Social Investment Programme in Kogi State: How Successful?
The Federal Government has spent about N300 billion on the National Social Investment Programme since its inception in 2016. The programme aimed to improve the living conditions of Nigerians through capacity building, investment and direct support. ActionAid Nigeria in a recent investigation takes a look at the successes of the programme with particular reference to Kogi State.
NBS in its periodic quarterly reviews has shown that the multi-pronged Job Creation strategy of this President Buhari’s administration especially as it relates to the N-Power job creation intervention has proven successful.
Data from NBS showed a reduction in youth and graduate unemployment target from 23.67 to 16.6 percent in Q1/Q2 – 2017 when the first batch of 200,000 Nigerian youths was engaged and 32.45 to 29.75 percent in Q3 – 2018 when the second batch of 300,000 Nigerian youths was engaged.
The N-SIP comprises Home-grown School Feeding Program (HGSFP), Job Creation or N-power Program), Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Program(GEEP).
When our correspondent recently visited the state to ascertain the level of the implementation of the N-SIP, several unpalatable issues were unearthed.
First, it was discovered that the Home-Grown Feeding Program, which was supposed to provide employment for cooks, farmers and market women, has literally been hijacked by a few individuals.
Some of the cooks who spoke to our correspondent said that they were appointed to feed a certain number of pupils per day in a school for one month.
They complained that though money was credited to their accounts, their accounts were subsequently debited by the bank.
According to them, when they complained to the management, they were informed that the amount debited from their accounts was meant to cover the money expended on the supply of foodstuff to them, while the remaining balance was meant for the purchase of ingredients for cooking the meal.
According to the cooks, some of them got alerts indicating N98,000, while they were debited N62,000 each as a fee for the supply of foodstuff, leaving them with a balance of only N36,000 each out of which they paid transport fare to convey the food items to their respective schools.
It was gathered that the cooks are expected to feed a maximum of 70/90 pupils of primary one to three pupils per school each day
One of the cooks claimed that the N62,000 debited from her account ostensibly for the supply of foodstuff was not commensurate with the quantity and quality of foodstuff she received.
She said: “How can I be debited N62,000 and be provided with only 28kg of rice,3kg of beans,46 pieces of spaghetti, 280 pieces of biscuit, 280 pieces of sachet milk and then few pieces of meat and you want to make me believe this is worth the N62,000 I was debited? This is pure fraud!”
Another cook interviewed in Kabba Local Government also claimed that what was debited from her account was 63,000 and the value of what she got from the store was not even up to 25,000, in her words: “I am just being used and I will only want to continue if only good explanations will be given, because as it is now I don’t even know how much am being paid for this work”.
Another cook interviewed in Okene Local Government complained that she despite being debited was posted to serve a school in Lokoja Local Government, according to her: “From Okene to Lokoja is almost two hours journey. Leaving Okene to Lokoja to serve every day has really been a big challenge and yet money credited was still being debited from my account leaving me with only 35,000. How do I cope? The government should please help us because, at the end of the day, we even have to add our own money”.
When some of the storekeepers for each of the Local Government where the cooks get the supply from were contacted, they decline to comment for fear of losing their job.
But, the storekeeper for Kabba Local Government, Mr. Kolade Sunday, confirmed the complaint of the cooks. He suggested that if the local farmers would be engaged to make the supplies of the foodstuffs, that would address some of the complains as the local farmers would also be engaged instead of going out of the state to buy foods stuffs being supplied to the cooks.
Some of the Headteachers confirmed that the feeding only lasted for about two weeks, and that was before the just concluded 2019 general elections.
They further said that immediately after the elections, the pupils were only being fed with small pieces of bread every Thursday of the week.
A check also revealed that not all public schools in the state are benefitting from this feeding program, even though they were originally captured in the program.
Some of the parents interviewed by our correspondent claimed that the fish given to their wards was injurious to their health, maintaining that the fish was not fit for human consumption.
Speaking with the Education Secretary for Kabba Local Government, he said they are happy that the program was introduced as it has really increased school enrollment in the state but complained bitterly that some of the challenges being experienced would have been avoided if only the Education Management Board of the state was carried along to engage the cooks. While commending the Federal Government, he also suggested that the government should try as soon as possible to capture all the public schools in the state.
Mrs Abayomi Wole Christy, CEO Global Home for Women and Children Foundation, who spoke as a Third-Party (NGO) monitoring the Program in Kogi State explained how her office engaged 5 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the state. She also confirmed some of the challenges discovered while monitoring the interventions across the state, while she commended the Federal Government for the N-power Program, she faulted the Home-Grown School Feeding Program, admitting it is at the pilot stage. She insisted what is worth doing is worth doing well. Suggesting a way forward, she advised some of the loopholes should be covered if not the school feeding program will be tagged as a ‘mere politics things’.
