By Amos Aar

BENUE State Focal Person of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), Dr Terrys Damsa, Wednesday bagged an Award of Excellence from Jechira United Forum in his office during which he briefed them on his reforms and achievements since assumption of office in 2018.

Dr Damsa, 2nd from left, receiving the Award of Excellence from the President of Jechira United Forum, Prince Terhemen Ikpum Zakpe. They’re flanked on both sides by other officials of Jechira United Forum. (Photo Credit: Maxwell Ankla)

Dr Damsa in a chat with newsmen shortly after the award ceremony reiterated what he told the forum that the NSIP has five basic programmes which have been improved upon tremendously under his watch as the state Focal Person.

“We basically have five programmes here: one programme is at the back end and four programmes are in the front end. The back end programme is the state Operations Coordinating Unit (SOCO) which basically deals with beneficiaries targeting the poor and vulnerable households.

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“When we came in on the 30th of May, 2018, there were only five thousand (5,000) Benue Citizens on the National Social Register, other states were doing twenty thousand, thirty thousand, forty thousand and even more, and I felt that was totally unacceptable. I briefed His Excellency who gave us 12 Million naira to deal with the issues around the community based targeting so that we can scale up the number of beneficiaries and today, we have increased to two hundred and thirty-six thousand (236,000) from five thousand (5,000) in two years.

“We have the second programme which is the Cash Transfer programme where we give monthly stipends to poor households. We also put them in Cooperative Societies and teach them skills. In 2018 when I assumed duty, there were less than one thousand cash transfer beneficiaries, in fact, they were nine hundred and thirty-eight (938) and that was not acceptable. Today, we have fifty-nine thousand (59,000) cash transfer beneficiaries in nine (9) Local Government Areas in Benue state: three (3) in zones A, B and C each and plans are under way to to scale up to all the 23 Local Government Areas in the state.

“We also have the Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP) which gives interest free collateral loans to Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) from ten thousand (10,000) to three hundred and fifty thousand (350,000). You may hear of Trader Moni and Market Moni, they are all programmes under the GEEP. When I came in, the GEEP guys didn’t have office, they would just spend some time in the board and disappear for the day. But I spoke with the Governor and he gave us the take-off grant for GEEP and we refurbished the Boy’s Quarters, we got laptops, Air Conditioners, work stations for the guys and we gave them incentives to work.

“We also have the N-Power programme which has the graduate and no graduate components. When we came in, the challenge was that most of them were not in their places of Primary assignment because they saw the thirty thousand (30,000) naira as a national cake and we felt that was not correct. We ran to the Governor and he graciously approved for us one million naira for monitoring and evaluation and through that framework, we were able to ensure that these N-Power beneficiaries stay in their places of Primary assignment,” Damsa intimated.

Another programme is the School Feeding Programme which according to the Benue Focal Person was allegedly messed up with all kinds of controversies from corruption to microeconomic inefficiencies, deductions from vendors’ accounts to all kinds of things but he successfully repositioned it.

Dr Damsa explained that prior to his assumption of office, there was an instruction from the banks to deduct monies from vendors’ account. Some deductions they said were for monitoring and evaluation but some were done illegally and that was unacceptable.

“When we came in, the first thing I did was to write to our partner banks to instruct them to cease forth all forms of deductions from vendors’ account and since June last 2018, there has been no one illegal deduction. They get their monies intact and we Supervise them to ensure that they deliver the quality and quantity of food required for the pupils”.

“We needed to engender confidence in our capacity to run the programme. So we made sweeping changes and we changed almost everybody apart from one person, Jonathan Iorhembe who is a Pastor. The idea was to do away with the old brigade and that old mind-set to have new people and then re-orientate them on new ways of working and then we changed all the 23 Desk Officers. We have a robust partnership with the SSS across the 23 Local Government Areas who help us to monitor. So, there is no more corruption anymore in all the programmes, not just the school feeding programme.

Earlier in his speech, during the award presentation, Jechira United Forum President, Prince Terhemen Ikpum Zakpe, appreciated Dr Damsa for all the achievements and changes stated above.

“Those noble initiatives no doubt deserve commendation and recognition hence the basis of our conferring on you today the honour of Excellence Performance,” Prince Ikpum said.

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