The call by some individuals under the auspices of a group named Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum to suspend the TraderMoni, one of the microcredit schemes of the Buhari administration’s Social Investment Programme, is both unbelievable and unfortunate, according to Mr. Laolu Akande, Spokesperson to the Vice President.
Akande, who was reacting to news report credited to the group, noted that such an attack on the Social Investment Programme (SIP) is a direct confrontation with the millions of Nigerians benefitting from all the SIPs, especially the projected 2m total who will be receiving the collateral-free loans by the end of the year.
“It is deceitful for anyone or group to accuse the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, of advance vote-buying through TraderMoni, a micro-credit scheme designed to assist the bottom of the pyramid petty traders nationwide. This was the false claim contained in a communiqué jointly signed by the leadership of a group called Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum recently.”
According to Akande, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, “We do not think the Nigerian people are up for sale, nor can they be bought. Such suggestions are an insult on our collective identity. And calling for the suspension of a scheme that improves the businesses of ordinary, hardworking Nigerians, like petty traders, is not only unfair, but an attack on the common man.
“The Social Investment programme of the Buhari administration started in 2016, and the TraderMoni scheme is a part. So, it is false to even insinuate that the scheme was meant for advance vote-buying when it was conceived two years ago.
“TraderMoni, which is part of the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) under the SIPs, is designed to assist petty traders across the country expand their trade through the provision of collateral and interest-free loans from N10,000. The loans are repayable over a period of six months.
“Also, it would seem naysayers cannot withstand the fact that this administration is fulfilling its promise. Would they rather share the funds among themselves instead of supporting petty traders? After all, in some few instances, a combined sum of N100 Billion was shared under the former administration. If that N100 Billion had been given to petty traders as loans, like the Buhari administration is doing now at N10,000; 10 million petty traders nationwide would have been beneficiaries.
“We will not choose to engage with the notion that Nigerians and their loyalty are for sale. This administration has proven over and over again that it is committed to the welfare of everyday Nigerians, the common man. That is why we started the largest Social Investment Programme in the history of our country. And we will not relent in staying connected with our people.
“This is a major reason why TraderMoni, which has since been formally launched in 33 states and the FCT, will continue nationwide as we intend to reach 2 million Nigerians by the end of the year. Over 809,000 Nigerians are currently beneficiaries of the microcredit scheme.
“Despite this being a season of upcoming elections and desperate politicians resorting to desperate measures, it is irresponsible for any group to play politics with the welfare of ordinary Nigerians – hardworking petty traders, who are simply making honest living and trying to support their families – and a microcredit scheme which is meant to help improve their businesses and means of livelihood.
“Besides the fact that petty traders are major contributors to the informal economy, most of them do not have access to loans from commercial banks which require collateral or interest, which would help them grow their business, and so the country’s economy.
“Again, through TraderMoni, the Buhari administration is empowering ordinary Nigerians by improving financial inclusion in the grassroots.”
Akande clarified further that beneficiaries of TraderMoni are not required to show their Personal Voter Cards (PVCs) or any document to qualify for the interest-free loans. This is why the enumeration is done in the open markets and wherever the traders ply their trade.
“The Social Investment Programme includes the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP); Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT); Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) (MarketMoni, FarmerMoni & TraderMoni) and the N-Power job scheme
“The Home-Grown School Feeding programme is now feeding over 9 million primary school pupils a free meal a day in 26 states nationwide; while almost 300,000 Nigerians are beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer.
“So far, over one million Nigerians are beneficiaries of GEEP schemes – MarketMoni, FarmerMoni and TraderMoni, while 500,000 young Nigerian graduates have been employed under the N-Power job scheme.
“Thus, we urge the group to halt its needless attack on the largest and most ambitious social investment programme in Nigeria’s history, and rather join hands to help our people.
“The Buhari administration remains committed to the welfare and upliftment of the common man and all Nigerians, regardless of party affiliations, and the Social Investment Programme is one of the major planks of this administration to improve their livelihood.”
No Violations In Approval Of N5.8b Emergency Food Intervention Fund For North East
Meanwhile, the attention of the Presidency has been drawn to a report of the House Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness issued on Thursday, November 8, 2018, particularly in respect of funds released for “emergency intervention of food security to the North-East” in June 2017, when the Vice President was Acting President.
In its report, the Committee alleged that a sum of N5,865,671,939.26 was approved and released in June 2017 vide a Memo raised from the Office of the Acting President, directing the Honourable Minister of Finance and the Accountant General of the Federation to so act. The House Committee also concluded that the payment made was in contravention of approval of the National Assembly. Akande said this conclusion is both false and misleading.
According to him, “To start with, it is important to understand the context of the transaction. This was at a time when internally displaced persons and their host communities faced very severe food shortages throughout the North East, as a result of successive poor harvests and abandoned farmlands, minimal cross-border cash crop trade and lost economic opportunities.
“On 15th April 2017, the United Nations World Food Programme (UN WFP), a major aid organisation and food supplier to the region, had issued a warning that it would be reducing its vital support to about 1.8 million IDPs by as much as 85%, due to corresponding reduction in funding by the donor countries. Around the same time, the United Nations Commission for Refugees in Geneva also warned of the growing risk of mass deaths from starvation among people living in the conflict areas.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) moved urgently to prevent the looming disaster by establishing a strategic food intervention plan for the affected States. A Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Delivery to the North East was convened and the Committee met on the 13th of May, 2017 to kick off the process, with the then Acting President as Chairman. Other members of the Committee included:
(i) Minister of Finance;
(ii) Minister of Budget and National Planning;
(iii) Minister of State for Budget and National Planning;
(iv) Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development;
(v) Governor of Central Bank;
(vi) Deputy Chief of Staff to the President; and
(vii) Senior Special Assistant in the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President.
“Resulting from the deliberations of this and subsequent meetings, the approval referred to in the House Committee’s Report was, in fact, based on a request raised by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria as facilitator of the National Food Security Programme, vide a letter dated May 25, 2017.
“As explained in the said letter, there was an immediate need to distribute grains, including rice, maize, soya beans and sorghum, to Internally Displaced Persons through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). The only way to obtain the quantity of grains required was to resort to the National Food Security Progamme (NFSP) earlier established by the Federal Government as a means of shoring up its strategic grain reserves.
“It was in consequence of the Federal Government decision to urgently purchase the stored grains for distribution to Internally Displaced Persons that the CBN made the proposal for approval of 30,905.08 Metric Tonnes at N5,229,685,333.26. Of that amount, the then Acting President eventually approved N5,036,644,933.26, after excluding bagging costs. This was pursuant to the recommendation that bagging, transportation and other logistics were best handled by NEMA.
“NEMA also originated a request to the Acting President, dated May 25, 2017, requesting the sum of N829,026,456.00 for general logistics, branding & packaging, tracking, security, personnel, media & publicity and contingency costs of taking the grains from their respective locations in Kano, Kaduna, Funtua, Ibadan and Gombe to Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba and Jigawa States.
“These presidential approvals were well within the clear constitutional authority of the Acting President, who needed to take emergency steps to forestall acute food shortages in the affected States and there was nothing illegal or unconstitutional about them. The approvals were duly communicated by the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor of Central Bank, Director General of NEMA and the Minister of Finance for implementation.
“On account of the emergency nature of the procurement, the House Committee’s assumption that the ordinary rules of procurement would apply was wrong. Section 43 of the Public Procurement Act makes provision for emergency procurement, in which case the procuring entity is allowed to engage in direct contracting for goods and file a report thereafter with the Bureau of Public Procurement.
“It is also wrong to assume that taxes and interests accruable to government from these transactions in food items were deliberately ignored or waived by neglect. Of course, we expect that any loans advanced to any of the companies would be recovered with the agreed interests, and that any profits made by such companies would be liable to tax in the usual manner.
“The suggestion that the grains were never delivered to the target States is also blatant falsehood. In actual fact, in order to ensure effective distribution of the grains, an Emergency Food Intervention Project Team was established, consisting of the Director General of NEMA and representatives of the National Security Adviser, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Department of State Security, Nigeria Police and the Presidency. The Committee also worked with respective State Emergency Management “Agencies, as well as humanitarian agencies such as World Food Programme, International Committee of the Red Cross, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Deliveries were publicly made directly to the intended beneficiaries. In fact, the then Acting President personally inspected the electronic truck-tracking unit established in Maiduguri for the purpose of monitoring the transportation, and flagged off the food distribution on the 8th of June, 2017. Besides, there was the integration of a robust monitoring and evaluation system into the operation in order to facilitate a transparent and accountable process.
“Therefore, all insinuations on this matter regarding purported indictments and perceived violations of due process or the constitution are baseless and totally false. Such interpretations are flawed and should be utterly ignored.”