N-Power: Why FMHADMSD minister Sadiya Umar Farouq can’t do charity with public funds
The growing rate of social economic retrogression in Nigeria occasioned by youth unemployment indeed is something worthy of drawing concern from individuals and the government of the country so that the care of this endangered species would not be left to private charity alone. Even charity would become unnecessary if we as individuals and government are doing what we ought to do, should do and must do. Perhaps, maybe it was on this lovely premise and orientation that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came up with the Youth Empowerment Scheme, N-Power programme: a scheme set up since 8 June 2016, to address the issues of youth unemployment and help increase social development in the country.
The scheme was created as component of the Social Envestment Program, to provide a structure for large scale and relevant work skills acquisition and development and to ensure that each participant will learn and practice most of what is necessary to find or create work. Applicants were selected and placed is several places known as primary place of assignment (PPA) in their states of residence to contribute their skills and knowledge for national growth. They were to be paid specific stipends on monthly basis by the scheme for a two-year duration.
On 21 November 2016, 200,000 Nigerian youths out of the 350,000 that applied were selected which according to report from the scheme was based on their performances in an online assessment test. 150,000 beneficiaries were selected under N-Teach category, 30,000 under N-Agro and 20,000 under N-Health.
The Batch A started work in December 2016 and were to exit in June 2019 as they were supposed to spend 24 months on the program. However, On 19 June 2020, the minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, Sadiya Umar Farouq announced that the Batch A beneficiaries would be disengaged from the scheme on 30 June 2020. And so they spent 43 months.
The N-Power scheme currently had six categories; N-Teach, N-Health, N-Agro, N-Build, N-Creative and N-Tech. N-Teach and N-Health are available to only graduates who must have completed the mandatory one-year NYSC programme, while N-Agro, N-Build, N-Creative and N-Tech is available to graduates and non-graduates. In 2021, the Federal Government introduced another N-power category known as N-knowledge and, it is targeted at Nigerian youths. The aim was to help youths learn computer hardware skills that are profitable and employable.
On 1 August 2018, the Batch B beneficiaries started work in their various places of primary assignment. It was on 19 June 2020 when the minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq announced that the Batch B beneficiaries would be disengaged from the scheme on 31 July 2020.
After the disengagement of the batch A and B beneficiaries, the Federal Government through the minister, made the promise to establish an exit programme for the N-Power beneficiaries on entrepreneurship known as exit programme which has never been materialized up to this day.
A yet another day came and that was on 26 June 2020 when online enrolment for N-Power Batch C stream 1 beneficiaries commenced with more than 1 million applications in the online registration portal within 48 hours.
There were a lot of intrigues around the recruitment process and it took almost a full year if than more, for the recruitment to become an apparent reality. This was even as Batch C had a new twist as it was to only run for 12 months with two streams recruiting 5000,000 per annum And so the first stream reported to their place of primary assignment on September 4, 2020 while the batch C stream 2 beneficiaries commenced their deployment on 2nd September, 2022.
The Batch C 1 beneficiaries commenced deployment in early September 2021 to run for the period of 12 months. Before then, some hopes were lost both among observers and applicants. There was almost no convincing explanation from the ministry as what could have led to such a suspense.
It might not be necessary to replay the song on how epileptic the 12-month stipends were paid to the Batch C stream 1 but what remains logically unarranged and so disturbing is the fact that in February 2023, beneficiaries of the Batch C 1 who were supposedly exited in September 2022 as stipulated by the minister, reportedly received payments for the months of September, October and November.
Consequent upon this, rumour was rife that all the Batch C 1 beneficiaries were upon the payment supposed go back to their PPAs to continue with the programme.
However, the National Social Investment Management System (NASIMS), following anticipation that has been building by Batch C 1 beneficiaries came on its official Facebook page saying, “Latest stipend paid to N-power batch c1 an act of minister generosity.”
It went further explaining that exited N-power batch C1 Beneficiaries should kindly note that their program had long been completed in August 2022, but the Honourable Minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq, out of her magnanimous nature approved more payment for C1 beneficiaries, hence the said payment.
Now, one may wonder, since when has it become an individual’s purview to show magnanimity with public funds as it has been said of the Hon. Minister of Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHADMSD) Hon. Sadiya Umar Farouq is a highly cultured person with vast understanding and knowledge of bureaucracy.
It is the credentials of the alumna of Ahmadu Bello University that qualified her for the positions of overseeing National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), North East Development Commission, (NEDC), National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced People (NCFRMI), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the recently created, National Commission for People with Disability (NCPWD).
Sadiya Umar Farouq sits as the Chair of the National Social Safety Net Coordinating Office (NASSCO) management team. As Chair, the Honourable Minister coordinates and leads the team in developing the policy framework and implementation strategies of NASSCO’s mandate and programmes aimed at ending extreme poverty and the promotion of shared prosperity in Nigeria. Prior to her appointment as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, she was the Federal Commissioner of the National Commission for Refugee, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) from October 2016 to August 2019. She was the national treasurer of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, a position she held when an amalgamation of parties formed the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015.
Inarguably, a personality with such social profile like the minister of FMHADMSD must have also attained some level of economic status owing to her personal economic explorations and so cannot find it right and honourable to play charity with public funds. If she had for any reason decided to do charity for the batch C 1 beneficiaries from the NASIMS coffers as speculated such a reason must have been duly appreciated through bureaucratic process which Nigeria is known for. And if it were so, it is expected that the Hon. Minister takes to the mainstream media and speak on the issue in the full earshot of the masses as the public reserve the right to know what their leaders are doing. This she should have done not only as a responsibility but to also maintain transparency and integrity of her human person.
To conclude that the Hon. Minister’s act was an official duty however does not hold water as the last time it was checked, no beneficiary of the N-Power Batch C 1claimed to have received any additional payment to those of September, October and November which were paid in February 2023, meaning the Batch C 1 has not been thought any wiser to be elongated. Anything short of public address on this from the Hon. Minister can sincerely purchase nothing for her but a status of a reckless leader which she is not known for.
By Kaanti Ernen