By Femi Oluwasanmi
Recent issues surrounding the operation of the federal government’s social investment programme especially, the N-power scheme, seem to further justify the position of those who see it as more political than developmental– despite government’s claim that it is designed to uplift millions of Nigerians from poverty.
While launching Batch C of the N-Power programme on the National Social Investment Management Systems (NASIMS) on March 10, 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. While this sounds remarkable as it reignites the hope of the youths, it contradicts the reality on ground.
For instance, in 2020 not less 400,000 volunteers were disengaged from scheme with immediate stoppage of their stipends at a period when other nations of the world were offering palliatives to their citizens to cushion the effects the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an attempt to silence those planning to protest their disengagement, the ministry rolled out different promises ranging from automatic transition to an undisclosed next level programme, securing loans from private partners, 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 stories.
Meanwhile, the vice president, Professor Yemi Osibanjo promised on the eve of the 2019 General Elections that the administration will not return the volunteers to the streets empty handed. To further strengthen this position, the government extended the term of 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 raising the expectation was that these volunteers will transit at the expiration of their term to something more permanent.
Based on the promises made President Buhari in 2015, the administration ought have created more than six million jobs that would have conveniently accommodated these volunteers.
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 remain at the worrisome level. 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 pass in Nigeria today without the news of killings, kidnapping, and others. 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.
Now, security posts, stations and other security formations that normally serve as places of refuge are now turning to places of fear because of constant attacks on them from criminal elements. Not too long ago, the media was awash with the news of attacks on police headquarters and correctional centre in Imo State.
The sound of secession is getting louder because those leading the chorus have ready pool of potential recruits from the army of unemployed youths most of whom help to spread their message (s) on the social media and in some cases helping them in organising rallies for the dismemberment of Nigeria. Assuming that these people are gainfully employed, they will not have the time to join those calling for the division of the country.
There is therefore need for the government to walk the talk by transitioning the over 400,000 N-Power 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. That way, the country can a better place for all.