SPECIAL REPORT: N100m For Drugs, N54m For Notebooks… Inside the Scam Called ‘Empowerment’ Programmes’

Metro
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The zonal intervention fund — simply as different allowances acquired by Nigerian lawmakers — is shrouded in secrecy, amongst different procedural and monetary irregularities. Members of each homes of the National Assembly get hundreds of thousands of naira to hold out initiatives of their constituencies yearly. 

However, scrutiny by Saharareporters revealed that about 40% of this allocation goes for ‘empowerment’ programmes as in opposition to capital initiatives equivalent to development of roads and different bodily constructions. This, on the floor, isn’t a foul thought; however opposite to the the Aristocracy in the phrase ‘empowerment’, lots of such programmes are mere conduit to roll up nationwide sources into pockets of the few privileged. Simply put, the cause many lawmakers go for empowerment applications doesn’t take a lot ingenuity to decipher: implementation of empowerment initiatives tends to be simpler technique of embezzling public funds. 

Empowerment initiatives are principally captured both as youth or ladies programmes, trainings and growth initiatives. Ideally, empowerment initiatives ought to enhance the high quality of lives of its audience however typically, they solely enrich the lawmakers and few party members. More so, empowerment programmes are simpler inflated in comparison with capital initiatives, or just used to compensate cronies and loyalists. While capital initiatives might be simply traced and assessed, empowerment initiatives — even when carried out — haven’t any goal yardstick to measure high quality and amount delivered. 

N100million for a couple of glasses and medicines 

For occasion, Femi Gbajabiamila, lawmaker representing Surulere 1 Federal Constituency, claimed to have carried out “medical outreach for people in Surulere 1” — a programme earmarked for N100 million however all he confirmed for such undertaking had been footage of few medication, quite a lot of glasses and crowd of constituents who merely received their blood strain checked.

Asked if that was all the honorable did with N100 million, the Personal Assistant who attended to a News Media correspondent and a monitoring officer from Tracka, a undertaking monitoring neighborhood, mentioned: “Yes. We brought foreign experts during the outreach and the money also took care of logistics.”

Has Gajabiamila carried out the programme as listed in the finances? Yes after all, he would say; however does the programme justify the quantity quoted?

According to Budgit, a budget-tracking and transparency group, of the N100 billion annual allocations for constituency initiatives, N41.three billion and N55 billion went for empowerment in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

‘We do not find out about their programmes’ 

Saharareporters investigated the implementation of a few of the 2017 empowerment initiatives nominated by lawmakers representing Lagos state. In lots of the constituencies visited, majority of the populace, who ought to be the beneficiaries of the programmes, had no details about the programmes, therefore they didn’t take part. 

“We don’t get to find out about their programmes,” a petty dealer reverse the constituency workplace of Hon. Rotimi Agunsoye in Kosofe advised Saharareporters. “They don’t inform us when they’re sharing something. Sometimes, we’ll see folks with APC T-shirt however they’re their members.”

Also, empowerment supplies find yourself with ward chairmen and heads of Local Government Area (LGA) or their associates as a result of, many instances, the lawmakers don’t monitor the distribution course of.

Asked how Mr. Balogun Yakub Abiodun, lawmaker representing Lagos Island II federal constituency, identifies constituents in want of the empowerment initiatives, a workers of his constituency workplace on Andrew Street, mentioned “the ward chairman nominates people because they know those who come for meetings regularly”.

It was an analogous state of affairs at Surulere I, Kosofe, Lagos Island I and a few of the different constituency workplaces visited by Saharareporters.

Crumbs of nationwide cake for party members

“What empowerment are you talking about?” requested Kareem, certainly one of the residents alongside Eleko-Folu Expressway, the place Hon. Ayeola Abayomi Abdulkabir Ibeju Lekki constituency workplace is situated. “The final time we heard of any empowerment programme was three years in the past. They shared some issues for his or her party members in Ibeju Primary college. 

“Ordinary people like us don’t benefit from their programmes. If you’re not a member of their party or don’t know anyone who can lobby for you, there is no how you will get anything from them. They share for the friends and family members of party people.”

A 2013 empowerment in 2017! 

Kazeem’s response represents the place of many in numerous constituencies who ought to learn from the poverty alleviation programmes. Party members, loyalists and cronies of the lawmakers are the main, if not sole, beneficiaries of empowerment programmes, that are even under-executed in lots of instances.

Hon. Abdulkabir, in line with his Personal Assistant, claimed to have executed the empowerments programmes listed in the 2017 finances. Part of his constituency undertaking was provide of 45 deep freezers, 45 stitching machines, and provide of sentimental drinks for girls to start out petty commerce. 