The Unit Head of the State Feeding Program, Hajiya Khadijat Karibo, admitted that the programme was fraught with several challenges.
However, she urged the people to understand that the program was still at its pilot stage, saying that it will get better when it gets to the next stage.
Speaking on the funding, she said the feeding lasted for only a few weeks because they got money for only one month, adding that the money was paid directly to the cooks’ accounts.
She affirmed that the accounts of the cooks were debited, and the deducted amounts were automatically paid directly into the accounts of those who supplied the foodstuff.
She dismissed the insinuation that her officials were playing games with the funds as ‘satanic,’ saying that in some local government areas like Dekina, Adavi and Ankpa were not captured in the first pilot stage.
The operation of the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) in the state is also burdened with several controversies.
Not a few market men and women who spoke to our correspondent described the program as ‘fake.’
They claimed that the initial money disbursed was N10, 000, saying that the money was given to selected beneficiaries just before the Vice President Prof.YemiOsinbajo, was billed to visit the state.
A member of the Market Union who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being victimized confirmed that they were asked to register with forms issued for the program, saying that the prospective beneficiaries were asked to apply on the platform of Market Cooperatives.
He said that they were happy when they were informed that the VP was coming to kick-start the program, adding that after his helicopter crash-landed in Kabba, nothing has been said again about the launching the program.
The Head of the Program in Kogi State refused to comment on its operation. On two occasions, our correspondent visited the office but a staff, who spoke on the condition that his name will not appear on print, claimed that funds were disbursed.
However, one program in the state that has recorded a relative success is the N-Power Program.
Some of the beneficiaries expressed happiness over the introduction of the program and called on the Federal Government not to scrap the program.
However, some of the people who initially benefitted from the program complained that they did not receive any further payment after the program was extended.
A staff of the N-Power, who spoke to our correspondent, explained that those who did not receive further payments were those who absconded from their places of assignment, or who failed to come to work regularly.
Below are some comments from the N-power beneficiaries:-
1-Inyanda Adah, a resident of Lokoja (N-Teach Beneficiary) said “I was jobless for 7years when I got to know about the N-power. I never took it seriously but somehow, I reluctantly applied and behold, I was shortlisted, and today I’m being paid N30,000. All I can say is thank you Federal Government, with this, there is hope.”
2- UmaruIsah, Dekina LGA (N-Agro Beneficiary) has this to say: “I graduated from the University of Maiduguri as an Agricultural Engineer but couldn’t secure a job in the labor market for 4 years. When I heard of the N-power program, I immediately applied. I was shortlisted without having to go through anybody, just on merit. My fiancée too applied and was also enlisted. We saved the funds for some months and today, we are happily married. My joy is not just the 30,000 but being posted to a farm that is also adding to my experience because today I also have a big farm. N-power has lifted me out of poverty.”
3- Julian Omali, Okene LGA (N-Health Beneficiary) said her experience while seeking a job in the past was better imagined than narrated. “N-power program came on board like a dream. I was posted to a primary health center, and I got my first stipend alert, and since then it has been coming regularly. Although occasionally it crosses over to the next month, I am happy today that I am employed and not under any fear of any kind. We are praying that Federal Government should consider us and make us permanent staff and also ensure a little increase in our stipends.”
4- For Ogumadeji Sani, Ofu LGA (N-Teach Beneficiary) narrated that he was very dedicated to his work but after the extension in November last year, he hadn’t received his stipends. He also said he had some friends who were in that category from November to February without stipends. ‘Right now, we are even confused as nobody is telling us anything again, if at the end of April nothing comes up, we will just have to stop reporting to work. If we are dropped now, I can’t just stand reverting to my old life of joblessness, Seriously, I may not survive it, please help us talk to the government.” he pleaded.
In response, the office of the N-Power claimed that, those who absconded from their places of assignment and those who did not regularly report to work were those affected.
Speaking further, he said the first batch of the N-power in the state had about 4,530 beneficiaries which started in 2016, and the second batch had a total number of 7,425 amounting to about 11,000 beneficiaries of the program in the state.
He also stated that the implementation of N-power Program has made the Federal Government to spend a total of N356.1million in Kogi State which invariably has impacted positively on the state’s economy
Not a few say that the full implementation of the N-SIP Program will change the face of Kogi State, as well as liberate the people from poverty. They, however, reiterated the need to stamp out corruption, as well as promote transparency in the system.
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