A coalition of civil society organizations calls for a forensic audit of the national register

Open Alliance, a coalition of civil society organizations working to improve openness and accountability in governance, has called for an immediate forensic audit of the National Social Register.

According to a statement made available to NewsTimes, the group said the call follows the concerns raised by the National Economic Council over the document that stated its reservations about the integrity of the Register.

The group noted that in light of the recent concerns surrounding the disbursement of N8000/household to citizens through the National Register, the National Economic Council, chaired by His Excellency Kashim Shettima, the Vice President, while having its usual meeting on Thursday, July 20, 2023, stated that they have unanimously agreed to do away with the National Social Register which was used by the immediate past administration of the President Muhammadu Buhari in implementing its conditional cash transfers.

  • “This news is a shock as 3.6 million Nigerians on the social register had hoped that the N8000/household would help ease the hardship caused by the subsidy removal. However, President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration has stated through the NEC that the register had serious and numerous integrity issues as the criteria for its compilation need to be clarified. 
  • “Quoting Mr. Apera Iorwa, the former National Coordinator and National Social Safety Nets Coordinating officer, the agency under the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, disbursed a total sum of $300 million in the last four years.
  • Noting the above, it comes as a rude shock to Civic Society Actors that NEC submission is toward the improbable cause of disbursed monies and would want to avoid mismanaging these particular funds the same way,” the group said. 

The Open Alliance calls for an immediate forensic audit of the National Social Register to determine its authenticity and give Nigerians the details of the criteria for selecting the beneficiaries on the register.

The group also wants the government to uncover if the people in charge of the register have siphoned the country’s public funds and determine the consequences of this is true.

  • “It’s also worthy to note that data proves that Nigeria’s National Cash Transfer Program was established to improve the consumption levels of poor households, reduce poverty, prevent vulnerable households from becoming poorer, increase school enrolment, and improve child nutrition; however, Nigeria’s situation has worsened across several development indicators despite the funds deployed.
  • While 133 million Nigerians were adjudged to have been multidimensionally poor in 2022, Nigeria’s out-of-school children have risen to about 25 million. Recall that in 2016, the government budgeted N500 billion to be distributed to the vulnerable and poor under the Social Investment Program. The results, as seen between 2018 and 2019, show that the poverty level rose from 39.1% in 2018 to 40.1% in 2019 and 63% in 2022,” the group said.

As a matter of urgency, the Open Alliance and Nigerians are concerned about the effectiveness of the whole scheme.

According to the group, to bridge the trust gap between the Nigerian government and its citizens, the following must be done immediately:

  • “Firstly, an independent body must conduct an immediate and comprehensive forensic audit of the register that was used for palliative disbursement to determine its credibility and the recipients of the already disbursed $300 million.
  • “This audit will help identify discrepancies or irregularities in the data and ensure that the process adheres to ethical standards.
  • “Secondly, make a public release of the criteria for determining the eligibility for inclusion in the palliatives register.
  • “Citizens have a right to know how and why specific individuals were chosen to receive assistance. Such transparency will foster trust and credibility in the distribution process.
  • Thirdly, provide clarity on the selection process.
  • “The National Registrar should provide clear and detailed information about the selection process, highlighting the steps taken to ensure fairness and impartiality in choosing beneficiaries.
  • “This will further strengthen the results of the new process.
  • “Lastly, the criteria for the new register should be made public as we maintain that “If a new register is to be created for the N8000/household disbursements, the National Registrar must outline the criteria used.
  • “These criteria should be well-defined, objective, and focused on reaching the most vulnerable and deserving individuals.
  • Open Alliance believes open and transparent governance is fundamental to building a solid and equitable society.
  • “By conducting a forensic audit and being transparent about the criteria and selection process, we can safeguard the interests of citizens and uphold the principles of fairness and accountability. 
  • “Finally, we call upon the government through the National Executive Council to respond promptly to these concerns and work toward a more transparent and inclusive process for palliative disbursement for poor and vulnerable Nigerians,” the statement signed by Iyanuoluwa Bolarinwa, Open Alliance Coordinator said. 

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