Nigeria OP-ED 

Npower Controversy: Femi Oluwasanmi, Ibafo, Ogun State

By Femi Oluwasanmi

The recent manifestations surrounding the operation of social investment programme in Nigeria especially, the N-power scheme, seem to further justify the position of those who see it as more of political calculation than developmental pursuit though, the government claim that it is designed to uplift millions of Nigerians from poverty.

While lunching the Batch C of the Npower programme on the National Social Investment Management Systems (NASIMS) on 10th March, 2021, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya-Umar Farouq, had stated that the cluster is a continuation of the ongoing strategy by the President Buhari-led government to further position the youths for greater social responsibilities and inclusion. This sounds remarkable because it reignites the hope of the youths but seems to contradict the reality on ground.

For instance, in 2020 not less than four hundred thousands (400, 000) volunteers were disengaged from Npower scheme with immediate stoppage of their stipends at a period when other nations of the world were giving different palliatives to their citizens in order to cushion the effect of the hardship occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an attempt to silence those planning to protest this disengagement, the ministry rolled out different promises ranging from automatic transition to an undisclosed next level programme, securing loans from private partiners, creation of N-EXIT portal for the disengaged volunteers to update their data among others which up till date still remains at the next level of different stories.

Meanwhile, the vice president, Professor Yemi Osibanjo promised at the eve of the 2019 general election that the administration will not return the volunteers to the street empty handed. To further strengthen this position, the government extended the term of the the Batch A of the programme by some months with a claim that government is working assiduously to give them a soft landing.

Prior to this commitment, the president had during the electioneering campaign in 2015, promised to create one million jobs per year which many people think these volunteers will transit to at the expiration of their term under the Npower scheme before they were surprisingly disengaged without any exist package at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in June/July, 2020.

This disengagement raises questions on the integrity of those that promised to create one million jobs per year during the electioneering campaign in 2015 and the continuous claims of the government in the area of job creation. To be a man of integrity is to fulfill the promises made which was one of the reasons people voted massively for president Mohammed Buhari in 2015.

Unfortunately, this seems to be diminishing with the inability of his administration to absorb the batches A & B of the Npower scheme to the massive jobs opportunities the administration claimed to have created since the president assumed office in 2015.

Based on the promises made president buhari in 2015, by now the administration ought have created more than six millions jobs which would have convinently accommodated these volunteers. Unfortunately, what seems to be visible to everyone is the next level of unemployment and poverty across the country.

The recent statistics released by the National Bureau Statistics (NBS) shows that 33.3% of the country’s population are unemployed while the underemployed hands remains at the worrisome level.

No wonder the level of insecurity in the country continues to rise astronomically. It is of a general knowledge that where there is unemployment and poverty, there will surely be security challenges which seems to be the greatest threat to the soul of Nigeria today.

Hardly will a day passes in Nigeria today without the news of killings, kidnapping, and others which ought not to be heard in a sane society. It has gotten to the level where those with security details are even afraid of using land transportation because of the fear of kidnappers and terrorist organizations masquerading in different names.

This has degenerated to the level that the security post, stations and other security formations that normally serve as a place of refuge are now turning to a place of fear because of the constant attacks from criminal elements. Not too long ago, the media was awashed with the news of attacks on police headquarters and correctional centre in Imo State.

Though, these attacks have received different captions from those in the corridor of power and beyond but it further shows that the state is gradually lossing its value. The primary responsibility of a government is to protect lives and property which seems to be the opposite with the growing insecurity in the country.

Even, the place of learning is not left out in the rage of non state actors contesting the monopoly of force with the government. Some of the Chibok girls kidnapped at Chibok in 2014 are still in the Boko Haram’s dean despite the claim by the government that the sect has been technically defeated.

The same is the case of Leah Shuaibu. Infact, it seems the case is gradually being swept under the carpet with the continuous silence from the side of the government on the matter. If not for the prompt intervention of a cleric, the same thing would have happened in the cases of some secondary School students kidnapped in the recent times. Though, their release does not go without any form of ransom because the aim of every kidnappers is to make gain which could be in cash or, kind.

Kidnapping industry is flourishing in Nigeria because people are paying ransom. From the ransom collected more weapons are acquired for future operation. This is coupled with the availability of army of unemployed youths and out of school children across the country. The same thing is applicable to those fanning the ember of division.

The sound of seccession is getting louder because those leading the chorus have access to the unemployed youths helping them to spread their message (s) on the social media and in some cases helping them in organising rallies against the existence of Nigeria. Assuming that these people are gainfully employed, obviously they will not have the time to join those calling for the division of the country.

Therefore, there is need for the government to walk the talk by transitioning the over 400, 000 Npower volunteers disengaged last year to a platform that will make them contribute positively to the development of the country and stop recycling poverty and unemployment in the name of project count. So that the country can a better place for all.

Femi Oluwasanmi,
Ogun State.

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