By Samuel Oyadongha & Emem Idio
THE Federal Government’s Social Investment Programme in Bayelsa State has said that issues bothering on financial mismanagement were responsible for the delay in the payment to beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer programme in Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Abia and Zamfara states before and during the period of the coronavirus lockdown.
Head of Unit of the programme in Bayelsa State, Mrs Tonbara Kenigbolo, stated this during a town hall meeting between staff of the programme and beneficiaries organised by Bayelsa State Non-Governmental Organisation Forum, BANGOF, in partnership with Africa Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, in Yengaoa.
According to Mrs Kenigbolo, a payment provider simply identified as Mr Henry, owner of Data Mining Firm, was procured by the Federal Government in July 2019 to effect payment to beneficiaries of the programme in the four states. He visited Bayelsa once to discuss modalities for payment but never returned to pay the money meant for the most poor and vulnerable in the society.
Her words: “Payment for the first tranche was due since July 2019. Mr Henry came to Bayelsa and we discussed the modalities for payment, only for him to return to Abuja and vanished into thin air without any feedback. All communication channels with him were blocked. I called him several times all to no avail.
“It was at that point that we in the Bayelsa office wrote a petition against him to our national office. When our petition got to Abuja, we learnt that Zamfara, Akwa Ibom and Abia had also petitioned the same contractor for the same reason. Thank God today his contract has been cancelled and a new payment provider known as Softcom has been procured.
“As we speak, the account of the new payment provider has been credited and very soon payment will commence. When payment commences, each household shortlisted for the programme will get at least N50, 000 during the payment of the first tranche.”
She noted that the beneficiaries captured from the 96 communities in Southern Ijaw, Ekeremor and Nembe Local Government Areas of the state would undergo a 10-week training on money management and investment in a bid to help them start a business that would lift them out of poverty.