The National Assembly has debunked reports that it described the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP) of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration as a failure or scam.
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The rebuttal was made in a statement issued by Ola Awoniyi, Special Adviser on Media to the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly, on Thursday in reaction to publications by some media organisations (not Newsbreak) concerning the federal parliament’s observation on the NSIP implementation for poor Nigerians, especially in the light of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
According to the statement, the National Assembly’s concerns about the NSIP stated at a meeting on Tuesday with Sadiya Umar Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, were misrepresented by the concerned media agencies.
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It explained that it never made any allegation about money appropriated for the programme missing, noting that its observations were not aimed at maligning any government official, but asking questions which, according to the lawmakers, have also been raised by “the people they represent, who are the targeted beneficiaries of the scheme”.
The statement read: “At the meeting with the minister, the leadership of the National Assembly made some observations on aspects of the NSIP and recommended that the implementation process be finetuned and the scheme be backed with legislation to make it more efficient, effective and accord with global best practices.
“Although the official Press Statement issued at the end of the meeting clearly conveyed the deliberations and resolution of the meeting, some misrepresentations appeared in the reports by one or two newspapers.
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“Specifically, there was nowhere in the statement that NSIP was described as a “failure” as reported by The Nation newspaper or a “scam” as reported by the Sun newspaper. Also, there was no mention of N2 trillion or any amount whatsoever in the statement.
“The comments at the meeting were not made to denigrate any official but to make the scheme more effective in the delivery of its critical mandate and these comments were well taken by the Honourable Minister and her delegation. The minister was honest enough to admit that the NSIP had some “challenges” and also bedevilled with “intrigues” which she was yet battling with.”
The National Assembly insisted that it would not have recommended a legislation to back up the NSIP if doubts the scheme.
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The federal legislature also berated Maryam Uwais, Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, saying her rejoinder to the news reports on the NSIPs were unfortunate and baseless.
It said Uwais was probably misled by the “misinformation” of some of the media reports to have made insinuations against federal lawmakers about not being concerned about the plight of ordinary Nigeriuans.
“We believe this misrepresentation misled the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs Maryam Uwais to issue a rejoinder containing unfortunate insinuations which were totally extraneous to the discussions at the meeting and the contemplations of the National Assembly.
“It is true that the leadership of the National Assembly pointed out gaps in the implementation of NSIP. As the representatives of the people, it is a key constitutional mandate of the Legislature to oversight, review and make recommendations for better implementation of important programmes of Government.
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“The observations made by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and the Speakers of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, captured the views of many Nigerians. These observations also reflect feedback from the people they represent who are the targeted beneficiaries of the scheme.
“We, therefore, take strong exception to the innuendo by the presidential aide that her rejoinder was issued towards ‘safeguarding the entitlements of the poorest of Nigerian citizens, whose benefits are likely to cease because they are not known or connected to NASS members or any other person of influence’. That insinuation is unfair to the members of the National Assembly and entirely baseless,” the statement read.
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The National Assembly stated that public officials must be ready to receive criticism for their work, noting that improve the performances of public projects and institutions.
While stating that it remains committed to ensure a cordial working relationship with other arms of government, the federal parliament asked all government officials to always clarify statements instead of reacting to newspaper reports.