BENIN CITY – Seven hundred and three thousand, five hundred and six (703,506) poor and vulnerable Nigerians out of an enrolled figure of 834,948 targeted in the Nigerian Social register received a total of ₦23,742,580,000 from the recovered $322.5million Abacha Loot returned from Switzerland as at 31 December 2019 under the Conditional Cash Transfer of Nigeria’s Social Investment Programme (SIP). This figure excludes amount being distributed to poor Nigerians as part of federal government’s response to COVID 19 pandemic covering the months of January-April 2020.
Executive Director of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor, leading CSOs monitoring the disbursement nationwide disclosed this today at a World Press Conference/Virtual Meeting in Benin City, Edo State to formally present MANTRA one-year field monitoring report covering the period October 2018 to December 2019 to stakeholders and the Nigerian public.
Rev David Ugolor who is the Head of Monitoring Transparency and Accountability in the Management of Returned Assets, MANTRA, project, a sub-sect of Anti-Corruption in Nigeria (ACORN) programme of DFID/UKAid disclosed that of the total number of beneficiaries MANTRA monitors were able to reach 73,998 beneficiaries located in 4,540 communities, traced to 97 Local Government Areas and in 20 states of the federation who were captured in the data base developed by the National Social Safety-Net Coordination Office (NASSCO) as verified by our monitors, which is an improvement from the total beneficiaries of 30, 846 in the first monitoring report wherein MANTRA covered 11 states.
As Civil Society, Ugolor stated, “our mission is to ensure transparent and judicious use of the recovered Abacha funds in line with its stated purpose to ensure that recovered money is not re-looted.” He recalled that the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ) signed an MOU with the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) In January 2018 for the monitoring of the $322.5 million recovered Abacha Loot which was returned by Switzerland government in 2017.
The money is being disbursed by the National Cash Transfer Office now located in the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development through payment operators to the beneficiaries in line with a MoU between the Federal Government of Nigeria, Switzerland Government and the World Bank as witnessed by Nigerian Civil Society led by ANEEJ at the inaugural GFAR meeting in Washington DC in 2017. The use of the returned loot for Cash Transfer Programme, according to Ugolor is in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goal 16.4, Global Forum on Assets Recovery principles, and United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) provisions on asset recovery for which Nigeria is signatory to all these instruments.
On the findings of the field monitoring, Ugolor stated: “We had four objectives in our monitoring plan and we deployed a total of 1456 monitors across the country in the exercise using a 21 per cent sample size. We also hired an audit firm for the upstream (Central Bank and National Cash Transfer Office), and Midstream (Payment Operators) monitoring. While our field monitors were deployed mainly for the downstream monitoring, covering the State Cash Transfer Offices (SCTO) and Local Government Areas), making it an end-to-end monitoring.
“Our first Objective was to ascertain targeting of payments to specified beneficiaries. By the end of the first year of our monitoring, majority of beneficiaries identified their community leaders as the source of their enrollment into the social register.
“Our Objective 2 has to do with Beneficiaries Grievance and how they are addressed. At the end of the first year, we observed that less than half of the total complainants (43%) had registered their complaints. The complaints received include: Request for increase in base stipend, third party deductions, ID card related challenges, delayed payments, irregular or late payments, tedious payment processes and distance to payment points. We discovered, however that only 22 per cent of such complaints were resolved and this remains some of the challenges facing the scheme which needs improvement.
“Our third Objective is the total amount of the recovered $322.5million disbursed. N24,658,072,000 was disbursed by the NCTO to the Private Service Operators as at 31 December2019 of which ₦23,742,580,000 go to the beneficiaries. We also found that only 72.5% of the agreed 80% was part of the Abacha loot in the funds disbursed to the beneficiaries during the period under review,” Rev David Ugolor disclosed.
Ugolor further informed newsmen that the current nationwide disbursements of recovered Abacha loot from January-April 2020 as part of the Federal Government response to COVID 19 is being monitored by ANEEJ trained monitors nationwide assuring that the MANTRA team will provide Nigerians its findings subsequently.
The ANEEJ ED stressed the need for stakeholders’ collaboration in the fight against corruption and used the opportunity to thank the Federal Government, the UK, Switzerland, and US governments as well as the World Bank for their collaboration which has seen to the success of the MANTRA model in achieving the level of success thus far.
ANEEJ is working with 8 partners in the project across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. They are: Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) Abuja (North Central), Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRISED), Kano (North West), Bayelsa Non-Governmental Forum (BANGOF),Yenagoa (South-South), FAHIMTA Women and Youth Development Initiative (FAWOYDI) ( North East), New Initiative for Social Development (NISD), Ado-Ekiti (South West) and Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC), Enugu (South East).
The rest are: -Economic Research and Development Centre (SERDEC), Lokoja New Apostolic Church Centre for Development (NAC), GRA, Benin City which focus on behavior change programmes of MANTRA.