Asked who the beneficiaries of those programmes had been, a News Media correspondent was directed to a highway facet vulcanizer who benefited from an empowerment programme organized in 2013, and two different tailors. The vulcanizer, recognized merely as Ojo, is an All Progressives Congress (APC) member.

“Is my Oga around?” he requested, referring to Hon. Abdulkabir. “We had been advised you lately benefited from empowerment programme organized by honorable? What did the honorable do for you?” 

“Yes, I have benefited from Honourable Ayeola,” he mentioned as he walked us to his air compressor pump with the lawmaker’s title boldly printed on it. “It’s been a very long time since I used to be given the machine. I’ve needed to restore part of it however I’ve been utilizing it since then.”

When a News Media correspondent reached out to the Ibeju-Lekki consultant, he flared up and refused to take care of any enquiry. “I cannot explain anything to you” he retorted. “I am not answerable to you but to my constituents”. He additionally didn’t reply to textual content message despatched to him after he hung up the telephone name.

N1.8billion lone initiatives 

A whopping N 1,883,380,652 value of initiatives is untraceable, as they weren’t tied to any lawmaker. These initiatives, which seem underneath totally different ministries and companies, would possibly by no means get carried out. Under the code quantity ZIP101, ZIP102 and ZIP103, N50, 000, 000,000 every was earmarked for “strategic empowerment for women and youth on agricultural produce for self-reliance and export”. 

The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), underneath the Ministry of Education, additionally received allocation of N200 million and N100 million for the “renovation/rehabilitation of block of six classroom/furniture in six locations” and development of “10nos one block of two classrooms in selected federal constituencies” in unspecified places. In addition, N300 million was allotted for “vocational training for youth and women in the 6 area councils of the FCT senatorial district” however it didn’t state if the programme was nominated by Senator Philips Tanimu Aduda, who represents the district. 

Monitoring these lone initiatives then turns into a herculean job: who takes duty for the implementation? How does one confirm that they had been really carried out?

A legislative aide who spoke with Saharareporters anonymously mentioned that is certainly one of the methods lawmakers “pad” the budgets by numerous Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

“Well, it is one of the ways to shield themselves from poke-nosers like journalists and some NGOs. If you don’t know who is doing what, who do you start disturbing?” he requested.

“It is a foul factor however they do all of it the similar. It can be the similar means they ‘pad’ finances. How do you assume the authorized budgets of some MDAs grow to be increased than the proposed budgets? It is as a result of some folks have saved their monies in these MDAs however when you ask, they’ll say the National Assembly has the energy to overview upward or downward, however we all know how these items work.”

According to Damen Ilevbaoje, group lead of Tracka, lots of the representatives nominate initiatives underneath ministries the place they’ve “their particular person”.

“They would claim that they only nominated the project, it is the ministry that receives funds and execute the project but in the real sense, lawmakers use their own contractors,” he said. “In fact, sometimes, it is their own companies that get awarded these contracts and with the help of their persons in the ministry, they take full control of the funds released.”

Mr. Ilevbaoje additionally revealed to Saharareporters that every one makes an attempt to hunt explanations from the involved ministries yielded no outcome.

“Those unspecified initiatives, it’s both the location was not specified or there was no point out of the lawmaker, due to this fact they remained untracked,” he added. “We don’t know in the event that they ever received carried out. We wrote to the ministries however we didn’t get any suggestions from them.” 

The spokespersons of the Senate and the House of Representative didn’t reply to telephone calls and textual content messages looking for clarification on whether or not it’s lawful for ministries to instantly get funds for constituency initiatives underneath the zonal intervention funds with out going by the lawmakers.

N54 million For notebooks 

The solely undertaking nominated by Abayomi Dauda Kako-Are, lawmaker representing Mushin 1 Federal Constituency, was the “supply of notebooks to various schools in Mushin 1”. The N54million undertaking didn’t specify on what number of notebooks could be distributed per pupil or the variety of benefitting colleges.

According to the data given by Mr. Kako-Are’s aide, eight,175 models of 20 leaves, 7,750 unit of 40 leaves and 14,450 models of 60 leaves of notebooks had been equipped by the contractor. At an equal price, a pocket book would have price N1,778 every to supply 30, 375 models at N54 million.

However, the market costs of a dozen of 20 leaves, 40 leaves and 60 depart notebooks, are N500, N1000 and N1500 respectively. Deductively, it price extra to supply a unit of pocket book than it could have price to purchase a dozen of similar notebooks.

