By Femi Oluwasanmi
Whenever the stanza of “the labours of our heroes past shall not be in vain” is mentioned in the national anthem of Nigeria, what comes to mind is what happens to the labours of our heroes present, especially the N-power volunteers that are about to be disengaged in the middle of the hardship occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic without any tangible exit plan after serving the nation for years.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development Ministry (HADMSDM), Sadiya Umar Farouq had on 30th June, 2020 congratulated the Batch A of the volunteers for the successful transition to an undisclosed next level of the programme and promised to complete the transition of the Batch B set by the end of July.
This obscurity prompted some of the beneficiaries to embarked on both online and offline protests demanding the fulfilment of the promises made by the administration before the 2019 general election especially, by the vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who stated categorically that government will not return the volunteers to the street empty handed.
Similar thing could be deduced from the president Buhari’s promise to uplift 100 million Nigerians from poverty in the next 10 years. However, looking at the approch of the HADMSDM in the ongoing disengagement of the Batch A and B of the N-power volunteers, particularly with the latest comment from the minister on the demands of the volunteers, it seems the government has changed its stand.
While responding to the demands of the volunteers on the exit package on July 24, the Minister had said that the government cannot pay each volunteer N600, 000 as exit package and that by the terms and conditions of the programme the exit of the two batches are not negotiable.
Though, this seems to be a great move because the federal government can not continue this “Modern Almajirai System” forever. But disengaging the volunteers without providing them better opportunity at this trying period in the global’s life where other countries are rolling out different types of palliative to cushion the effect of hardship occasioned by the coronavirus seems to be inhuman.
Due to the “lockdown policy” imposed by most countries of the world to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus, the level of poverty across the globe has drastically increased. In Nigeria, this lockdown has made many private organizations to retrenched their staff, and in some cases placed some workers on half salary pending the time the economy will rise again.
Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus, the National Bureau Statistics (NBS) in 2018 had reported that 23.4 percent of the Nigeria population are unemployed while 20.4 percent are underemployed. This is not to talk of other reports from different quarters showing an unprecedented increase in the curve of those living in extreme poverty.
For instance, the World Poverty Clock, had disclosed in 2019 that 92.1 millions of Nigeria population are living in extreme poverty. This must have increased looking at the effect of the lockdown on people’s sources of livelihood and disengagement from private institutions which is likely to receive a boost with the disengagement of 500, 000 Npower volunteers to an undisclosed next level programme.
Before the 2019 general election, those that were critical of the approach of the administration in handling issue like this have requested Nigerians to ask for the full interpretation of the administration’s next level agenda which was interpreted as the next level in progress, prosperity, job creation, among other things obtainable in the developed climes.
But with the ongoing disengagement of the N-power volunteers, it seems opposite is the case. Because, without good exist package the next level of most of these volunteers will be unemployment considering the impact of the coronavirus on most of the companies in Nigeria.
Though, at the inception of the programme in 2016, it was clearly stated that the beneficiaries will only spend two years but with the outbreak of coronavirus and the inability of the government to create a million job annually as promised by the president in 2015 which some of these volunteers would have easily transited to, the best thing to do is to continue to pay these volunteers their stipends till the government give them exist package to start up the business of their dreams.
Giving them exit package will fast track the effort of the government in rebuilding the nation’s economy and reduce the rate of unemployment which has made those that ought to be living in surplus to be living in scarcity and millions of our heroes who studied hard in school to be begging for #30,000 job per month.
Therefore, the Ministry should give the volunteers tangible exit package so that their labours will not be in vain because the world and the prospective Batch C are watching. Infact, the way the present Batches are treated will go a long way in achieving the goal of the programme especially, in the quest to revitalize the critical sectors of the nation’s life currently on the path to a moribund state due to lack of manpower.
Femi Oluwasanmi writes from Ibafo, Ogun State.