria with Transparency and Accountability (MANTRA) Project to monitor US$322.5 million returned to Nigeria from Switzerland. Findings from ANEEJ, the umbrella body of the coalition of Independent Civil Society Organisations monitoring the use of returned $322 million Abacha Loot on cash transfers to the poorest of the poor confirm that the money is being disbursed to poor Nigerians, with the desired impact.
Warner noted that she “feels a strong sense of achievement being part of an intervention which has demonstrated that it is possible to retrieve stolen money and use it to support the victims of corruption in Nigeria.”
Since its implementation in 2016, the N-SIPs have impacted over 12 million direct beneficiaries and over 30 million indirect beneficiaries, comprising employees of beneficiaries, mobile money agents, cooks, farmers and extended family members.
Justice Tienabeso Bibiye
National Social Investment Office NSIO