Bukola Saraki, President of the 8th Senate, has described the Trader Moni initiatives of the All Progressive Congress (APC) led federal government as sophisticated vote buying.
Mr Saraki made the description on Friday while declaring open the presidential campaign council of Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2019 presidential election.
Vote buying, a corrupt election practice, occurs when those eligible to vote in an election exchange their votes for monetary gains or services.
Trader Moni, launched under the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) in August is meant to empower two million petty traders across the country before the year ends.
The microcredit scheme would grant a minimum of 30,000 loan facilities to petty traders in each state and the federal capital territory (FCT).
The programme is being executed by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. The number citizen has recently been travelling across the country giving out the loans to those qualified.
The scheme was designed to help petty traders expand their trade through the provision of collateral-free loans of at least N10,000 which would be repayable within a six-month period.
Beneficiaries can get access to higher loan facilities ranging from N15,000 to N50,000 if they repay within the six-month loan term.
For the top lawmaker, “social intervention funds are for all Nigerians — they should not be used as a partisan tool. However, it goes without saying that Nigerians across the nation will not be deceived by “sophisticated vote-buying” techniques.”
He questioned the timing which followed the implementation of the scheme since provisions for it was made in the 2015 budget. Saraki also queried why those benefiting must give out their Permanent Voter Card (PVC) to be qualified for the scheme.
“The disbursement should involve all the parties because the money belongs to Nigerians but what I see is APC women leaders. It is wrong, morally wrong,” Saraki said.
“It equates in a way to a sophisticated vote buying, because if it’s not vote buy you should have been doing it since 2015, you got the budget in 2015,” he added.
The top lawmaker queried why the scheme was not implemented in 2016 and 2017 saying even when it was launched in 2018 those giving out the loans went with APC governors, women leaders of the party and were collecting PVC from beneficiaries.
“Look Nigerians are not going to be fooled. If you have been doing it since 2015, 2016, 2017 then you can say that but to us it is sophisticated vote buying.”
He advised that the federal government should carry other stakeholders along if the administration is sincere.
“And next time he goes out he should carry people that represent the communities and not just one party but Let them carry members of women associations, not only a party or political association,” Saraki added.