By Mordi chukwunonso Esther
The National Assembly has fulfilled its promise to regulate the social welfare and intervention programmes of the Federal Government under the Muhammadu Buhari regime.
A bill seeking the regulation is already slated for second reading at the House of Representatives.
The proposal is titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Establish National Social Investments Trust Fund to Alleviate Poverty among Vulnerable Nigerian Citizens through Targeted Programmes for the Aged, Infirmed, Unemployed and Students; and for Related Matters.’
The National Social Investment Programme is currently domiciled with the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
Though the bill was listed for a second reading on Wednesday, it was, along with other items on the Order Paper, stepped down till another legislative day.
The bill was sponsored by Mansur Soro, the 33-year-old lawmaker representing Darazo/Ganjuwa Federal Constituency in Bauchi State.
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, had earlier in May 2020 said the parliament would soon introduce a bill that would define who a poor Nigerian is and how to benefit from the Federal Government’s NSIPs.
He had stated that the move was to legalise the NSIPs and codify the programmes.
Gbajabiamila, while speaking at an online interactive session (webinar) organised by the Emmanuel Chapel on May 29, 2020, stated that the House was now ready to review the SIPs.
The legislative and executive arms of the Federal Government had clashed over how palliatives were being disbursed to Nigerians considered to be poor.
The leadership of the National Assembly on April 7, 2020, faulted the NSIPs and how it was implemented, noting that the conditions set by officials most times excluded poor Nigerians for which the initiative was intended.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of the House had expressed their observations about the NSIPs when they met with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, and other top officials of the ministry, to review government’s palliatives to Nigerians.
Lawan had stated that the NSIP, which was established by the Presidency in 2016, needed reform to make it more effective, stressing that the poorest of the poor had not been sufficiently captured by the programme.
The Senate had later resolved to investigate the NSIPs, with a view to identifying the beneficiaries and the procedure adopted in selecting them.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Special Duties, Senator Yusuf Yusuf, had earlier on May 4, 2020, said the National Assembly would subsequently be involved in the programme, which he said had gulped over N700bn since inception.
Speaking to punch correspondent on Friday, Soro said the definition of ‘poor’ had been “taken care of’ in the bill.
The lawmaker said, “Today, we have about 100 million poor Nigerians, who are living below the poverty line. This represents the single biggest constituency in the country. I believe that we, as a parliament, have a duty to enact a law that will see to it that the right and interest of these poor Nigerians are protected squarely.
“As you know, it is a pet project of this present government. When the government is winding off in 2023, what assurance do we have that these interventions will continue? This informed my decision to compose this legislation. One of the features is that 15 per cent of the Value Added Tax (revenue) will be deducted at source to fund these programmes. The VAT belongs to the state and local governments, but the Federal Government is bearing the costs of these programmes.”