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Published On: Mon, Dec 4th, 2017

FG’s Npower scheme derailing, faces imminent collapse – Investigation

By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA

The N-Power scheme, introduced by the Federal Government, as a social safety net to reduce the rate of graduate unemployment afflicting the country, is fast derailing from its original objective, and faces imminent collapse, Business Hallmark findings have revealed.

While the Federal Government, particularly its major proponent, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had on several occasions proclaimed the scheme a “massive success”, BH findings on the contrary indicate that the programme is derailing and may soon go into extinction like previous noble but badly administered programs like the ‘YOUWIN’and the Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) set up during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

It would be recalled that the Federal Government had in December 2016 kicked started the Npower scheme to specifically provide temporary employment for 500,000 unemployed non-graduates as well as graduates of tertiary institutions over the next two years.

The non-graduate component of the programme was designed to empower the beneficiaries with vocational skills.

Despite the promise by President Muhammadu Buhari to employ 500,000 youths into the Npower scheme shortly after he assumed office, only 200,000 have been recruited, less than 18 months to the end of his administration.

Numerous assurances by the Presidency that the non-graduates scheme component of the N-Power programme would take-off in July 2017, have failed to materialized, with less than a month to the end of the year.

“We are hopeful that by June/July (2017) we should deploy those ones in different batches across the country and FCT. So it is worthy of note that those who applied for that programme (non-graduates) should just stay rested.

“The fact that we have not deployed you doesn’t mean that we have forgotten you. We have all your details, we have all your contacts and we will deal with them”, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Job Creation (N-Power Scheme), Mr. Afolabi Imoukhuede, had disclosed earlier in the year

However, BH findings revealed that recruitment exercise is ongoing to recruit the remaining 300, 000 beneficiaries.

Apart from the inability of the Federal Government to provide jobs for the other 300, 000 jobseekers, more serious challenges are bedeviling the programme.

Out of the 200, 000 initial beneficiaries, 150,000 were posted to schools to teach, 30,000 to the agricultural sector and 20,000 to health centres. The current beneficiaries receive N30, 000 monthly stipends.

However, several months after their engagement, there are noticeable hitches in the area of remuneration. While the payments of allowances to the beneficiaries do extend into the second or sometimes third week of the following month, several have not received compensation for the work done since they resumed work.

Some of the beneficiaries, who are mostly adults, told our correspondent that due to the inability of the government to pay them their little stipend, they have resorted to taking loans from their neighbours and colleagues at work. This in turn, they argued, had turned them to chronic beggars and debtors.

According to one of them, Emmanuella Olabayo (not real names), who is serving as an assistant teacher at the Dairy Farm Senior Secondary School, Agege, things have been very difficult for her since she took up the Npower job.

“As you are seeing me, I am already old and not growing younger. I will be 40 years old by January 2018. I graduated from the University of Ibadan almost11 years ago at the age of 29. I took up this job, thinking it would be better after working for several years with a small private school in Ishaga as an assistant headmaster on a salary of N15, 000.

“But since joining the Npower scheme, things have gone worse. I have not received a dime since I started work in January. Though, I am also to be blamed for part of the problem. I opened the account I presented to Npower with my maiden name while I was serving as a youth corper. When I got married, I changed my surname to my husband’s name. That is where my own problem started.

“But even if I made a mistake, it is taking too long to remedy the mistake. I have done sworn affidavits, change of name, and wrote request letters to banks without success, In fact, I am fed up.

“The only thing that is keeping me going is my husband that is supporting me as well as the hope that I will be paid the arrears of the money I am being owed. There is also the hope that we might be retained at the end of the programe. Apart from that, it has not been a pleasant story.

“Some of my male colleagues have turned beggars and are in real debt, the average we spend to get to work and back home is N400 daily”, she lamented.

An official of Npower at the IfakoIjaiye Local Government Area Office, located at the NRC Building, Bola Ahmed Tinubu Way, off Fagba, Lagos State, who spoke with BH on the condition of anonymity, blamed the hiccups on insufficient information and wrong Bank Verification Number (BVN) supplied by beneficiaries when they were applying for work.

 

“The beneficiaries involved are to be blamed, not the government. They failed to provide necessary information while applying to be absorbed. For example, the Nigeria Interbank Systems (NIBSS) which provides the technical support for the programme identified several hiccups, including failure on the part of the beneficiaries to input correct Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) and other details to match the information initially provided for processing. Without resolving the identity problem, we can’t pay. But we are working on it”, he said”.

