About 500,000 persons engaged in Nigeria’s social investment programme N-Power will have to look elsewhere for means of livelihood as the government is set to terminate their existing engagement.
Their current engagement, spokesperson for the humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development ministry Rhoda Iliya, said in a statement has contributed to “the administration’s vision of lifting 100 million people out of poverty by creating opportunities to enhance the productivity of the Nigerian youth.”
The programme has enrolled 500,000 beneficiaries thus far – 200,000 from Batch A which started in September 2016 and 300,000 from Batch B which kicked off in August 2018.
The beneficiaries were supposed to spend 24 months on the programme but Batch A beneficiaries have spent over 40 months.
“Both Batches will soon be terminated according to the (press) release for the reasons given in the (press) release,” Salisu Na’inna Danbatta, the special adviser on media to the minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development minister Sadiya Farouq told The Guardian on Monday.
The statements were signed by Iliya.
Iliya said in one of the statements that the current beneficiaries have overstayed in the programme “thereby denying other Nigerians an opportunity to access the programme and gain skills for entrepreneurship and employment.”
When eventually disengaged, the number of people that will be rendered jobless will compound Nigeria’s already bad unemployment figures.
The last official figures released by Nigeria’s statistics office put the unemployment rate at 23.1%. Labour minister Chris Ngige said that figure could rise to 33.5 this year.
Several beneficiaries in Lagos told The Guardian that there were rumours that Batch A may be exited any time after May and Batch B will be exited shortly after.
Although Illiya confirmed that the government is working on the exit for the beneficiaries, she did not give a specific date or month.
“The first and second batch, they are still working on their exit,” Illiya told our correspondent, “There is no specific date.”
The Underlying issues
N-Power beneficiaries have not been pleased with the administration of the programme since the management of the programme was transferred to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development in 2019.
They said all was well with the programme initially and that the former managers of the programme have started putting in place an exit strategy for them.
However, about 24-months after N-power’s launch, the sweet stories soon became sour to tell for these beneficiaries after Buhari announced major shifts in the Social Investment Programmes (SIPs) which N-Power is part of.
The beneficiaries through a group named the 36-states N-power Representative Forum in a letter to in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on May 22, said the minister has “inflicted enough pain” on them since the programme was transferred to her ministry.
They advised Buhari to remove Farouq as a minister and replace her with someone else that is “more competent, proactive and youth-friendly.”
“She is just not competent,” the forum president Kabiru Pelemi told our correspondent on phone. “She should be removed.”
In an April 13 letter addressed to Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Pelemi claimed the minister did not have “administrative control over the runnings of the N-Power Programme.”
“The two batches of the graduate category have experienced frequent late payment of monthly stipend compared to when the programme was under the Vice President’s Office.”
When contacted about the allegations, Danbatta simply said, “They can remove her.”
President Buhari during his national broadcast to commemorate Nigeria’s 59th independence in May 2018 announced that all SIPs will be institutionalised to the newly created Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development ministry where Farouq heads as a minister.
Buhari assured Nigerians that his government’s N500 billion Special Intervention Programme continues to target these vulnerable groups, through the Home-grown School Feeding Programme, Government Economic Empowerment Programme, N-Power Job Creation Programme, loans for traders and artisans, Conditional Cash Transfers to the poorest families and social housing scheme.
Prior to this, activities of SIPs were coordinated by a government Steering Committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo which comprises Finance, Education, Health, Agriculture, Trade and Investment, Youth and Sports, Women Affairs, Labour and Productivity, Information ministers to implement government’s agenda.
Nigeria’s budget and national planning ministry was NSIPs secretariat.
Buhari’s assurance was not enough to keep the running of these programmes as it was earlier as N-Power beneficiaries had to resort to writing open letters and holding protests before their stipends could be paid.
“The 500.000 beneficiaries nationwide will always have to protest before our 30,000 naira stipends is paid. Sometimes by the 3rd week of new/following month, since she (Farouq) took over power from the office of the vice-president,” Pelemi said.