$322.5m Abacha Loot: 748,684 households received N16.3bn in 4 months — MANTRA Report
Written by MaryGift Sunday on June 19, 2020
The Monitoring Transparency and Accountability in the Management of Returned Assets, MANTRA, report, Thursday, disclosed that 748, 684 households of poor and vulnerable Nigerians received N16.3 billion in four months, January-April, from recovered $322.5 million Abacha Loot.
This was made known by the Executive Director of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor, leading Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, on monitoring disbursement nationwide at a World Press Conference/Virtual Meeting to formally present MANTRA Field Monitoring report to stakeholders and the Nigerian public.
According to the report 748,684 households out of 755,375 targeted in the Nigerian Social register received a total of ₦13,069,896,000 representing 80 percent of the total N16, 337, 370, 000 from the recovered $322.5 million Abacha Loot returned from Switzerland during the January-April 2020 payment cycle which was used as palliatives by the Federal Government in addressing needs of the poor during the COVID -19 lockdown. The payments are being made under the Conditional Cash Transfer of Nigeria’s Social Investment Programme (SIP) of the Federal Government.
The report also pointed out that the benefiting households were drawn from 24 states, while eight States targeted were yet to be paid at the time of the report, which includes Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Edo, Enugu, Kebbi, Ondo, and Zamfara.
The MANTRA, project, a sub-sect of Anti-Corruption in Nigeria, ACORN, is a programme of DFID/UKAid.
The returned Abacha loot is being disbursed by the National Cash Transfer Office, NCTO, under the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development through payment operators to the beneficiaries in line with a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, signed between the Federal Government of Nigeria, Switzerland Government and the World Bank as witnessed by Nigerian Civil Society led by ANEEJ at the inaugural GFAR meeting in Washington DC in 2017.
According to Ugolor who is the Head of MANTRA, use of the returned loot for Cash Transfer Programme, CTP, is in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goal 16.4, Global Forum on Assets Recovery principles, and United Nations Convention Against Corruption, UNCAC, provisions on asset recovery for which Nigeria is a signatory to all these instruments.
ANEEJ currently works with eight partners in the project across the six geo-political zones of the country including Centre for Social Justice, CSJ, Abuja (North Central); Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education, CHRISED, Kano (North West); Bayelsa Non-Governmental Forum, BANGOF, Yenagoa (South-South), FAHIMTA Women and Youth Development Initiative, FAWOYDI, ( North East); New Initiative for Social Development, NISD, Ado-Ekiti (South West); and Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre, CIRDDOC, Enugu (South East).
The report reads in part, “A total of Seven Hundred and forty-eight thousand, six hundred and eighty-four (748,684) households of poor and vulnerable Nigerians out of an enrolled figure of 755,375 targeted in the Nigerian Social register received a total of ₦13,069,896,000 representing 80 percent of the total N16,337,370,000 from the recovered $322.5million Abacha Loot returned from Switzerland during the January-April 2020 payment cycle which was used as palliatives by the Federal Government in addressing needs of the poor during the COVID -19 lockdown. The payments are being made under the Conditional Cash Transfer of Nigeria’s Social Investment Programme (SIP) of the Federal Government.
“Beneficiaries were paid 20,000 Naira each covering January – April 2020.
“The benefiting households were drawn from 24 states. Eight (8) states targeted were yet to be paid at the time of this report. They include Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Edo, Enugu, Kebbi, Ondo, and Zamfara.”
However, the report highlighted some challenges in course of disbursing the money to beneficiaries in some states.
“The delays were occasioned by the fact that some of the payment providers do not have the capacity to effect electronic transfer payment to CCT beneficiaries. Some had issues in reconciling the previous payments of September-October and November-December 2019 and unable to refund the unpaid balance. The reconciliation, we were told is at the final stage now.
“There were issues of intimidation of beneficiaries by community leaders to part with some amount of their allowance for the community or themselves for enrolling them in the programme, issues of family conflict arising from the death of the caregiver, insecurity in some locations, overcrowding and crowed management crisis and the mix-up on the issue of CCT and COVID-19 palliative. These concerns were clearly manifested in Kogi State.
“Poor understanding of the cash transfer programme and the evolution of the social register by the public.
“In some instances, some beneficiaries were paid arrears and some were paid less than 20,000 depending on when they were enrolled while a few others were paid additional top-up of 10,000 Naira as was seen in Anambra State.
“Payment agents were short of cash in some instances. This happened repeatedly in Kogi and Oyo States among other States.
“Some payment points were too far away from the benefiting communities and that is responsible for some enrollees not to benefit from the payment round.
“In some communities, deductions of various forms ranging from 500 to 2000 were discovered. CCT Officials informed the DSS and a culprit was arrested and ordered to refund the money within 24 hours, which was later confirmed to be done. This happened in Hashidu Ward, Dukku LGA, Gombe State”, the report pointed out.
Meanwhile, the report made some recommendations to the Federal Government in or other to surmount challenges spotted for improved disbursement system based on ANEEJ and partners’ observations.
“First, the NCTO should expedite action in addressing the challenges that led to payments not happening in 8 states and ensure they are paid as poor in such states have expressed marginalization to MANTRA team.
“In future payments, issues of crowd management, delay/ lateness in payment, fairly effective COVID-19 measures around payment location, and accountability around the activity of the cooperative society should be properly addressed.
“Greater emphasis should be placed on public awareness around the GRM so that the beneficiaries can effectively report grievance in a timely manner.
“The National Cash Transfer Office should critically and regularly review and clean up the payment register to ensure that dead persons are delisted from the register.
“More CSOs advocacy across the Southern States of Nigerian is needed to get State government to give strong political support to the cash transfer programme and other aspects of SIP, and provide the needed infrastructure that would boost the enrolment of more beneficiaries.
“Additional payment points should be created in some States to address the issues of overcrowding during payment. This will also ensure that payment points are made closer to beneficiaries’ primary locations”, it added.