The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo has disclosed that the Nigerian government was still owing beneficiaries of its 774,000 Special Public Works Programme (SPWP) about N7.3 billion.
Keyamo made the disclosure on Monday in Abuja during a budget defence session organised by the Senate Committee on Labour and Productivity.
The Federal Government, through the programme, which was supervised by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) had engaged 774,000 Nigerians across the country to carry out public works for three months and to be paid and N60,000 each for the duration.
Some lawmakers had complained that some of their constituents who enrolled in the scheme were yet to be paid their entitlements almost one year after.
The Vice-Chairman of the committee, Senator Kabiru Barkiya, said: “In my state, Katsina, some of the beneficiaries were asked to open an account with a bank that has no branch in the state.”
However, Keyamo blamed the delay in payment on bank issues but promised that the remaining funds would be disbursed before the end of December.
He noted that limited banks were selected for the programme to ease the audit process.
“Why we insisted on certain banks was because of the auditing process. This is so that we have a clear audit instead of us chasing banks all over the place.
“We said the bank should use their local branches to ensure that those 1,000 people selected in that Local Government Area go to those banks within that locality,” he said.
Also, he noted that the Ministry has opened up the process whereby beneficiaries could use any bank in their locality.
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“We have made an adjustment in the last few months. We are not attaching a particular bank to a local government again. So, no matter what it is, we will achieve 98 per cent success on the programme,” he said.
On his part, the Director-General of NDE, Abubakar Fikpo, said the N52 billion appropriated for the scheme was domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that sends the money to the beneficiaries through the selected banks.
The NDE, he said, compiled the details of the beneficiaries, including their bank accounts, and forward them to the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, which then instructed the CBN to disburse funds for payment.
“It is the Accountant General that instructs CBN and then they effect the payment which was why sometimes we experience failed payments,” Fikpo said.
“We only intervene in the process when the payment fails. We then communicate with the beneficiaries to sort out the issue with their banks,” he added.
It would be recalled that Keyamo had in April, begged for time to pay participants in the Special Public Works (SPW) programme after some participants who were being owed took to the streets to protest the non-payment of their wages.
The workers had protested the delay in paying their stipend more than three months after the kick-off of the programme.
The SPW is an Adhoc programme designed by the government to provide stop-gap three months jobs to mainly artisans to earn N20,000 monthly doing public works.
One thousand youths were hired from each of the 774 local governments in the country as beneficiaries, bringing the figure to 774,000 councils.
The programme was inaugurated on January 5. The first batch of beneficiaries have completed their assignment without being paid.