703,506 poor Nigerians receive N23.7bn from $322.5million Abacha LOOT-MANTRA REPORTS

By tataafo.com

The Monitoring Transparency and Accountability in the Management of Returned Assets, MANTRA, project, a sub-sect of Anti-Corruption in Nigeria (ACORN) programme of DFID/UKAid, Thursday, released a report that 703,506 poor Nigerians received N23.7 billion from the recovered $322.5 million Abacha Loot returned from Switzerland as at 31 December 2019 under the Conditional Cash Transfer of Nigeria’s Social Investment Programme, SIP.

This was disclosed by the Executive Director of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, and Head of MANTRA project, Rev David Ugolor, leading CSOs monitoring the disbursement nationwide disclosed this today at a World Press Conference/Virtual Meeting in Benin City, Edo State, while formally presenting to stakeholders and Nigerians MANTRA one-year field monitoring report covering from October 2018 to December 2019.

According to Ugolor the total number of beneficiaries MANTRA monitored were able to reach 73, 998 beneficiaries located in 4,540 communities, traced to 97 Local Government Areas and in 20 States of the country who were captured in the database developed by the National Social Safety-Net Coordination Office, NASSCO, as verified, which was an improvement from the total beneficiaries of 30, 846 in the first monitoring report wherein MANTRA  covered 11 States.

ANEEJ is working with eight partners in the project across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria including Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) Abuja (North Central); Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRISED), Kano (North West); Bayelsa Non-Governmental Forum (BANGOF), Yenagoa (South-South); FAHIMTA Women and Youth Development Initiative (FAWOYDI)( North East); New Initiative for Social Development (NISD), Ado-Ekiti (South West); and Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC), Enugu (South East).

Others are the Economic Research and Development Centre (SERDEC), Lokoja; New Apostolic Church Centre for Development (NAC), GRA, Benin City which focused on behavior change programmes of MANTRA.

Those who present at the World Press Conference/Virtual Meeting include Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Dayo Akpata, representing Minister for Justice and Attorney General of the Federation,  Abubakar Malami; Director Asset Recovery and Management Unit( ARMU), Ladidi Abubakar; Special Assistant to the President on Justice Reform and International Affairs, Juliet Ibekaku- Nwagwu; Country Representative, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC,  Oliver Stolpe; Deputy Head of Mission, Switzerland Embassy, Anne- Beatrice Bullinger; Governance Adviser, DFID, Chris Okeke; and Social Protection Specialist, World Bank, Fanen Ade.

He said: “As Civil Society, our mission is to ensure transparent and judicious use of the recovered Abacha funds in line with its stated purpose to ensure that recovered money is not re-looted.

“Seven hundred and three thousand, five hundred and six (703,506) poor and vulnerable Nigerians out of an enrolled figure of 834,948 targeted in the Nigerian Social register received a total of ₦23,742,580,000 from the recovered $322.5 million Abacha Loot returned from Switzerland as at 31 December 2019 under the Conditional Cash Transfer of Nigeria’s Social Investment Programme (SIP). This figure excludes the amount being distributed to poor Nigerians as part of the federal government’s response to COVID 19 pandemic covering the months of January-April 2020.

“The total number of beneficiaries MANTRA monitors were able to reach 73, 998 beneficiaries located in 4, 540 communities, traced to 97 Local Government Areas and in 20 states of the federation who were captured in the database developed by the National Social Safety-Net Coordination Office (NASSCO) as verified by our monitors, which is an improvement from the total beneficiaries of 30, 846 in the first monitoring report wherein MANTRA covered 11 States.”

According to him on the findings of the field monitoring four objectives formed MANTRA’s monitoring plan, which a total of 1, 456 monitors were deployed across the country in the exercise using a 21 per cent sample size.

He added that they also hired an audit firm for the upstream (Central Bank and National Cash Transfer Office), and Midstream (Payment Operators) monitoring.

“We had four objectives in our monitoring plan and we deployed a total of 1456 monitors across the country in the exercise using a 21 per cent sample size. We also hired an audit firm for the upstream (Central Bank and National Cash Transfer Office), and Midstream (Payment Operators) monitoring. While our field monitors were deployed mainly for the downstream monitoring, covering the State Cash Transfer Offices (SCTO) and Local Government Areas), making it end-to-end monitoring.

“Our first objective was to ascertain the targeting of payments to specified beneficiaries. By the end of the first year of our monitoring, the majority of beneficiaries identified their community leaders as the source of their enrollment into the social register.

“Our Objective 2 has to do with Beneficiaries Grievance and how they are addressed. At the end of the first year, we observed that less than half of the total complainants (43%) had registered their complaints. The complaints received include Request for increase in base stipend, third party deductions, ID card related challenges, delayed payments, irregular or late payments, tedious payment processes, and distance to payment points. We discovered, however, that only 22 per cent of such complaints were resolved and this remains some of the challenges facing the scheme which needs improvement.

“Our third Objective is the total amount of the recovered $322.5million disbursed. N24, 658,072,000 was disbursed by the NCTO to the Private Service Operators as of 31 December 2019 of which ₦23,742,580,000 go to the beneficiaries. We also found that only 72.5% of the agreed 80% as part of the Abacha loot in the funds disbursed to the beneficiaries during the period under review,” he stated.

He recalled that the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ) signed an MOU with the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) in January 2018 for the monitoring of the $322.5 million recovered Abacha Loot which was returned by Switzerland government in 2017.

The ANEEJ boss also made it known that the current nationwide disbursements of recovered Abacha loot from January-April 2020 as part of the Federal Government response to COVID 19 is being monitored by ANEEJ trained monitors nationwide and assured that the MANTRA team will provide Nigerians its findings subsequently.

He also maintained that stakeholders’ need to collaborate and synergise in the fight against corruption, which he acknowledged and appreciated the Federal Government, United Kingdom, Switzerland, and United State of America including the World Bank for their collaboration which has yielded positive results as seen in the success of the MANTRA model with the level of success recorded so far.

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