BH findings indicate that the unpleasant situation (unpaid allowances) is prevalent among Npower beneficiaries, with many of them threatening to abandon the scheme. Some have even resulted to breaking some of the laws of the scheme, an action that could bring dire consequences.

Checks by our correspondent show that some of the beneficiaries have started selling the free tablets giving to them to assist them in doing the jobs. The volunteers, it was gathered, were given the option of picking any of the nine device options available.

Some of the free tablets given out included – Brian N-Power iPad 1; Floss Signature Tablet; Zinox Zpad Tablet; Samsung Tab E; Afrione 2in1and RLG Tablet. The cheapest of the tablets given out to the first batch of the programme costs between N90, 000 to N120, 000.

The gadgets, supported by the Bank of Industry contains everything about the Social Investment Programme (N-power), training in various categories ranging from health to teach, to agriculture.

They also contain free tech training and empowerment that are not ordinarily free on some of the online programme offering the same topics.

Unfortunately, some of the devices are finding their ways into the market. It was observed during a visit to the popular Computer Village in Ikeja, Lagos, that some of the tablets are openly offered for sale to interested buyers.

Our correspondent was offered Samsung Tab E at N65, 000 and Zinox Zpad Tablet at the rate of N50, 000 respectively, amounts far below their market value. Our correspondent was given a phone number to call by one of the sellers after promising to come back for the Samsung Tab E.

The seller, thinking this writer was genuinely interested had continued to call his line to come and pick up the tablet before another buyer shows up.

Worried by this unfortunate trend, the Federal Government, in its reaction, warned that N-Power volunteers caught or implicated in the sale of the programme’s tablets would be dismissed,

He reminded the beneficiaries that the devices currently being distributed to the volunteers were secured through an Asset Finance arrangement. He said the arrangement was made with the Bank of Industry (BOI) for 20 months by the National Social Investment Programme.

The presidential aide warned volunteers that the employment office had devised means to gather such information and data concerning sold or unutilized devices.

“Information reaching us is that some of our N-Power volunteers are attempting to dispose their device, we urge you in your best interest not to do so.

“The devices are to aid the continual learning and development of our volunteers, which seek to enhance their employability ready for the labour market when they exit the programme after 24 months.

“These devices are also their work tools as it would aid the discharge of their community functions in their primary places of assignment be it at the Public Schools, Primary Health Centres or the Agriculture Development Farm Settlements.

“In addition, these devices contain global knowledge content contributed by some of our global partners such as Cisco, Google, Microsoft on ICT, Leadership and Entrepreneurship for their continuous development.

“Once caught, you would not only be dismissed from the programme, you would be blacklisted from other federal government’s social Investment Programmes.

“A lien would also be placed on your bank accounts for the full refund of the asset cost to the Bank of Industry,” warned the Presidential Aide on Job Creation and Youth Empowerment, Mr. Afolabi Imoukhuede.

Another shortcoming noticed about the Npower scheme is that many volunteers stay away from work without being reprimand by their supervisors who are also not up to the tasks of monitoring them. Those that show up for work, particularly volunteers in the agricultural and health sector sit idle in the office like normal civil servants without going to the fields.

According to the champions of the scheme, the N-Power Agro volunteers are expected to function as intermediaries between research and farmers. They are supposed to operate as facilitators and communicators, helping farmers in their decision-making and ensuring that appropriate knowledge is implemented to obtain the best results on farms.

Young graduates in the N-Power Health programmeare to teach preventive health to community members including pregnant women, children, families and individuals. They were also trained to provide basic diagnostic services.

However, findings revealed that the reverse is the case. Most of these volunteers in the health and agricultural sectors sit in the office doing nothing until month end when they get paid for doing nothing.

The same situation was witnessed during a visit to the Ijaiye-Ojokoro Health centre located on Temple Road. A senior health worker at the centre disclosed that what our correspondent witnessed has become a routine being repeated from month to month.

Another major problem bedeviling the Npower scheme is the existence of beneficiaries who collect salary without working.

Presidential Aide on Job creation, Mr. Afolabi Imoukhuede, disclosed that special monitoring team of the scheme is aware of the fact that some volunteers have been getting the stipends without work.

He disclosed that 17 of the ghost Npower volunteers have been penciled down for prosecution to serve as deterrent to others.

 

 

 

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