By Philip Omo
Social media has been in a frenzy since the Friday June 19, 2020 announcement of the transition of N-Power Batch A and B scheduled for June 30th and July 31st, 2020 respectively.
According to a statement released by the ministry, the N-Power programme will begin enrolment of Batch C beneficiaries beginning June 26, 2020. The announcement noted that the move is sequel to wide consultations and review and will provide an opportunity for other Nigerian youth to access the programme which is intended to upskill them for employability and entrepreneurshipin furtherance of the President’s vision of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by creating opportunities that will enhance their productivity.
The N-Power programmewas inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016 under the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) with the mandate of lifting citizens out of poverty through capacity building, investment, and direct support.
Quoting the Honourable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, the statement noted that“we have commenced the transitioning of beneficiaries from Batches A & B into government entrepreneurship schemes and engaging private sector bodies to absorb some of the beneficiaries after the completion of psychometric assessment to determine competency and placement into various opportunities. The Federal government is committed to the continuation and expansion and as such will now begin enrolment and onboarding of a new Batch of beneficiaries. Skills acquisition for entrepreneurship and job creation are critical for an economy that will require a boost post-Covid-19 and we are gearing up proactively for the challenge.”
So why is there so much hue and cry over the transitioning and imminent exit of Batch A (who have spent over 40 months instead of 24 months) and B whose 24 month tenure expires in July? This piece intends to address the fundamentals of the programme as a means of showing that the time has come for other young Nigerians to benefit from the Federal Government’s key social investment programme.
Why the hue and cry? The Batch A and B beneficiaries have been unusually vocal for one simple reason. They are young and internet savvy and as such are quick to resort to social media to air their grievances. But how germane are their complaints? Let us consider the N-Power Programme vis a vis the National Youth Service Programme. Both are youth focused programmes with clearly defined terminal dates. The N-Power Programme was designed to terminate after 24 months after which another cohort will be enrolled. Batch A was taken on in September 2016 but was not transitioned before the programme was domiciled under the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. The minister upon assumption of office decided to retain the Batch A beneficiaries for the sake of continuity and in order to fully study the programme. Nine months later and after wide consultation, the ministry has decided to transition Batch A on June 30, 2020. The transitioning was clearly defined in the design and Batch-A beneficiaries refusing to exit the programme would be akin to NYSC members refusing to pass out after their one year of service.
This will have wide ranging repercussions not just for the programme but other young Nigerians eager to access the programme and gain skills for employability and entrepreneurship.
How successful has the N-Power programme been? In his May 29th broadcast, the president commended the programme while stating clearly that – “our Social Investment Programme has continued to be a model to other nations.” With 500,000 beneficiaries already impacted in Batch A and B, many beneficiaries who tapped into the programme as a means of upskilling and becoming productive, have gone ahead to become gainfully employed or employers of labour.
What happens if Batch A and B are not transitioned? The fact is that the programme, as stated earlier, is designed to have a terminal date. So, if Batch A and B beneficiaries are not transitioned, there would be no opportunities for other young Nigerians to access the programme and it would not only defeat the purpose of the programme it will also rob other Nigerians of an important opportunity. The beneficiaries are supposed to gain skills that would prepare them for the job market or to become employers of labour and there are many success stories to back this up. Many under N-Agro have set up farms and some N-Power beneficiaries have become state aggregators for the National Home Grown School Feeding programme thus underlining the importance of the programme.
How will Batch C be different? Following a review of submissions and wide consultations which included a recent inter-ministerial meeting, the programme is being streamlined for effectiveness. To this end, Batch C will be markedly different from Batch A and B. First, to apply for Batch C, candidates must provide their BVN numbers. This is to ensure that gainfully employed youths do not also apply for the N-Power programme thus denying those who really need it. Secondly in fulfilment of its humanitarian remit, the ministry will also make special considerations for Persons living with disabilities under Batch C to cater to a special segment that makes up 15% of the Nigerian population.
Why is FG not employing the N-Power beneficiaries? The programme was designed to upskill beneficiaries in preparation for employability or entrepreneurship. Beneficiaries who pass the psychometric tests and are found suitable for employment will been gainfully employed while those who show aptitude for entrepreneurship will become employers of labour. The programme was not designed to absorb beneficiaries into the civil service.
N-Power and post Covid-19 Nigeria: The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on economies all over the world and Nigeria is no exception. Post Covid-19 nations will need to rebuild their economies and the enrolment of a new cohort of N-Power beneficiaries under Batch-C is a proactive step to prepare Nigeria for that reality. As the Honourable Minister noted in the press statement – “Skills acquisition for entrepreneurship and job creation are critical for an economy that will require a boost post-Covid-19 and we are gearing up proactively for the challenge.”