Will N-Power Scheme End Up Like SURE-P?
Attendees of N-Power training

With the recent incertitudes the Muhammadu Buhari government’s N-Power initiative is engulfed in, beneficiaries seem not to have 100% faith in the scheme anymore, this author observed.

From the Enhancement plan to the impact series, to the ‘N-Power Transition’, and trademark delay in stipend settlement (it’s now 50 days since the last payment was made), the handlers of the scheme only exhibit unbankable tendencies.

Since last year when the Federal Government announced a ‘big plan’ for some beneficiaries, the details are still vague.

Checks by Concise News reveals that the pioneer beneficiaries are worried that the Federal Government is yet to unveil the ‘big plan’ they claim is in stock for the beneficiaries when they announced the phase of the programme in October 2018. In fact, their scepticism heightened during the elections period as many felt the ‘N-Power Enhanced’ was just a ploy by the ruling government to garner voters’ goodwill.

At that time, the authentic pages of the N-Power announced thus: “To our 2016 Beneficiaries who have been anxious, we are excited to share some news with you. We won’t put you out in the cold. We have got you now and always. Stay tuned to our channels. ”

Then came the Impact Stories, this month last year – prior to the 2019 Nigerian General Elections too.

The competition – open to all N-Power beneficiaries – was a social media competition for beneficiaries to share the impact the scheme has had on them and on their respective communities.

According to the N-Power, winner, 1st and 2nd runner-ups from each state will receive attractive cash prizes. One beneficiary from the 36 states and the FCT will win one million naira each as first prizes while 1st and 2nd runner up in each state will win 250, 000 and 100, 000 naira each respectively.

Numerous beneficiaries obliged to the call then.

As well, till date, winners have not been announced!

Regarding the ‘N-Power Transition’, volunteers only stumbled upon the notification on the N-Power Volunteers Network (NPVN) dashboard. As this penman writes, there is no official statement to that effect.

Furthermore, volunteers only hear of Community Policing talks unofficially, no one among the N-Power bosses is making confirmation or otherwise!

The habitual monthly stipend delay in even most disappointing to volunteers as this is a money already budgeted for!

It is astounding how N-Power handlers demand 100% commitment from beneficiaries of the scheme, yet they are not reliable when it comes to remunerating these beneficiaries.

These beneficiaries have responsibilities to cater for – with that N30, 000 monthly stipend (approximately 83 US Dollars). The best thing is to let them know their fate and move on!

The present situation shows a semblance to how the dearth of the Goodluck Jonathan Administration’s Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Program (SURE-P) started. Workers across the nation were laid-off via text messages! Just like that!

The agency was embroiled in corruption of course. From a former Federal Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Clement Illoh Onubuogo who was sentenced to five years in jail over N14.1m SURE-P fraud to Ibrahim Shehu Shema, former Governor of Katsina State who was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on allegations of misappropriation of the sum of N5.7bn from SURE-P (although he pleaded not guilty).

As per a report by TheCable in October, recent developments have raised fears that politicians may hijack the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP).

On Friday, October 25, 2019, Maryam Uwais, special adviser to the president on social intervention was involved in a major face-off with senators during the budget defence of the programme.

Online journalists, generally viewed as “hostile” and “uncompromising” in government circles, were asked to leave the room — apparently to black out the impending development.

Umar Kabir, clerk of the senate committee on special duties, walked out online reporters — despite an invitation extended to the press corps by Yusuf Yusuf, chairman of the committee on north-east development, migrants and IDPs.

Shortly before the session commenced, the clerk asked journalists in the hearing room to introduce themselves and then said they did not want online media — who were there with other print journalists – because they were not “regulated” and “backed by law”.

The face-off was, thence, blacked out by the “lawful” media.

“My colleagues accused Uwais of shutting them out of the contract benefits and even appointments of vendors,” a senator told TheCable after the session.

“They threatened to deal with her using the budget process. They did not allow her to talk.”

Sadiya Farouq, the minister of humanitarian affairs, was however allowed to talk.

“Only the minister was allowed to speak during the session and she appealed to all the journalists present to go blank.”

The minister then spoke in a “cordial” tone with the senators, who were angling for “opportunities”.

The budget defence eventually went “smoothly” the following Monday.

What is the future?

Insiders have, however, expressed fears to that NSIP is now effectively going the way of many government programmes.

“The payment process to ordinary Nigerians that was perfected over the past four years has been disrupted. The ministry of budget and planning and finance has become powerless,” an insider said.

“The minister has failed to approve the payment of vendors of the school feeding programmes, and the N-Power beneficiaries too are still waiting for payment.”

At the office of NSIP, “you can feel the frustration of the staff” — according to another insider.

“Some of them have not been paid for months. While vendors and beneficiaries are yet to be paid, the minister recently applied to buy a generator for her office from the funds,” the insider further said.

“This request was queried by the budget and planning ministry as extra budgetary and illegal.”

All eyes are now on Farouq and co. to prove the Doubting Thomases wrong!