By i-Turning Point Reporters
The Minister of state, labour and employment, Festus Keyamo, says the federal government has paid N24 billion to 413,630 beneficiaries of the special public works scheme.
Keyamo made this known during the weekly ministerial briefing organised by the presidential media team in Abuja on Thursday.
He said the scheme attained a 60 percent success rate, dismissing insinuations that it has failed over initial delays to effect payment.
The minister revealed that despite his attempts to ensure due diligence in the implementation of the programme, he uncovered that some fraudulent Nigerians opened multiple bank accounts under a single BVN.
In April, the government had explained why it commenced partial payment to beneficiaries, attributing delays to discrepancies in bank verification numbers.
According to him, efforts to separate genuine applicants from those trying to fleece the scheme of its resources accounted for initial delays recorded in the kick-off of the programme.
He also attributed the delay in implementing the programme to the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic but added that President Buhari during the period expanded the programme to accommodate those in the lowest cadre of economic strata to benefit.
While responding to a question on why the same set of people were benefiting from all government programmes under the All Progressive Congress (APC) administration, the minister said the special works scheme is a multi-sectoral one.
“Whilst I don’t have the full facts regarding that, but I will not also in my true conscience, dispute your assertion. I will not because I know how the political terrain operates now, where you have godfathers everywhere as they are bringing programmes of the federal government, they hand it over to who they call the leader,” Keyamo said.
“That is how it operates regrettably, any programme, in fact, captures it like bandits here in Abuja. Before it leaves Abuja as it is coming out straight from the villa fresh government project, is captured here and handed over to their structures in the state. So I will not dispute it. I may not have the true picture and the impact of it and whether it is actually true going on in every state, and the widespread nature of it.
“But like I said, What we try to do in this programme, that is why perhaps I faced some resistance, all of that we have put behind us. So I don’t want to wake up all those scandals but we moved on at the end of the day in peace, because everybody realised that we needed to serve the Nigerian people.
“But that was why we designed it that way to be multi-sectoral. There is no programme ever before run by any government before us that you will see people who are not politicians brought into the selection process.”
Keyamo also described the YouWin Programme, an innovative empowerment programme aimed at empowering Nigerian youths financially to establish their own businesses under the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration as purely for political patronage programme, where the oppositions were sidelined.
“I saw some opposition leaders complaining about the special public work that they didn’t get enough. And the question we asked them was that while you were running your own PDP programme, did we even hear anything about it as politicians? Did we hear anything about it,” he added.
“Remember this one they ran, what they called YouWin Programme then, it was just purely political patronage Programme. This one we try to say okay, religious leaders, senators where APC or PDP bring 30 persons. So whether opposition and all that was the kind of approach that we had.
“They can complain about inadequacy now that oh, we didn’t get enough numbers. In the past, as the opposition did we get any at all? Did we even know how? People are complaining and that is to tell you the nature of President Buhari. There is the school feeding programme going around the country, it is purely in the hands of opposition in many states. The APC in those states doesn’t even know how those school feeding programme is being carried out.
“But what would the President say? If you come to him he will say they are all Nigerians. He will say it is meant for all Nigerians. But party members will be complaining but he’s the father of the nation. He’s not the father of APC.
“Before the election of 2019, many of our APC members were mad. They were mad that this programme should be for the APC so that we can use it to run elections. But the President said no, the President will just laugh despite all that, they were threatening that we are going to lose the election.
“PDP members were using this programme to empower their people in these states, APC had nothing to empower. Didn’t the President win? He won, he won more people to his side by that. So for us in this programme, we followed the Presidents spirit.
“So that your assumption may not be correct regarding the special public work programme.”
Keyamo said Buhari deserves commendation because this is the first time that itinerant workers are truly benefitting from a federal government social intervention scheme, as beneficiaries were drawn from a multi-sectoral approach.