Although the lawmaker claimed 30,375 items of notebooks have been equipped by the contractor, the books are but to be distributed. When Saharareporters reached the honourable, the solely lawmaker from Accord Party, he mentioned: “The books are still there in the office but the contractors are saying I should not distribute it because they have not been paid”.

The Mushin 1 consultant isn’t the solely lawmaker nonetheless holding on to the empowerment supplies whilst the 2017 finances rounds up in a couple of month, the consultant of Lagos Island 1, Eniola Dolapo Badru, is but to distribute the 50 models of tricycles he had nominated for empowerment in his constituency.

The lawmaker, who spoke to Saharareporters, mentioned he had solely been equipped 24 models out of the 50 he requested for. However, he didn’t expressly acknowledge if he had distributed the tricycles already equipped. 

“It not 50 tricycles, it’s 24 that I was supplied,” he advised a News Media correspondent over the telephone.

Misappropriation or freewill?

In quite a lot of situations, Saharareporters gathered that whereas a few of the lawmakers by no means carried out the programmes they nominated, they make up for it by implementing different programmes with populist nature.  

It isn’t notably clear if Honorable Bologun  Yakub Abiodun, representing Lagos Island II, carried out the empowerment programmes he nominated, however he has a scheme for the aged in his constituency.

The lawmaker randomly selects 50 aged individuals whom he pays N5,000 month-to-month allowance for a interval of six months, after which one other set is recruited and likewise paid for six months. 

Laudable, little question, however how does the he fund this undertaking? 

Similarly, Honourable Kaka-Are’s pocket book distribution undertaking would possibly seem too pedestrian however he has a means of guaranteeing he stays the sweetheart of younger males in his constituency.

Just outdoors his house is a 42 inches flatscreen, cable-connected tv that reveals all the premiership video games. For younger folks with an obsession for soccer video games, Mr. Kako-Are is bound the man of the 12 months. 

Apart from the free viewing centre, the lawmaker additionally organizes free tutorials for college kids making ready for the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board examination along with offering free transportation for his constituents who want to journey to their hometowns throughout festive intervals.

Also carefully associated is the nomination of initiatives in ministries that should not have the mandate to hold out such capabilities. 

The ‘scam’ didn’t begin in the present day… however will it cease? 

During the buildup in direction of the 2015 basic election, prime feminine politicians in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stormed Adamasingba stadium in Ibadan, Oyo state for a political rally cum empowerment programme for residents, together with college students, in Oyo state.

There had been shows of grinding machines, mills, fridges, Agro-Allied supplies, instruments for numerous vocations amongst different quite a few gadgets. 

Student union organizations of tertiary establishments in Oyo State received buses. The University of Ibadan received a luxurious Marcopolo bus, which is now a heap of wreck in entrance of the Students’ Union constructing the place it’s now completely parked. 

The occasion, which was attended by the Former First Lady of Nigeria, Mrs. Patient Jonathan; a former Minister for State, Jumoke Akinjide who’s at present underneath trial for fraud, and few extra outstanding feminine politicians, ended amid the jamboree of political razzmatazz however greater than half of the gadgets remained in the stadium.

However, a source whose firm purchased again a few of the displayed supplies advised Sahararepoters that the gadgets had been bought by party leaders. “The gadgets had been bought to us after the occasion,” he mentioned. “One of the guys from Akinjide’s camp introduced the gadgets to our store.”

Although this doesn’t instantly relate to the zonal intervention fund, it reveals how politicians, underneath the guise of empowerment programmes, enrich themselves and the shut associates.

With this development, it’s clear that majority of the peculiar Nigerian residents who ought to profit from the empowerment programmes, typically instances don’t; and if this should change, there should be system for correct evaluation and monitoring of those initiatives — not simply the empowerment applications however all initiatives financed with the zonal intervention fund.

“Ideally, the initiative is nice going by the assumption the lawmakers know their numerous constituencies and the wants of their folks however there must be accountability and transparency,” mentioned Seun Akinfolarin, Director of Civic Media Lab, a non-profit advocacy organisation. “If you purchase a pin for one kobo, it ought to be verifiable. If you get N1 million for an empowerment undertaking, we must always see that what you probably did is value a million. That is the solely means this will work.”

Alternatively, some have argued that zonal intervention fund ought to be stopped. “It is one of the ways politicians loot our resources,” Adekunle Bolarinde, a media guide, mentioned. “The job of a lawmaker ought to be strictly law-making. What is the correlation of getting constituency allowance and making legal guidelines? It is only one of the loopholes in our structure that opens up our financial system to pointless looting. It ought to be scraped.”

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