Panic in states as FG plans to prosecute SIPs saboteurs

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…we have been vindicated-Transparency International

By Ayo Fadimu

There is palpable panic across the country as the Federal government announced plans to investigate and prosecute the saboteurs of its Social Investment Programmes (SIPs).

One particular programme of SIPs, Tradermoni had generated several complains of fraud and underhand antics where beneficiaries were shortchanged to as much as 20 per cent of the loan given by the Federal Government

TraderMoni is a collateral-free loan targeted at petty traders and artisans, is part of the National Social Investment Programme, under the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, through which the Federal Government says it intends to bridge the credit gap and empower Nigerians at the grassroots.

Beneficiaries of TraderMoni, which is coordinated by the Bank of Industry and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, a unit in the Office of the Vice President, have six months to repay the loan with flexible options of N85 daily or N430 weekly.

The beneficiaries, who receive an initial loan of N10,000, will qualify to obtain further loans of N15,000, N20,000 and N50,000, if they don’t default in repaying the facility.

However, in a statement by Communications Manager, National Social Investment Office (NSIO), Justice Bibiye,

on Sunday in Abuja, the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments,  Mrs. Maryam Uwais said the Federal Government has concluded plans to prosecute saboteurs of the program

She said the Federal Government would continue to mainstream the principles of transparency, accountability and probity in the implementation of the SIPs of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. She said efforts were being intensified to track down those bent on sabotaging the SIPs by exploiting beneficiaries for personal gains, or sensationalise untruths to discredit the efforts at uplifting poorer citizens of the country from poverty.

Uwais said NSIO was working with the relevant security agencies to ensure that those found wanting were arrested and prosecuted. She responded against the backdrop of media reports which quoted her to have accused monarchs and other traditional rulers in the country of collecting bribes from beneficiaries of the SIPs.

In the meantime, Uwais has aide urged members of the public to dismiss such reports as sensationalism and a total misrepresentation of facts. Uwais delivered a goodwill message as Special Guest at the 13th Anti-corruption Agenda for the 9th National Assembly, held recently in Abuja. She said she never mentioned at that event that monarchs or traditional rulers as among those involved in demanding kickbacks from SIPs beneficiaries in rural areas.

According to Uwais, her comments at the function, organised by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, a Non-Governmental Organisation, were based on the outcome of investigations triggered by an individual in the audience. She said that the concerns raised at the event related to complaints by some beneficiaries who alleged being short-changed by some community leaders in Osun State.

“At a similar event held sometimes ago, a young man had publicly reported that some beneficiaries were being shortchanged in his community, so I promised to have it investigated. “This investigation was carried out by ANEEJ, the principal monitor of disbursements of the Abacha restituted funds. “The report of the investigation revealed that the disclosures were essentially factual; some community leaders and LGA officials were in the habit of demanding levies after payment is concluded in the communities.’’ Uwais said that NSIO resolved to undertake measures to counter those adverse practices in the field. According her, the office is planning an event in the communities to engage the beneficiaries with a view to building their confidence, so they can refuse to accede to such demands. “Those who understand the leadership structure in our communities would know that monarchs are not the only set of persons classified as community leaders. “Our royal fathers are usually supported by others in the hierarchy to superintend over community affairs. “It then becomes very disturbing and somewhat mischievous for a reporter to single out monarchs from a comment that focused generally on community leaders.

‘We urge the media to avoid sensationalism and keep striving towards upholding the lofty principles of truth, fairness, objectivity and accuracy in their reportage of events of National concern. “In addition to field reports we get from our independent monitors and volunteers, we have continued to encourage and welcome feed-backs from members of the public, on acts of infraction and other challenges that can assist government to achieve better results in the implementation of the Social Safety Net Programmes,’’ She said

There have been reported cases of fraud in several states including Lagos,  Osun, Kogi, Abia and Kaduna States among others. A claim supported by Transparency International

In an exclusive chat with Nigerian NewsDirect, the Head of Transparency International Nigeria, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani said the position of the government had vindicated the international body has it had raised alarm over the fraud being perpetrated in the scheme but the government was upset.

“Now that the government had found that there are fraudstersand saboteurs that are exploiting the beneficiaries, they should prosecute the offenders as announced” Rafsanjani told Nigerian NewsDirect.

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