Recovered Abacha loot spent on the poor – Presidential aide

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*Gen. Abacha

The special adviser to the president on social investment, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, has said that the federal government spent the recovered Abacha loot and the International Development Association /World Bank credit on programmes that impact of the poor and vulnerable Nigerians.

Uwais who stated this in her keynote address at a two-day Experts’ Training and Advocacy on Tracing and Recovery of Illicit Funds and Assets organised by the Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State yesterday said from the August 2018 to the October payment cycle, the total amount disbursed from the Abacha loot was $76,538,530 and $27,099,028 from the IDA credit.

She said the funds were specifically disbursed to beneficiaries of the National Cash Transfer Programme (NTCP), which is a component of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP).

She noted that the gesture was positively changing the fortune of many Nigerians who found themselves below the poverty line, based on the data collated in the communities and hosted on the National Social Register (comprising each of the state social registers).

She said the decision to distribute the Abacha loot and IDA funds to poor and vulnerable citizens, who were mined from a National Social Register (NSR), collated by the National Social Safety Net Coordinating Office (NASSCO), was reached by the Swiss Government, the World Bank and the Federal Government of Nigeria, to ensure that the funds were well utilised and not diverted to private pockets, as was the case in the past.

“In December 2014, a Swiss judge gave a forfeiture order to the effect that monies ($322.5m) recovered from the family of late General Abacha would be returned to Nigeria; one of the conditions being that the World Bank would be involved in monitoring disbursements there from. Presumably, this was as a consequence to the opaqueness that surrounded the application of recovered funds.

“It is common knowledge that the funds from the Abacha loot (as is often termed) and the World Bank IDA credit are being utilised to effect N10, 000 bi-monthly transfers to our cash transfer beneficiaries, through the operations of the National Social Investment Office, originally under the auspices and supervision of the Vice President of the FGN, and now operating from the ministry of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development,” she said.

She said efforts to tackle poverty in Nigeria must also take into consideration the basic and peculiar needs of the people, who ought to be carried along in the formulation and implementation of poverty alleviation policies and programmes for greater impact and appreciation of such efforts.

Uwais, however, expressed regret that there are millions of Nigerian citizens who have not felt the presence of government in their lives.

She said many of them have continued to struggle, to eat even one meal a day.

“Unfortunately, there seems to be a disconnect between many of us who live in the urban areas, with people whose daily living is a constant struggle. This is why we hear questions like how can a N5, 000 monthly stipend make a positive difference in a citizen’s life? What is N10, 000 to the petty trader? Surely, we should be looking at larger amounts. Indeed, it is only infrastructure that can help our people. It does not occur to some that this infrastructure is out of reach to the very poor.

“By all means, provide the tangible structures, but having schools in their communities make no sense to the family whose priority is to find something to eat, even once a day. Unless we can address the challenges that these citizens face, these children would continue to farm, hawk, and remain as statistics of our out-of-school numbers,” she added.

The presidential aide listed key achievements of the Cash Transfer Programme funded with the Abacha loot and IDA loan facility to include enrolment and payment of 620,947 beneficiaries across 29 states.

With The Sun report

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