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Promoting Good Governance.

National Cash Transfer Programme: Why some states have more beneficiaries than others

Following an investigation by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, about how the poorest Nigerians are excluded from the federal government’s cash transfer scheme, the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment Programme, Maryam Uwais, explained to the ICIR why a disparity exists and how the activities of some state governors contribute to the exclusion of their citizens. Excerpt of the interview with Mrs. Uwais is reproduced here.

ICIR: On the disparity in the figure

NASSCO: When we started this programme, it was important for us that we don’t do random targeting, so we adopted a process that has been developed by the world bank, although suited to our purpose.

We made some corrections. We developed a community based targeting  model for developing a social register. All our beneficiaries, the people that are paid are from that social register. So the first thing we did was to develop a register. And there was another pressure from the government that we should start paying as soon as possible because there is a high level of poverty.

There were eight (8) states that had already started developing the register based on direct relationship between the World Bank and themselves under the last administration, so we found that credible enough after speaking with World bank, that this was done following the process and this eight states are: Bauchi, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Osun, Oyo, Cross Rivers…

We adopted this and started working on payment based  on the PMT that had been developed by World Bank. Now these states had signed an agreement  with the World Bank directly already and that has nothing to do with us and had a register in place, that had started developing based on 30 percent of their Local government areas. You see, because of the constraint of funds, we had decided that we were going to develop 30 percent of registered persons in each state and what we do is look at the poverty margin of each state and select the 30 percent from each senatorial district that are poorest and we begin to develop the register in those places. Believing that the next year we’d do 50 percent and the final year we do 20 percent, so that we are able to phase payment… 

So using the community based targeting mechanism, what we do is go, train people within the 30 percent local government that have been selected. These are the local governments that have been selected to start with and we will ask the governor to agree on those local government, because there is no way we can work in a state without the authority of the state governor. Once we agree, we train  people within the civil service, there’s the ministry of planning because that is where we intend that social register will be hosted and then in the local government where we intend to start. Then we ask them to go into the communities in those local government and also have a group focus discussion with them – the community should identify what poverty means to them and also which households fall within those parameters. We don’t impose anybody on them. They draw up their list in different groups, the women together, the men together,  the youth together, however they want to compose it.

In some places, they will keep this group together, they drew up names of people  that they feel are poor. When they finish, we put them together and have a plenary.  ‘This is the list that have been drawn up, do you agree?’ And there’s always a debate, ‘yes this person is poor; no this person is not poor, he is actually a miser, his grand children live abroad.’  We give that opportunity to households who will say; ‘no we’ve been excluded, stigmatised in the community because we have criminals in our family but we actually fall within this parameters.’ We ask them to elect a grievance redress officer who will now escalate any issues to us and that happens in all the communities. Now, because it is a process and not all the state are brought in immediately, and thankfully for us because all the money that ought to come to us has not been coming to us as expected, right.

Now some states just told us ‘we know who poor people are in our community and we will tell you who you should pay’ and we disagreed. We said the community will identify who and it will always be the community. Other states had given us people that don’t have requisite skills because we always ask for certain skills, like people that can do survey  and so we go back and forth. There was a particular state that we had to engage, go again and again, listen to them and plead with with them, ‘please get this thing right, so we can…  if you don’t meet our criteria, we won’t take it.’ Based on that we clean up the data and post it on the National Sociology Site. Every state should have access to its own register and we have access to the entire register.

So the started off with eight states.  And the presidency said we should start with Borno, because of the poverty level there and we could not go into the communities in Borno because of the insurgency there when we came in, so we went into the IDP camps and we took their data and started paying. So the data for Borno is different from the data that we have for the other states. It is only now that we are training  people to go into the communities because normalcy has returned to many of those communities, so they can draw up the data. Because we insist that  we have household data, which we can’t get in the IDP camp – we want to know the number of children for the few that we look at. When the list was drew up we visited those households one by one and we have a devise, there are certain fields that we are looking for and we asked for that information from each household. But on that device, we have what we call proximate testing formula that automatically ranks them from the poor to the poorest. We don’t pay everybody on the social registry, we pay only those who fall below PMT, because we do realise that there are elite captured in some of those communities, people that are influential. When we visit their houses and see those that have motorcycle as their asset which is one of those things we captured: a cattle, a touch light, or whatever, we know that that person does not fall  below the threshold. 

Our payment register is a part of the National Social Register. We pay everybody  from the Social Register but we don’t pay everybody on the Social Register. The system keeps growing in the state as they meet our criteria.

ICIR: The source of money for the Initial payment 

NASSCO: The 500 million World Bank loan had not become available until October last year, but even then, the processes of accessing the money for payment requires that we open a dollar and naira  account with CBN, the world Bank has to confirm that payment that we have been doing within from the Federal Government funds are to their satisfaction. So we haven’t started using their World Bank fund for payment, even now.

ICIR: There is $500 million from world Bank and $332 million from Abacha loot making a total of 832 million. Will all this money go into go into National Cash Transfer?

Answer: Well, some of it. I think a hundred million will be used to set up NASSCO. So, it is $400 million that will go into disbursement and setting up the register. Abacha loot is only for payment. And note that there is a  procurement process that World Bank always follows for every payment that is done.

I need to make a clarification here. The Abacha Loot has nothing to do with the Federal Government because of what happened in the past. I was part of the negotiation in the beginning. The Swiss government said World Bank must monitor and even though the Federal Government had some reservations because of our sovereignty, we felt that there’s no problem because anybody can monitor what we are doing. World Bank now said ‘we are not privy to this discussion. We don’t agree that you put this money in the programme that is outside of what we already monitor’. Because it will incur cost for us, setting up structures for monetary, who is going to give us. So World Bank wanted to be part of the programme so that there would not be additional cost. 

