Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo Wednesday said the cash transfer programme involving the recovered $322million Abacha loot will be stringently monitored to ensure transparency.
He said monitors would visit the individual households that have been identified through “deliberate targeting”.
The Vice-President spoke in Abuja when he launched the Monitoring of Recovered Assets through Transparency and Accountability (MANTRA) Project.
It was at a roundtable organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) to mark the First African Day of Anti-Corruption.
The roundtable had the theme: “Enhancing Domestic Resources for Sustainable Development Goals by Improved Asset Recovery and Asset Return”.
The Switzerland Government, based on a memorandum of understanding with Swiss banks and the World Bank, returned $322million to Nigeria.
A Swiss court order that led to the repatriation of Abacha loot was made on the condition that the World Bank will supervise the money’s utilisation to prevent mis-management and re-looting.
Special Adviser to the President on Social Protection, Mrs Maryam Uwais, who represented the Vice President, said the beneficiaries of the cash transfer are households contained in the National Social Register that was built using targeted machanisms to identify poor and vulnerable households.
Mrs Uwais said: “By the end of this year, we should have a register of the entire country. This register is where all our beneficiaries will be mined from. There is a number for each of the beneficiaries, and we’ll have their pictures captured.
“When we started, three banks offered to support us with the biometrics. By the time they started going to the locations, they realised it was costly for them. So they backed out.
“Now, we’re working through agents to ensure we pay at the last mile, because if a person is on this register, and is actually deserving of this our N5, 000, many of them cannot travel for long distances.
“Many of them need the money so we don’t want them spending money going to look for their money. So we’re using the agents. We’re working to see that their biometrics are captured.”
She said data generated during the cash transfer programme would be used for planning purposes.
“It’s more than just financial inclusion. It’s also social inclusion. It’s important for planning that every state is aware of where these people are located. We’re also collating data on access roads to these communities, nearest primary schools, secondary schools, healthcare centres, and connectivity issues.
“There is a huge conversation on how to ensure that we’re able to make payment by virtual wallet, because a lot of our women on pay days are visible when they go to collect their money and we need to protect them.
“In two or three communities, we’ve have incidences where the youths come around and say: ‘We selected you, so you must drop a levy’. For that reason we engaged the Minister of Interior who introduced us to the D-G of Civil Defence. Now we have armed men that escort our agents on pay day to pay these women.
“We try to encourage them to adopt a saving culture. It’s about mentoring and encouraging them to form savings groups, and take ownership. It’s much more than cash.”
Budget Office Director-General Mr Ben Akabueze debunked concerns that the money was not appropriated. He said a provision was made for it in the 2018 budget.
“In the budget for 2018 for instance, we have reflected in the revenues a total of N512billion of recoveries, including domestic recoveries and those from outside. In reality, this has been appropriated. It’s part of the funds that along with other government borrowings and revenues have been appropriated.
“Also, in the 2018 budget, we have a provision for N500billion for social investment programme, which includes conditional cash transfers,” Akabueze said.
PACAC Executive Secretary Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, speaking on the sidelines of the roundtable, said cash transfer programmes are done globally.
“It’s a temporary thing to bring people out of poverty and including them in social welfare. The register being used was developed by the last administration, working with the World Bank. It’s not being done on political party basis. Ekiti, Oyo and Kwara states had the framework, and that’s why they had a head start.
“Monitors go there directly to check. It’s not by calculation. If it were left to politicians, they’d put people they want. But that is not happening. The media should go and check it out. Conditional cash transfer was going on before Abacha money was returned.
“Do you know there are people who have never held N2,000 in their hands? The Swiss judgment is clear: the money should be used for Nigerian people and should be monitored by the World Bank. Based on the parameters in the MOU, nobody can steal the money unless the World Bank is complicit,” Owasanoye said.