Over one million Nigerians have lost their jobs under the N-Power programme of the Federal Government following the indefinite suspension of the scheme by the government.
The N-Power programme was established by the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari to address youth unemployment as beneficiaries were paid a N30,000 monthly stipend.
It is a component of the National Social Investment Programme put in place by the previous administration through the on-boarding of 1.5 million unemployed Nigerian youths (mostly graduates), providing capacity building, targeted tenured employment and structured of-boarding unto various career paths.
In February this year, figures obtained from the Humanitarian ministry in Abuja indicated that the programme had enrolled 200,000 youths in Batch A; 300,000 in Batch B; 510,000 in Batch C1; and 490,000 in Batch C2.
Although the number of beneficiaries who had exited the scheme could not be confirmed at the time of filing this report, it was gathered that virtually all enrollees in batches C1 and C2 were still enrolled in the scheme, representing about one million persons.
Many N-Power beneficiaries teach in primary schools across the country.
But on Saturday, the Federal Government announced the indefinite suspension of the programme and vowed to investigate the funds spent on the scheme.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, announced the indefinite suspension of the programme during a live interview on TVC News.
Edu said the programme had been marred by irregularities, adding that the government had launched an investigation into the utilization of funds since the inception of the scheme.
She added that some of the beneficiaries of the programme were not found in their places of assignment, yet they were receiving monthly stipends.
Edu also stated that some of the N-Power beneficiaries ought to have exited the programme in 2022, but were still on the payroll.
She said, “We must go back to look into N-Power and understand what the problems are; so we will suspend the programme for now until we are done with proper investigation into the utilisation of funds by the N-Power programme.
“We want to know how many people are basically on the programme right now; how many people are owed and the amount they are owed. We are restructuring N-Power and expanding it.
“There are lots going on. We met people who were supposed to have exited the programme since last year and they are still claiming that they are teaching.
“Sometimes, we contact the schools or the places where they are working and they are not there. They are not working, yet they keep claiming that they are being owed eight or nine months’ stipends. About 80 per cent of them are not working, yet they are claiming salaries.”
The N-Power scheme has been marred by irregularities as the humanitarian ministry had in a response to an enquiry by The PUNCH in December 2022 detailed how some of its officials were being investigated.
In the response, which was signed by the immediate past Permanent Secretary, Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, the ministry said it was aware of publications regarding ongoing investigations in relation to fraud allegations in the programme.
It said, “We wish to state as follows: the ministry has deployed a well-rounded mechanism for the selection of eligible beneficiaries from across the country and this has been in place since the inception of the programme.
“Working with our service provider, programme beneficiaries are on-boarded, trained and deployed to pre-selected places of primary assignment.
“When it came to our notice that there might have been sharp practices by some personnel of the payment service provider involved in the payment processes of the beneficiaries, the matter was immediately referred to the ICPC for a thorough investigation.
“We are aware that certain persons have consequently been invited for interrogation as part of the ongoing investigations.”
The former permanent secretary said the ministry had carried out thorough reinforcement of its systems to eliminate all anomalies and prevent similar occurrences in the future.
He added, “To this end, we are in close collaboration with the ICPC to support the successful determination of the investigation.
“The public may wish to note that in a bid to ensure transparency and accountability in the implementation of the N-Power and other National Social Investment Programmes, namely the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme and the Conditional Cash Transfer, the ministry has over time involved other government MDAs, security agencies and Civil Society Organisations in monitoring and compliance checks across the 36 states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory.
“We want to assure all N-Power beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s continued commitment to the programme and the subsequent exit/of-boarding channels activated.”
The ministry had also urged all programme beneficiaries to continue to apply themselves to their utmost at their places of primary assignment.
“All monthly stipends will continue to be paid in line with programme expectations,” the ministry had stated.
It also called “on members of the public to come forward with information on any irregularities noticed in the implementation of the National Social Investment programme” through some email channels and phone numbers at the time.