The National Assembly’s leadership has faulted the reaction of the presidency to its comments on the Social Investment Programme (SIP). The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila had faulted the implementation of SIP and called for an enabling legislation to make it more efficient, effective and accord with global best practices. They made their reservations about the scheme at a meeting held on Tuesday with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq and some top officials of the Ministry. They said the poorest of the poor have not been sufficiently captured by the scheme, and that the conditions and guidelines were too stringent for the most vulnerable Nigerians. Mrs Maryam Uwais, Special Adviser to the President on SIP, issued a rejoinder, wherein she listed the scheme operational activities and payments to beneficiaries. She said it was untrue that BVN and online application were part of the conditions for beneficiaries to be engaged.
She said her response was to safeguard “the entitlements of the poorest of Nigerian citizens, whose benefits are likely to cease because they are not known or connected to NASS members or any other person of influence.” In response, the National Assembly described the presidential aide’s comment as “unfair” to its members and dismissed it as “entirely baseless”. The Senate President said his comments on SIP were not made to denigrate any official but to make the scheme more effective in the delivery of its critical mandate. Lawan, in a statement by his media aide, Ola Awoniyi, said “These comments were well taken by the Honourable Minister and her delegation. The minister was honest enough to admit that the SIP had some ‘challenges’ and also bedeveled with ‘intrigues’ which she was yet battling with. “The leadership of the National Assembly would not have suggested an enabling legislation for the SIP if it does not believe in the relevance of the scheme.” He noted that public office holders should be receptive to constructive ideas and suggestions expressed to enhance service delivery and to improve the performances of public projects and institutions. “The leadership of the National Assembly is committed to sustaining its cordial working relationship with the other arms of Government as it has seen the benefits of this approach in the improved environment and speed of policy and decision making. “But this commitment will never deter or discourage it from asserting its considered views in promotion and defence of good governance. “We urge officials and agencies of Government to exploit their access to the Legislature in making clarifications before reacting to newspaper reports on its deliberations,” Lawan said.