The calls by stakeholders are reactions to an investigative report by the Director, Rural Health Accountability, Elijah Akoji, published by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), exposing the corruption in the social intervention funds disbursement.
Three individuals picked out in the investigations were said to have received N86.4 million, N73.6 million, and N140.8 from the grants for vulnerable women in Jigawa, Kano and Kaduna states.
It was revealed that the disbursement of twenty thousand naira (N20,000) cash grants to rural women in the states had been marred by irregularities and lack of transparency.
The Grant For Rural Women (GRW) is part of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), introduced to ensure the realisation of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government’s aspiration of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
The reactions came during an anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, Wednesday in Abuja.
The Director of Tubali Development Initiative, Hauwa Mustapha, described the diversion and misappropriation of the social investment funds to alleviate poverty and sufferings of rural women as satanic, wicked and sheer stealing.
Mustapha called on the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to swiftly review its mode of disbursing social investment funds in rural areas.
She called for the discontinuation of the sharing of physical cash. She urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to step up on its mandate of fighting corruption in the public sector.
“Going forward, the federal government has to change the format to stop giving cash and rather use some sort of docket. The local government should be involved but do away with cash and use dockets instead,” Mustapha said.
She stressed that the Social Investment Programme of the current administration has failed in its goal given its inability to pull Nigerians out of poverty.
“I think that the whole practice of scheming rural people out of their simple privileges or dues meant to make their lives better is very satanic. It is very wicked.
“The rural person does not understand the language of corruption or diversion. Something that belongs to me has been taken away from me, not by permission, but by dubious means. It is simply stealing.
“Don’t forget this administration said they would be taking 10 million Nigerians out of poverty yearly over ten years. So between 2016 and now, 2023 expectedly, we are supposed to have at least 60 million Nigerians taken out of poverty.”
Mustapha charged Nigerians to seize the forthcoming electioneering period to ask politicians and public office holders questions over the misappropriation of grants for rural women when they approach them to canvas for votes.
Similarly, the President of Small Scale Women Farmers in Nigeria (SWOFON), Mary Afan, revealed that the group was aware of the diversion of twenty thousand naira grants for rural women.
She urged the Buhari administration to go back to the drawing board regarding social investment.
The SWOFON President was represented by Mercy Nnanna.
In her words: “The federal government needs to go back to the drawing board. In planning, they should change the strategy on how they disburse these funds. The distribution method should be in kind rather than giving people direct cash.”
Nnanna also claimed that the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs had sidelined the SWOFON members, mostly rural women, from benefiting from the government’s cash grants across the country.
Elijah Akoji advised the federal government to disburse social investment funds through the local governments because of its closeness to rural dwellers.
Akoji stressed that the investigation became necessary over the age-long neglect of rural women and the stealing of monies by public officials.
The investigation uncovered that fifteen persons had received millions of naira meant as grants for rural women in Jigawa, Kano and Kaduna states into their private accounts.
Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.