Count us Out of Stoppage of N500bn Welfare Package
The National Assembly has faulted media reports that it was behind the stoppage of the payment of the proposed N500 billion for social welfare package to the unemployed in this year’s budget.
In a statement jointly signed by the Chairmen of the Appropriation Committees of the two chambers, Senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje and Abdulmumin Jibrin, the lawmakers maintained that there was no iota of truth in the story carried in a section of the media.
They maintained that there was no way they would “kill” such a laudable initiative of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration aimed at serving as a palliative to the plight of the unemployed in the polity.
The lawmakers particularly recalled that during their meeting with the ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Accountant General of the Federation and Director General Budget Office of the Federation on the budget, they only made observations on the proposal.
They noted: “The Committee expressed concern over reports indicating that the government has yet to put in place sufficient structure for proper take off of a programme which is expected to bring soccour to the poorest of the poor in the society.
“It was our considered view that the amount involved is so huge that adequate preparation and structure needed to be put in place for it to succeed and achieve the desired result, and also to avoid mistakes of the past, where similar laudable programmes were initiated, but did not succeed as a result of poor implementation.
“We, therefore, suggested that the take off of the programme be postponed to next year, so as to enable the government prepare adequately and avoid any failure.
“The committee further suggested to the Executive that the money proposed in this year’s budget be invested in some critical sectors and much-needed infrastructure, which will give same or even higher result-of lifting the most vulnerable citizens from poverty, while adequate preparations be made for its full take off next year.”
“At no point at that meeting did Goje or any Committee member insinuated that we want to “kill” or are not in support of the intervention programme.
“What the Committee did was just to share our perspectives, based on information available to us, because as members of the same government, we have a responsibility to draw the attention of the Executive to issues of concern, so that we achieve greater good for the greater number of our people,” they said.
According to them, the story could “never and can never be the true reflection of what transpired in that meeting and that is why it is only their paper that published it that way.
“Nigerians cannot be fooled, because it is a public knowledge that the 8th Assembly, since its inception, has been supportive of the Buhari’s government.
Moreover, we are all members of the same political party and the proposed N500 billion special intervention fund is a major programme of our party, which we strongly believe, if implemented to the fullest, will go along way in lifting thousands of households from abject poverty and squalor.
“Moreover, the President himself, had last month during his visit to the Middle East, hinted of his preference to channel the N500 billion and invest it into critical sectors and needed infrastructure, rather than handout stipends to the poor.
“This, according to him, will give even same or better result, in terms of alleviating the most vulnerable, which the program intends to reach,” they added.