NASS LEADERSHIP, PRESIDENCY DISAGREE ON IMPLEMENTATION OF SOCIAL INVESTMENT PROGRAMME
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila earlier in the week criticised the implementation of the Social Investment Programme (SIP) as the lockdown over coronavirus continues in the country.
The duo made their reservations about the scheme known at a meeting with Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development Sadiya Farouq.
The meeting which was also attended by top officials of the ministry, Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege, Deputy Speaker Idris Wase and other principal officers and members from both Chambers, saw them question the transparency of the programme.
Ola Awoniyi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President of Senate in a statement disclosed that Lawan and Gbajabiamila made it abundantly clear that the SIP needed a reform to make it more efficient and effective.
Lawan said the National Assembly was very much interested in the current intervention initiatives of the ministry, particularly with respect to the disbursement aimed at assuaging the plight of the poorest of the poor Nigerians against COVID-
He said the National Assembly was concerned about the conditions and guidelines for the intervention programmes which are specifically directed at the most vulnerable Nigerians.
“When for example, some conditions are set, that those who will benefit will have to go online, through the internet or BVN and the rest of it.
“I want to tell you that the majority of those who are supposed to benefit have no access to power.
“They have no access to Internet,they have no bank account, and so no BVN.
“Infact, many of them don’t even have phones and these are the poorest of the poor, yet, some of the conditions or guidelines which you set inadvertently leave them out,” Lawan said.
In the same vein, Gbajabiamila told the minister that she had been in the eye of the storm because all eyes were on her.
“Your job right now, is probably the most important as we speak, because you are saddled with the responsibility of alleviating poverty or the hardship, due to no fault of anyone, being thrust upon Nigerians,” he said.
Reacting to the position of leaders of the National Assembly, the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment Programme, Mrs. Maryam Uwais faulted their stance.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mrs. Uwais described some of the assertions made by the leaders of the National Assembly as untrue.
According to her, the claim that the National Social Investment Programme has taken more than N2 trillion since its inception was false.
“Although the total appropriation by the National Assembly (NASS) from inception, for the 4 NSIPs, is N1.7 trillion, the actual funds released for the NSIPs between January 2016 and October 2019 (when the NSIPs were handed over to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development), amounted to N619.1 billion, constituting 36.4% of the total appropriation from the NASS,” she explained.
Also, she said that beneficiaries of the scheme do not need to apply online with their Bank Verification Number (BVN) for payment as both lawmakers insinuated.
She said: “That as part of the conditions for poor and vulnerable beneficiaries to be engaged, they are made to apply online, through the internet and they require a BVN for payment. UNTRUE.”
Mrs. Uwais added: “The utilization of the BVN for N-Power beneficiary payment is also as a means of identity (since the NIN number can be generated from the BVN) and to facilitate the tracking of payments and further ensure accountability.”
On the identity of the beneficiaries not made public, she explained that the law (the FOI Act) does not permit her office to release the names of the beneficiaries.
However, she said they can “be found and verified through the LGA community facilitators (CTFs) who have been trained to support them by weekly visits to the wards.
“The names, wards, LGAs, States and phone numbers of the CTFs can be found here, as the data collation continues to grow around the country.”
Similarly, she noted that the “monthly reports of 3,000 N-Power monitors, spread across the 774 LGAs, are available to both Poverty Alleviation Committees of the NASS.”
DISQUIET AS CHINESE DOCTORS ARRIVE NIGERIA
A 15-Man medical team from China yesterday arrived in Nigeria aboard an Air Peace chartered flight earlier designated for that purpose by the Federal Government.
The team came with medical supplies and was received by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, to complement the efforts of the government to contain the coronavirus in Nigeria.
The team arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Wednesday at 4:25 p.m. after 15 hours flight.
Among the materials brought in by the flight are 16-tonnes of test kits, ventilators, disinfectant machines, disposable medical masks, medicines, rubber gloves, protective gowns, goggles, face shields and infra-red thermometers. In a reaction to the coming of the Chinese medical experts, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) charged Nigerians to hold
President Muhammadu Buhari responsible should there be any upsurge in the rate of COVID-19 infection and death in the country following the importation of doctors from China, the epicentre of the scourge, by the Federal Government.
The PDP said it was alarmed that President Buhari ignored the protests by Nigerians and professional bodies including the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and allowed the importation of the Chinese doctors despite warnings that bringing in doctors from the hotbed of the plague would expose citizens to further risks.
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, Wednesday evening, noted that the Federal Government was importing the Chinese doctors “even as Nigerians across the board have continued to question the status, identity and interest of the Chinese doctors as well as the safety of kits and equipment from China, particularly following scary reports of escalation of the scourge in certain countries reportedly after the arrival of Chinese medical personnel in those countries.”
“Moreover, our doctors and nurses have been on top of the situation with records of recoveries and fewer casualties, thus raising questions about the real intentions of bringing in doctors from China,” The PDP said.
COVID-19: UNITED STATE DEATH TOLL PASSES 2,000 IN ONE DAY
The United States of America has become the first country in the world to record more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths in a single day.
Figures from Johns Hopkins University show 2,108 people died in the past 24 hours while there are now more than half a million confirmed infections.
The US could soon surpass Italy as the country with the most coronavirus deaths worldwide.
But experts on the White House Covid-19 task force say the outbreak is starting to level off across the US.
Dr Deborah Birx said there were good signs the outbreak was stabilising, but cautioned: “As encouraging as they are, we have not reached the peak.”
President Donald Trump also said he expects the US to see a lower death toll than the initial predictions of 100,000 fatalities, adding: “We’re seeing clear signs that our aggressive strategy is saving countless lives”.
In other developments:
The World Health Organization chief warned that lifting lockdown measures too early could spark a “deadly resurgence” in infection
Brazil became the first country in the southern hemisphere to surpass 1,000 deaths with coronavirus
Turkey ordered a 48-hour curfew in 31 cities – including Istanbul and Ankara – to start at midnight. The announcement, made just two hours before the curfew was due to start, sparked panic buying and crowds of shoppers
Aid agencies expressed alarm after the first virus case was confirmed in Yemen, where years of civil war have devastated health systems
The US now has at least 18,693 deaths and 500,399 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins, which is tracking the disease globally. About half of the deaths were recorded in the New York area.
Italy has reported 18,849 deaths while globally more than 102,000 people have died with the virus.
Researchers had predicted the US death toll would hit its peak on Friday and then gradually start to decline, falling to around 970 people a day by 1 May – the day members of the Trump administration have floated as a possible date to start reopening the economy.
TREASURY HOUSE FIRE: RELEVANT RECORDS NOT LOST – FG
The federal government wednesday allayed fears of destruction of official records by the fire that razed Treasury House, which houses the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF).
Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, told reporters in Abuja after inspecting the scene of the incident that preliminary reports showed that all records were intact after the fire outbreak at a data centre in the OAGF.
However, despite the minister’s assurance, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called for a full-scale investigation into the fire incident.
“We have not lost any record,” he said, attributing the fire to a spark from one of the cooling units.
He, however, said notwithstanding the preliminary explanation for the incident, a full-scale investigation would be conducted by professionals to ascertain the actual cause of the fire.
The minister said an officer who reported for work had tried to switch on one of the air-conditioners, leading to an electrical spark about 10.00 a.m.
He said it took the intervention of 25 fire trucks from a combined team from the Federal Fire Service in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), including their counterparts from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Julius Berger Plc, and the military to put out the inferno within 35 minutes.
The minister explained that though a few documents were burnt, “all our financial transactions are intact.”