Nigeria

Nigerian government enlists fresh N-Power beneficiaries

The federal government has flagged off another phase of the N-Power programme for another batch of beneficiaries. But complaints have continued to trail the programme across states by some of the beneficiaries under Batch A and B who are reportedly being owed their stipends and cannot get the promised starter packs to become self-reliant, according to reports.

The N-Power Programme was created five years ago to address youth unemployment and increase social development. The scheme was created for unemployed graduates and non-graduates between the ages of 18 and 35. It is a paid programme of two-year duration, aimed at engaging beneficiaries in their states of residence. N-power gives beneficiaries jobs in the government or supports them to create a permanent business of their own. They work with federal and state agencies and are paid N30,000 stipend as salary.

But the programme which took off smoothly with steady payment of the stipend has come under flaks by the public, especially beneficiaries who have been crying blue murder that they are being owed a backlog of their salaries.

Beneficiaries who have also exited the scheme after their two-year duration elapsed, are also complaining that they are being owed some months of stipend as well exit allowance.

Findings also show that some beneficiaries are not being owed any stipend in some states, particularly Kogi.

Our correspondents gathered that the problem started since the payment procedure was changed to another ministry from the Office of the Vice President.

In Kano, several N-Power beneficiaries of both batch A and B said the government was still owing them their stipends for about four to five months.

In a chat, some of them complained that they were denied the stipends months to their exit.

We also gathered that while the government is owing some of the Batch A members four months stipends, it is owing some of the Batch B members five months.

Some of the affected beneficiaries disclosed that they had lodged several complaints at the office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) through the state focal person to no avail.

“The first time we encountered the problem, we were referred to an e-mail to take our complaint directly to the N-Power office. We did so, but they replied that they would get back to us. But unfortunately, we haven’t heard anything from them yet,” he said.

“After that, we were also directed to lodge our complaint

through the state focal person. We went there, they collected our details, yet we haven’t heard anything yet,” said one of the affected beneficiaries, Umar Balarabe.

Muhammad Aliyu of Batch B said the government was owing to him five months stipends. But despite following all the procedures to lay his complaints, there was no positive response.

He recalled that the plight started since the payment process was moved to another ministry from the Office of the Vice President.

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“Many of us have given up, including me. We did all that we were supposed to do. Yet, no sign of any positive outcome. The last time we heard from them was when the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs said she had finished with us and did not owe us. She said everything was now in the office of the Accountant General,” Aliyu said.

Similarly, many of the beneficiaries said they had given up on the promised starter packs (N-Exit package) from the federal government.

They are lamenting that the grim situation had worsened their unemployment status and lack of means of livelihood.

“It’s taking too long to get it; if they are really willing to give us. It’s not easy at all, especially because we were used to a monthly salary, but now living on zero naira. If they will give us, it will be a great development and will change our life. But now, they left us thinking when and how we will get the funds,” said a young graduate who married during the N-Power programme and is now struggling to survive.

Zaiyana Surajo is a Batch B N-Power participant in Kaduna. He lamented that as at the time they completed their programme in 2019, government was owing them five months stipends which have not been paid up till now. According to him, he was assigned to teach in a primary school but after some months, his allowances were stopped from August to December.

“I, with other colleagues, were no longer receiving the allowance and we didn’t get any information as to whether it would be paid or not,” he said.

Surajo added that they were not given any starter packs as promised at the beginning of the programme. “Some of us were promised laptops and phones but nothing was given to us,” he said.

He appealed to the Federal Government to fulfil its promise as many of them are still unemployed.

In Kogi State, a participant, Malam Husseini Amorley, however, told newsmen that government was not owing him and his colleagues any stipends. He expressed delight that the successful participants in the recently announced phase of the programme have started receiving their letters of engagement.

According to him, the category of the beneficiaries that were not owed includes the first group that were given Ipads, while the second category was not given.

“Government has paid. The government is not owing anybody anything. But while the first batch got iPads, the second batch did not,” he said.

Amorley said that a different category populated by non-graduates were supposed to be given the starter packs.

Kwara shares a similar situation with Kaduna as some of the beneficiaries lamented failure to get months of salaries after their disengagement. Other beneficiaries complained of not getting the starter packs earlier promised.

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According to Umar Ibrahim, a ‘Batch B” beneficiary of the scheme from Edu Local Government Area of Kwara State, they were disengaged with a promise that they would be given an exit package which never came. “In fact, the promise then was like the exiting package was underway but up till now, we’re yet to hear from them despite all our efforts,” he said.

“Some of us are yet to receive full payment. Some are owed three months, while others have lapsed into four months. Some of us didn’t receive the last batch of payments up till now. We were asked to upgrade some of the information on the portal. In fact, we were taken through hell and at a point, everything was abandoned,” Ibrahim said.

He added that the Batch A beneficiaries of the scheme were the luckiest after spending three years on the programme with their N30,000 monthly salary fully paid.

Another beneficiary who preferred anonymity said they had been told to choose a device from their portal but up till now none was given to them.

“Unlike Batch A that spent three years, we only spent two years and we were all disengaged together at the same time, despite the fact that Batch A was supposed to disengage before Batch B. We were told to be patient about the tablet device but as it is now, I don’t think anything is going to come out of it,” he said.

“The initial plan was that we were going to be transferred to another programme and not be totally disengaged. They even renamed our portal as ‘N-Exit’ and we were told to update some information just to assure us that we would surely be transferred to another programme. But they later said the government doesn’t have the resources to continue paying the two batches together, he said.”

He added that although no amount was said to be paid to them as a disengagement fee, they had received unconfirmed information that they would be given an exit package of about N300,000 each.

However, one of the coordinators of the programme in the state brought another dimension to the issue when he told our correspondent that though some of the beneficiaries might still be owed, others later got their months of unpaid salaries.

“The Batch B people that have not gotten their tablets might not get it again because I don’t think there are provisions for that again. But those who were owed months of salaries that were later brought to our attention were later paid after we followed it up. But I can’t say why their payments were not forthcoming in the first place,” the coordinator from Kwara Central added.

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