So, they gave us several ideas of programmes they are executing such as Saving One Million Lives and others.  We were asked of our four programmes and it is only the Cash Transfer that the World Bank is interested in.  In the end we decided, in the sense that World Bank said you have to give it to a programme that we are in  and it was said that this money was taken from the Nigerians so it has to go back to them.

So this was how it came to be a cash transfer programme. And I was still in my office and called to join the team lead by the minister of Justice in negotiating  terms and this is how, at a point, the World Bank expressed their concern that if we have the 332 million dollars, we wont touch the loan, so theirs will be crashed and a failed programme. And it became like a counterpart thing, for every 80 percent of the Abacha Loot that we use, we must used 20 percent of the World Bank loan. That was decision taken by government so that the World Bank loan is not disregarded together. That gave them confidence and of course all the other issue about monitoring are all in the MOU. 

As for the Abacha loot, we couldn’t touch it at all because it hasn’t come in. Well, it’s coming to Nigeria but it hasn’t come to NASSCO yet.

ICIR: So what money has gone into the payment?

NASSCO: The federal government budget for the last three years since this administration came on board. We have been budgeting N500 billion annually, but the actual release has not been up to that. N500 billion for social investment, first year but we eventually got N80 billion as actual and we have four programmes. The second year, out of N500 billion, we were told that N100 billion has been given to social housing, so that is not under our purview. So, it’s a funding issue. What they say is that Nigeria has to open the fund to housing.

ICIR: Is that the mortgage financing facility that Okonjo-Iweala started?

NASSCO: No, but there is a social housing fund by the federal government and it is more like under a social protection programme. So it is always in the budget and what comes to us is the N400 billion and we go to defend it.

It is under the Ministry of Finance. The finance ministry has set up a fund, it is like a counterpart funding, the private sector and the UNDP are going to contribute a certain amount. So it is like a fund that they we are handling. So out of N400 billion, in 2017, I think we got N140 billion. So it is from this fund we pay all our programmes beneficiaries.

ICIR: We would appreciate if we can get the exact figures of the funding that has come so that we can be sure of the figures.

NASSCO:  I will first present to you the process and we can go into the details and figures. The process described starts with a memorandum of understanding with the states. We sit with the states, we agree on the terms. The terms are these: we are developing a social register from where we can mine beneficiaries for all social interventions, either government, private sector, philanthropic organisation, donor agencies and whoever needs to do programmes targeted at the poor. We enter this agreement with the state that the state will help develop a state social register; this is aggregated to the national, which has a national social register. There is a checklist that has been developed, well consulted with both state officials, the federal and the donor agencies, including the office of the secretary general, they meet with the BVN, they meet with the national ID, and other holders of the national database. This is to ensure that we capture an essential database that speaks to the poverty status of every individual in the country.Once we enter this MoU with the state government and sign, part of the agreement is that the state government will set up state structures within the state, which includes a state coordinating unit by pulling, and redeploying state civil servants to the community’s office. They will allocate an office to this people to work and provide some basic office equipment and office infrastructure. After the MoU is signed, they recruit these people into the state coordinating office and send CV’s to us to vet and filter those which do not meet our criteria of who should be in  the office . That will eliminate, perhaps, the governor, enlisting his brother, or in-law or his family members because it has to pass through this process.

ICIR: Who funds the state coordinating units?

NASSCO: The state government does because it is part of their responsibilities to provide some basic needs for them to do their work even though we also support them particularly with funds directly with process of getting this data from the field. When this is done and this is where some of the part payment comes in, states are at various stages of putting this together, there are some states that we have not even agreed at all, in fact there are three states that we have signed MoU with but we have not set up the team because of the disagreement in the process and back and forth, like ‘sorry, this person does not qualify’. Those back and forths are going on. There are other states we have made the agreement and they have started.

ICIR: Are those states part of the 16 that were not captured?

NASSCO: Yes, they are among the states, that were not captured.

ICIR: Would you like to mention some of those states you are having problems with?

NASSCO: There is still the back and forth in clearing the states. For now, we have only three states that have not started activities in going to the field. All the other 33 states and the FCT have all started activities right now as we speak. Bayelsa and Rivers just finished the training on Friday, Delta, Edo are starting their own next week to go into the filed. Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, we’ve already turned their step down, that is why states are at various stages of implementation. I’m giving the initial background as to how we set up.

ICIR: If those states you mentioned have actually completed their process long before now, would your officers have started paying the beneficiaries?

NASSCO: Yes. In fact, when the state finishes, we then start to train the coordinating officers, we train them as master trainers in the CBT process. We use a combination of three data capturing processes. One is geographical system, which ranks LGAs and communities by their poverty ranking, and this poverty ranking is taken from the data of the National Living Standards Survey (NLSS) that is conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics. So, you see it is an independent body. The last NLSS survey in this country was conducted about five years ago, we are in the process of supporting them to conduct another one. The NLSS ranks the entire country, the state and place them on their poverty status. If you google that, you will see that this lists are ranked from the least poor to the highest poor and each local governments is also ranked within the state. So what we do is to take 30 percent first stage in each state; the first 30 percent of the poorest LGAs in each senatorial districts. Now, you will discover in some states where you have only 23 local governments, we are working with six LGAs, some states that have like 30 and 40 local governments, for the first 30 percent, we will give them around 9 LGAs, so it is equitably distributed within the senatorial districts based on the poverty ranking.

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