Corruption in Nigeria has deprived generality of the people of the necessities of life; corruption is the stumbling block to growth and development, and it has inhibited personal advancement and made the country the laughingstock in the comity of nations. Before the coming of this administration, corruption was the official policy of the state, it has backed up and enhanced by successive government and they did everything to preserve it. But when the present administration on board, President Muhammadu Buhari said, corruption is the worst form of human right violation. He went on to explain that, if Nigeria does not kill corruption, then corruption will kill Nigeria. This was because corruption was in very high and very low places in government.
It is for this reason that, the presidency has painstakingly explained that, the Federal Government is judiciously using the recovered ‘Abacha loot’ and World Bank credit to address the plight of poor and vulnerable Nigerians. Mrs Maryam Uwais, the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Investments said this recently at a public function in Port Harcourt, Rivers. Uwais, in a statement by Communication Manager, National Social Investment Office, Tienabeso Bibiye, was speaking at a two-day Experts’ Training and Advocacy on Tracing and Recovery of Illicit Funds and Assets in Port Harcourt.
The event was organised by the Human Environmental Development Agenda in Port Harcourt, Rivers. “From the August/September 2018 to the September/October payment 2019 cycle, the total cumulative value so far disbursed from the Abacha Loot is 76,538,530 dollars, and 27,099,028 dollars from the International Development Association (IDA) credit. “The funds are specifically being disbursed to beneficiaries of the National Cash Transfer Programme (a component of the National Social Investment Programme N-SIP). “The gesture is positively changing the fortunes of many Nigerians who find themselves below the poverty line, based on the data collated in the communities and hosted on the National Social Register. “The decision to distribute the Abacha Loot and IDA funds to poor and vulnerable citizens was reached by the Swiss Government, the World Bank and the Federal Government. “This was to ensure that the funds are well utilised and not diverted to private pockets, as was the case in the past. “In December 2014, a Swiss Judge gave a Forfeiture Order to the effect that monies (322.5million dollars) recovered from the family of the late General Abacha would be returned to Nigeria. “One of the conditions being that, the World Bank would be involved in monitoring disbursements there from,” she said.
She said efforts to tackle poverty in Nigeria should also take into consideration the basic and peculiar needs of the people. Uwais also said that there was need for the people to be carried along in the formulation and implementation of poverty alleviation policies and programmes for greater impact and appreciation of such efforts. She listed the key achievements of the Cash Transfer Programme funded, with the Abacha loot and IDA loan facility, to include enrolment and payment of 620, 947 beneficiaries across 29 States, “N567, 429,471, 30 saved by beneficiaries in 17 states from their monthly N5,000 stipends and 3,695 trained to support beneficiaries.”
Recalled that against, allegations that the returned Abacha loot was being used for political campaigns in the 2019 elections, the United Kingdom Agency for International Department (UKAID) sponsored programme has begun the monitoring of the Federal Government’s spending of $322.5 million looted funds recovered from former Head of State late General Sani Abacha being disbursed to the poorest Nigerians.
Executive Director of a civil society organization, Africa Network for Environment And Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Rev. David Ugolor who disclosed this while briefing journalists in Abuja, said 504 field monitors, eleven supervisors and 22 deputy supervisors drawn from members of the Nigerian Network on Stolen Asset, NNSA have been dispatched to monitor the Conditional Cash Transfer, CCT to the poorest of the poor. Rev. Ugolor said that so far, the distribution of the funds was being done through the Transparency and Accountability in the recovery and management of looted assets project. Following the London anti-corruption summit held in 2016 and the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) in 2017, a total of $322.5million was returned from Switzerland to Nigeria. The returned loot is also known as ‘Abacha 2’. He explained that the initial monitoring process was to fact-checked the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) to the poorest of the poor in 11 states, focused on 300,000 beneficiaries of the scheme. He said 16 states have beneficiaries from the August-September round of disbursement. According to him, “Last month, we successfully piloted monitoring arrangements “the MANTRA model” aimed at covering cash transfers to 300,000 of the poorest Nigerians and assess the impact on their lives. The pilot was in two states, Nasarawa and Cross River. “Last week, we deployed 504 field monitors, eleven supervisors and 22 deputy supervisors drawn from members of the Nigerian Network on Stolen Asset, NNSA, and other civil society organizations across the country to fact-check the Conditional Cash Transfer, CCT, to the poorest of the poor in eleven states with the hope of covering more states in subsequent exercise. This is based on our 10 percent sample size approximated at 300,000 Cash Transfer beneficiaries.”
The returned loot fund followed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed by the Governments of Nigeria and Switzerland with active CSOs participation led by ANEEJ, earmarking the money specifically for the Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme under the Government’s Social Investment Programme, monitored by the World Bank. Specifically, the money was earmarked to be spent on the poorest of the poor Nigerians whose status were appraised and arrived at by the National Safety-Net Coordinating Office (NASSCO) under the supervision of the Office of the Vice President. Under the MoU signed for the repatriation of the funds, it was stated clear and in unequivocal terms the modalities for the return of the money, its usage, monitoring both locally and abroad, international and local organisations that would ensure that the money is utilized for the benefit of the poor, downtrodden and the underprivileged persons in Nigeria.
Therefore, the present administration should be supported in its efforts to comprehensively fight corruption and decisively deal with all the vestiges of graft in the polity. Corruption is the bane of Nigeria, and all hands must be on deck to remove the clog in the wheel of progress of the country. Nigeria after all, is greater than any individual or groups of individual. There is no doubt whatsoever that war against corruption is a right step in the right direction, no wonder, it is bearing fruits for all to see.
By Jide Ayobolu