The Federal Government, yesterday, admitted there had been fraud in its Social Investments Programme (SIP), prompting an investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The revelation followed the release of just 15 per cent of the N1 trillion budgeted for the initiative.
The Special Adviser on SIP, Maryam Uwais, made the disclosure while briefing State House correspondents on the implementation of the scheme and her presentation at the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. She said fraudulent practices like short-changing, racketeering, harassment of beneficiaries and exploitation of the vulnerable plagued the scheme in States.
She said while the SIP was collaborating with various organisations to overcome the challenges, participating State Governments were expected to support fraud detection and prevention.
According to her, the EFCC has been alerted to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators, some of who have already been suspended or sacked.
She explained that the total spending on SIP in 2016 and 2017 was 15.58 per cent. Half a Trillion Naira had been budgeted for each of the two years, meaning that only N158 billion had been released and spent.
The Federal Government also unveiled a plan for the establishment of a new outfit. Called ‘Agro Rangers Corps’, it will provide security around ranches, livestock production centres and grazing routes in the country.
Addressing State House correspondents after the council meeting, Bauchi State Governor, Mohammed Abubakar, said the decision to set up the corps was predicated on recommendations by the Umahi-led committee tasked with finding a solution to clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
Abubakar said an interim report was submitted to President Buhari. According to him, it “recommended the setting up and training of the agro rangers. You know there have been talks of setting up ranches, colonies and livestock production centres. The issue is actually a problem of nomenclature. The most important thing is that some measures should be taken to settle the herdsmen, so that they will stop moving with their herds from one section of the country to the other, and in the process creating all the problems we are experiencing.
“So, whichever one a State Government that is keying into the programme chooses, either a grazing reserve or ranch or a livestock production centre, there is a need for rangers to be trained; rangers that will police either ranches or grazing reserves.”
He said: “They recommended to Mr. President that in all areas where these clashes are prevalent, the military should be moved in to support whatever the Nigeria Police and other security Agencies are doing in solving the problems.
“The committee has recommended strongly that the military should move into all forests or areas where the clashes are prevalent, with a view to flushing out all bandits hiding in those areas.”
He stressed that the Federal Government would not “impose on any State any type of solution, be it ranch, grazing reserves or whatever. The responsibility is that of the Governor because they are the ones who by law superintend over land matters.”
He added: “Mr. President has approved the setting up of a committee to be headed by the Vice President that will go into these areas where these clashes have taken place, with a view to looking at ways to ameliorate the suffering of the people in those areas and resettling them.”