THE Federal Government of Nigeria recently announced an indefinitely suspension of the N-Power programme, citing irregularities in the scheme. Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, while making the announcement, disclosed that the scheme was marred with irregularities which include inappropriate utilization of funds, non-payment of beneficiaries, abscondment of beneficiaries, continued engagement and payment of beneficiaries beyond the two-year tenure among others. The Minister then promised that government would review, repackage, and expand the programme to accommodate more balnearies.
N-Power is a scheme set up by the former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration since 8 June 2016, to address the issues of youth unemployment and help increase social development. The scheme was created as a component of the National Social Investment Programme, to provide a structure for large scale and relevant work skills acquisition and development and to ensure that each participant learns and practices most of what is necessary to find or create work.
THE programme is designed to target Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 35 to acquire and develop life-long skills for becoming change makers in their communities. It is a community-sourced solution to the nation’s under-developed public services like education, healthcare, and civic engagement. Applicants are selected and placed in several places known as primary place of assignment (PPA)with a monthly stipend of N30,000 to all categories of beneficiaries.
THE N-Power is categorized into graduate and non-graduate progammes. The graduate programmes include N-Agro, designed to provide services to farmers across the country; N-Power Teach programme,geared towards improving basic education in Nigerian communities; and the N-Power Health Programme which deployed volunteers to provide care with a focus on preventative measures and the most vulnerable including pregnant women and children. The non-graduate programmes include: N-Power Knowledge, atraining to jobs’ initiative comprising N-Creative, N-Tech Hardware, and N-Tech Software; N-Power Build, an accelerated training and certification (Skills to Job) programmeengaging young unemployed Nigerians to build a new crop of skilled and highly competent workforce of technicians, artisans and service professionals in building services, utilities, construction, automotive, built environment services, aluminum and gas.
THERE are several batches of beneficiaries in an expanded social register that initially targeted just 500, 000 enrollees. With the initial Batch A in 2016 to Batch C in 2020, the N-Power scheme had accommodated hundreds of thousands of youths across the length and breadth of Nigeria. As of December 2020, the number of beneficiaries stood at 1 million while no updated figure of beneficiaries till date is found on the scheme’s website.
While commending the federal government for taking the new decision, The Hope notes that unless the flaws identified in the suspended scheme are well investigated and addressed, the proposed new brand may end up in the way of the former. In the old scheme, the objectives of the programme were not actually met as the scheme became a conduit pipe to siphon public funds. This is because over the years, it has been abused by operators who put their family members and friends as well as ghost participants in the scheme. Many of the participants violated the condition of their engagement in various ways ranging from non-appearance, multiple payments for one beneficiary, abscondment, and refusal to exit the scheme after the mandatory two years even after many of them had secured meaningful jobs. Some consultants also failed to pay deserving participants.For instance,
MINISTER Edu alleged that some beneficiaries who ought to have exited the programme since 2022, were still on the government’s payroll. She also claimed that about 80 percent of the beneficiaries absconded from their jobs yet were being paid salaries.All these could not have been perpetrated without the connivance of officials of the supervising agency. We therefore call for a wholistic investigation into previous activities in a way that those who might be culpable of some misdeeds should be brought to book.
THE failure of the scheme is long anticipated. Every programme without a database will crumble like a pack of cards.Nigerian government hastily responded to youth unemployment and simply threw money on them in the name of N-Power without proper planning. If government is serious about integrity, it ascertain the number of beneficiaries. Government should ensure that only those who are the real unemployed are included. The recruitment procedure must also be revisited and standardized. A situation whereby recruitment is subject to the whims and caprices of politicians whose lists are accepted as enrollees can never be insulated from corruption and manipulation. Government must therefore do a thorough homework in addressing the various flaws of the old before relaunching the new and expanded programme.