This is, indeed, not the best of times for Maryam Uwais, senior special assistant to the president on Social Investment Programme (SIP).
This is because the wife of the president, Aisha Buhari has created a social media storm during the week with her comments on poverty in the Northern part of the country.
She had launched a ferocious attack on the much celebrated Social Investment Programmes (SIP) of the Federal Government which Mrs Uwais is the chief navigator.
The anger expressed by the president’s wife was too cold for comfort for Mrs Uwais.
Mrs Buhari had pointed out that the scheme anchored by Mrs Uwais had failed woefully in the North, and thus didn’t make the required impact in the region.
Buhari’s wife who has not shied away from pointing out lapses in her husband’s government made the allegation at an interactive session with some group of women in the Presidential Villa, penultimate Saturday.
Her grouse was that the government which her husband leads rode to power on one of the cardinal promises to implement policies that would provide interventions for poverty alleviation for the lower class believed to be in the majority that voted the government to power.
This is believed to be the premise for the Tradermoni programme and other social safety nets like the anchor programmes of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as well as the school feeding programme, among others that the current administration has introduced to cushion the effect of sufferings caused by rampaging poverty.
Therefore, Mrs Buhari had raised a lot of contending issues on monies budgeted for the SIP, method of operation with most of them bordering on transparency.
For instance, she queried how a whopping N500 billion budgeted for the programme was spent.
She was equally worried over the use of $16 million counterpart fund said to have been spent on the purchase of mosquito nets under the SIP with none of the nets getting to her village.
According to her, $16 million is a huge sum of money that is enough to fumigate mosquitoes in the entire country, making her to wonder how the money had been spent.
Perhaps, for fear of alleged further wastage, the First Lady expressed great concern on the release of N12 billion for trauma cases, even at the twilight of the government. She decried that in her own state of Adamawa, only one of the existing 22 local governments has so far benefitted from the programme. And the president’s wife without mincing words had directed her verbal missile to the person that should be in the know: Mrs Uwais, who is overseeing the SIP for her husband as senior special assistant.
The displeased Mrs Buhari, who said she had kept quiet before now to avoid being accused of raising the alarm, also went a notch higher to punch Mrs Uwais, as she claimed that even in Kano State where the special assistant hails from the programme is equally a huge failure.
Unlike in the past when Mrs Buhari would make accusations and those she accused would keep quiet, Mrs Uwais is different. Indeed, Mrs Uwais, a known conditioned radical is not gifted to stomaching undue affront, thus she immediately put up a defense, not only to save her job, but also to burnish the image of the paymaster, the Federal Government.
And she has defended the Federal Government’s SIP, at least, to the best of her capacity.
Mrs Uwais position was that the First Lady spoke without the knowledge of available records on SIP. She said that the criticism would not have been necessary if Mrs Buhari had exercised little patience and demanded available data on the project for the right information. Speaking on Channels Television on the issue, Mrs Uwais disclosed that not less than 290,000 beneficiaries from Adamawa, the president’s wife home state, were being paid under the initiative.
“I believe that if she (Aisha) were to listen to the information they have there, if she were to check our data, she would be able to find all the beneficiaries.
“Yes, she may not have met them. But we are in 12 local government areas for the cash transfer. We are also in 12 LGAs for loans. So, I think we have at least 290,000 beneficiaries directly that we are paying in Adamawa State,” Mrs Uwais insisted.
Thus some political watchers have continued to say that certain controversies would have been avoided had it been the activities of the present government are well coordinated and information made easily accessible to those who need them.
That the president’s wife, who is privileged to know what is supposed to be happening in the government, is the one criticizing the project of not having an impact, to many commentators who spoke with Sunday Sun, is an indictment on some of the claims of the government. Also, the condemnation of the project by the First Lady to some observers raises accountability question that must be looked into.
But more importantly, critics have argued that the project ought to be evenly distributed rather than giving special attention to some areas than others in the country.
Mrs Uwais, a trained lawyer, served as a Principal Partner of Wali Uwais & Co, an Abuja-based law firm. She has over 20 year’s cognate law practice experience. From 1980 to 1987, she was with the Kano State Ministry of Justice.
She obtained a certificate in Advanced Practice and Procedure in 1985 and another in Legal Drafting in 1989 from the Nigeria Institute for Advanced Legal Studies. Mrs. Uwais was educated at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where she bagged an LLM in 1985.
Mrs.Maryam Uwais is the wife of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais.