By Elijah Akoji
This report by Elijah Akoji, reveals how the cash grant programme for rural women launched in 2020 was fraught with problems of corruption, irregularities, politicisation, lack of transparency, and accountability in the implementation of the programme in Jigawa, Kaduna, and Kano states.
Between 22 and 29 December 2020, while the covid-19 pandemic was at its peak, the federal government through the humanitarian affairs and disaster management ministry claimed to have spent N1.01bn across 15 states including the FCT as a cash grant to rural women.
The Grant for Rural Women (GRW), is part of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), introduced to sustain the social inclusion agenda of the Buhari administration and ensure the realisation of the national aspiration of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
The gesture was designed to provide a one-off grant to some of the poorest and most vulnerable women in rural Nigeria.
A further breakdown showed that 8,000 women were targeted in Kano, while Kaduna and Jigawa states had 4,000 women each as intended beneficiaries. This implies that the sum of N320 million was meant to be disbursed across the three states.
While over the years several investigations have revealed the level of corruption in the execution of many the social investment programme, where targeted beneficiaries are excluded from the programme, this investigation by the ICIR revealed widespread corruption and fraud in the disbursement of funds and selection of intended beneficiaries.
Account names without faces
Payment receipts record from GovSpend – a platform that tracks government expenditure showed that Oladapo John Ogunyanmodi, Musa Yusuf Dauda, and Devine Sekibo were among the fifteen persons whose name was captured to have received over one billion naira from the humanitarian and disaster management ministry, money meant as a grant for rural women.
On the 29th of December 2020, just three days to the end of the year, Oladapo John Ogunyanmodi, received N86.4 million into his account with payment description ‘Non-personal advance payment’, as a grant for rural women in Jigawa state, although, 4,000 vulnerable women were targeted in Jigawa state, while this money paid into Oladapo’s account could go for 4,320 poor and vulnerable women in the state which is over the projected beneficiaries.
On the same day just as Oladapo, it was also tracked to the payment record that Musa Yusuf Dauda was paid N73.6 million as money meant for rural women in Kaduna state which can only go for 3,680 vulnerable women which is a shortfall against the 4,000 vulnerable women announced, which is below the number announced as the total beneficiary, while Devine Sekibo the third person also received 140.8 million, an amount which can only go for 7,040 vulnerable women, as against the 8,000 vulnerable women in Kano state.
The payments evidence receipt showed that other payments were made on the 26th of December 2020 to other personal accounts, on a day which is supposed to be a public holiday, the second day of Christmas.
Mustapha Alkasim, an economist at Bayero University Kano (BUK), describes the term ‘non-personal advance’ as a non-existing financial term, which does not explain anything, it is either advance payment or personal advance, and there is no term as ‘non-personal advance’.
Breach of law
The Federal government, on December 1 2019, launched the Open treasury portal to increase transparency and accountability in governmental activities.
Chapter 7 section 713 of the Nigeria Financial Regulations states that under no condition should personal money be paid into the government’s bank account nor shall any public money be paid into a private account.
Vahyala Kwaga, Head of Research and Analyst at BudgIT Nigeria, explained that payments into personal accounts if such is investigated and proven, should lead to dismissal according to Financial Regulations.
“Personal money shall in no circumstances be paid into a government bank account,nor shall any public money be paid into a private bank account. An officer who pays public money into a private account is deemed to have done so with a fraudulent intention.” the section reads.
Since government contracts are signed with companies, the expectation is that payments are to be made to companies and not individuals.
“In the Financial Regulations (revised edition, 2009), in Chapter 7 “Bank Accounts and Cheques” (specifically, regulation 713) provides that: “Personal money shall in no circumstances be paid into a government bank account, nor shall any public money be paid into a private bank account.
“An officer who pays public money into a private account is deemed to have done so with fraudulent intention”. This means that the action will be automatically inferred to be fraudulent.
“The context will determine whether the act is “Misconduct (Section 030301)” or “Serious Misconduct (Section 030401)”. Both have differing punishments and sanctions.
“Misconduct would result in “termination and retirement”, while Serious Misconduct is defined as a specific act of very serious wrongdoing and improper behaviour which is inimical to the image of the service and which can be investigated and if proven, may lead to dismissal.”
We have no idea of their identity
Bama Chamo was the former focal person of the social intervention programme in Jigawa state during the execution of the programme. According to Chamo, he was unaware of the programme until he was contacted by the ministry, notifying him to prepare to help facilitate the movement of those coming to execute the programme.
“I was only called from the ministry that there will be a programme, it was until their arrival, I was later briefed of the programme, we used my official car throughout the process, how they came up with the beneficiaries, I have no idea about,” Chamo said.
Chamo was in disbelief when he asked if he had an idea who Oladapo John Ogunyanmodi is and if Oladapo was part of those who came for the program in Jigawa state and if he also has an idea of how over N86 million naira was paid to him for the programme?
“I am just hearing this name for the first time, I don’t know who he is and he was never part of the team that came for the program, among those that came were the accounting team, and I can tell you there is no name like that, maybe you should contact the ministry they may offer valid information as to his identity and position.”
“When they came I only knew they withdrew the money from the bank but from whose account, that I can’t tell you since I didn’t come with them from Abuja,” Chamo added.
Mustapha Babura who took over from Chamo as the focal person of the social investment program in Jigawa state was then in charge of the social register in Jigawa state when the program was executed, Babura, said he didn’t know how they came up with the names of the beneficiaries.
“No doubt the project was executed, but what I don’t know and I can’t tell you, is how they arrived at selecting the beneficiaries, it might be from the social register in Abuja, we were never contacted to submit any names,” Babura said.
“From what we heard it was like slots were given to politicians who presented their preferred vulnerable and poor rural women, there was so much unclear information about the project, but some people came from Abuja and executed the program, what I also don’t know and you are asking, is if the money was even distributed in cash or into the beneficiaries account,” he added.
Tracking the disbursement of the grant in Kaduna state, Saude Amina Atoyebi the focal person of the social investment program took The ICIR through the process while responding to questions which include the identity of Musa Yusuf Dauda who was paid over N73.6 million.
“I have no idea who Mr. Musa Yusuf Dauda is, you may want to contact the ministry to provide you with such information as to his identity.”
“The Kaduna State Government was only requested to provide 1000 names for the Cash Grant Programme in 2020 and all of these 1000 names were extracted from the State Social Register.”
“With regards to the names of the beneficiaries, there are national guidelines for data handling issued by the National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO) when data from the Social Register is required by organisations. To access names from the register, a Data Request Form, and subsequently, an MoU is signed by interested organisations. These guidelines are in place to protect the data of citizens in the social register,” she said.
“The names of beneficiaries for the Cash Grant for Rural Women were mined from the State Social Register and table payments were made by accounting and other relevant staff from the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development,” Saude added.
Aisha Jaffar was the focal person in Kano State at the inception of the programme. Efforts to speak with Aisha on how funds were managed and disbursed during her tenure proved abortive. She refused to grant an interview when contacted by this reporter and never gave reasons even after she asked the reporter to snap his ID card and send it to her via her WhatsApp.
Mustapha Naibi, is a director in the same office as Jaffar, in the Office of the focal person of the social investment programme in Kano state. He reached out to this reporter and scheduled a meeting promising that he will contact the reporter. He never did.
Naibi didn’t respond to calls and text messages sent to his phone number.
Rural women fault process decry neglect
In Jigawa state a cross-section of rural women across the three senatorial districts was interviewed, several of these women claimed not to be aware of the programme, while some of the women benefited.
Hannatu Salisu, a resident of Kiyawa LGA in Jigawa, is a widow who is a mother 4 children and survives only on farming, she was affected by the pandemic and the flooding that destroyed her family during the lockdown, Hannatu said she was left out of the program despite her condition.
“I have no idea of the programme, I have never benefited from any of the government programme, sometimes, we just hear these things when we go out for an event and these women who partake in community politics and begin to discuss it, that’s the only time we hear of things like this,” Hannatu decried.
“Government schemes are just political, no doubt people might have gotten the money, but this might only be people close to the politicians, I am just hearing of this program for the first time,” she added.
Fatima Umar from Tudun Wada LG in Kano state was one of the beneficiaries who narrates the distribution process to The ICIR and those present at the government house on that day of the program.
“First I must say I can’t tell if it was from the federal government or from the ministry you have just mentioned, we just saw politicians there with different women from different LG, it was a large crowd, but I am not sure we were up to 8000,” Fatima said.
“On that day the deputy governor was also present but he left after his speech, there was no special visit to any LGAs, every one of us selected came over there, but not everyone got 20,000 naira shared, some were asked to come back, I can’t tell if they went back or not,” she said.
Hajjiya Dije Ibrahim Sa’id from Tudun Wada federal constituency of Kano State is the coordinator of Women Farmers’ Cooperative in the state and also doubles as the Northwest zonal coordinator, Smallholder Women Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (SWOFON). She described the program as a conduit pipe used by a few officials to siphon money.
“We heard of the program and a lot of these rural women were asked to go and fill a form at the local government secretariat, we all did while some of these women got others did not get,” Dije said.
“The programme is just one of their political activity which is just meant to enrich some people, if not so, while was the programme not executed at every LGs, while is it that it was the politicians who presented names, those who benefited are not up to 1000 in the whole of Kano, as a journalist, kindly challenge them to provide you with the complete names of beneficiaries.” She added.
Hajjiya Dije provided names of over 2000 rural women across the 44 local governments she contacted in Kano state after reaching out to verify the success of the project.
While the reporter reached out to these women to confirm Dije’s claims, it was clear that while most of these women were not even aware of the project, others who went there claimed they only ended up wasting their money for transport, just like Hikma Suleiman.
Hikma Suleiman from Tofa LGA was among the women present at the government house on that day of the payment, “I went there with other women, about 30 of us went in a bus, only 5 women among us got. Surprisingly these 5 women work at the primary health care center in the Tofa LGA,’ Hikma lamented.
In Kaduna state, Talatu Wambai from Kakuri LGA is the mother of 4 children who lost one of her sons to a bandit attack in their community in 2020, and due to these attacks, she also lost her source of livelihood.
“Government programs always come with a price, I was told about the program, but when I later heard people have been selected, I was so surprised but not disappointed. The program seems to be designed for selected few who are politically associated,” Talatu said.
“Some people must have gotten, we can’t deny that fact but the question you should help ask as a journalist is who are these people and how did they arrive at selecting these people, and this will help correct the error of sidelining people who are supposed to be the real beneficiaries like us,” Talatu added.
After reaching out to Aisha Gaidado the contact person of the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, she declined to speak about the project.
“I am not in the position to speak about the project I am under the homegrown school feeding programme, I will share a contact with you the person will provide the necessary information as regards the project and answer all your queries,” Aisha said.
Ministry Dodged FOI
Poor response to FOI requests is increasingly a disturbing trend by Ministry Department Agencies (MDA).
On February 25, 2022, an FOI request was sent to the ministry requesting information pertaining to modalities of selecting the beneficiaries and payment of funds into private accounts but the request was never responded to, despite a reminder acknowledged on the 14th of March 2022, addressed to the ministry, it was ignored.
Also, Salisu Na’inna, the spoke person of the ministry was contacted but did not respond to calls and text messages sent to him.
Expert Criticise Programme
Moses Audu, an accounting expert and lecturer at the Accounting Institutes Jos, on the cash grant programme said “In dealing with financial disbursement of funds, especially when there is a specific target group, informative transparency must first be considered, the right people must be reached and the modalities of distribution must be public, then follows accountability, were, each of the targeted beneficiaries must get exactly what is due for them through the right channel, but the corruption is our system won’t allow us to practice what is obtainable globally,” Moses said.
Margret Odah, auditor Prima Solace audit firm, describes cash grant programme outcomes as a total waste of time, especially in Nigeria where the conditional cash grants schemes are often unfair in disbursements, stating that the scheme may not incur any change at the level of the social structure.
“It is often difficult to identify people who are poor, vulnerable and need money so that cash grant can be given to the right people, which provide access to impact evaluation, but in our case, it is never thought of in such direction since we don’t care about result and outcome,” Margret said.