Uche Usim, Abuja
To ensure the successes recorded so far in the Social Investment Programme (SIP) are not eroded, the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs Maryam Uwais, says the Federal Government will deal decisively with saboteurs of the project, even as it pledged to operate within the ambits of transparency, accountability and probity.
Uwais also said efforts are being intensified to track down those bent on sabotaging the SIPs by exploiting beneficiaries for personal gains, or even sensationalising untruths to discredit the efforts at uplifting poorer citizens of the country from poverty.
The Presidential Adviser, who stated this in a statement issued to newsmen at the weekend, disclosed that the National Social Investment Office NSIO, was working with the relevant security agencies to ensure that those found wanting are arrested and prosecuted.
She responded against the backdrop of media reports that quoted her to have accused monarchs and other traditional rulers in the country of collecting bribes from beneficiaries of the Social Intervention Programmes of the Federal Government, urging members of the public to dismiss such reports as sensationalism and a total misrepresentation of facts.
Uwais, who delivered a goodwill message as Special Guest at the 13th anti-corruption agenda for the 9th National Assembly, held last Friday in Abuja, said she did not mention Monarchs or Traditional rulers as among those involved in demanding kickbacks from SIP beneficiaries in rural areas.
Her comments at the event, organised by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, a NGO, were based on the outcome of investigations triggered by an individual in the audience, at a similar event held earlier, relating to complaints by some beneficiaries who alleged being short-changed by some community leaders in Osun State.
According to her:
“At a similar event held sometime ago, a young man had publicly reported that some beneficiaries were being shortchanged in his community, so I promised to have it investigated. This investigation was carried out by ANEEJ, the principal monitor of disbursements of the Abacha restituted funds. The report of the investigation revealed that the disclosures were essentially factual. Some community leaders and LGA officials were in the habit of demanding levies after payment is concluded in the communities. So we resolved to undertake measures to counter those adverse practices in the field. Indeed, we are planning an event in the communities to engage the beneficiaries with a view to building their confidence, so they can refuse to accede to such demands.
“Those who understand the leadership structure in our communities would know that monarchs are not the only set of persons classified as community leaders. Our Royal Fathers are usually supported by others in the hierarchy to superintend over community affairs.
“It then becomes very disturbing and somewhat mischievous for a reporter to single out monarchs from a comment that focused generally on community leaders.
“We urge the media to avoid sensationalism and keep striving towards upholding the lofty principles of truth, fairness, objectivity and accuracy in their reportage of events of National concern.
“In addition to field reports we get from our independent monitors and volunteers, we have continued to encourage and welcome feedbacks from members of the public, on acts of infraction and other challenges that can assist government to achieve better results in the implementation of the Social Safety Net Programmes.”