OPINION: Despite naysayers, Sadiya Umar Farouq keeps winning, By Onyema Dike

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I am not sure whether Umar Farouq, the youngest minister in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet listens to hip hop but if she does she must be familiar with DJ Khaled’s monster hit – “All I do is Win.”

While the self-effacing minister many not agree with the in-your-face braggadocio and thug life sentiment expressed by the quartet made up of Snoop Dog, Ludacris, Rick Ross and T-Pain, I wish to quickly borrow the title and refrain for this piece.

No minister in Buhari’s cabinet has been so attacked, harangued, traduced and vilified as Farouq but in spite of all the attacks, she continues to push forward, doing the work and earning accolades and plaudits along the way.

Many people have talked about her age as reason for their opposition. At 45 she is the youngest minister in the federal cabinet, but they forget to mention her experience both academic and career wise.

Sadiya Umar Farouq holds three degrees; a Bachelors, Masters and an MBA. Those three degrees aside from making her one of the most academically qualified in the cabinet, gave her a good introduction to public and business administration.

Ahh, she is educated all right but isn’t she too young to lead a freshly created ministry, nay sayers quipped but a look at her resume and the quick wins she recorded will show that she came prepared for this.

Sadiya Umar Farouq cut her teeth in Public Administration as Administrative Officer at the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC), Abuja in 2003 but it was her work as the Honourable Federal Commissioner of the National Commission for Refugee, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) that prepared her for the leadership role she now plays at her current ministry. As Federal Commissioner of NCFRMI, she successfully positioned the Commission as the leading government agency responsible for co-ordination, protection and assistance of Persons of Concern (PoC).

The mandate of the Ministry of , Disaster Management and Social Development covers impactful interventions for poor and vulnerable Nigerians, oversight over the management of disasters, both man-made and natural as well as social interventions and development.

So, Sadiya Umar Farouq was, as they say, in pole position to hit the ground running and as she commented in a recent interview – “It was challenging and exciting because we live in a fraught world but I was lucky to have come to the saddle with some preparation having served as Honourable Federal Commissioner at the National Commission for Refugee, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI). Now, working at the Commission was in many ways, my preparation for Minister of , Disaster Management and Social Development even though the ministry is a lot larger in scope.”

Upon assuming office, Sadiya Umar Farouq did more than evolve a blue print for running a ministry that has been described by a commentator as the “UN of Nigeria.”

She literally folded her sleeves and went to work but first she had to understudy in order to learn how to proceed. To do that she looked for a country in Africa where a similar ministry exists. Her search led her to Niger republic where a Ministry of Humanitarian Action and Disaster Management currently exists.

She paid a working visit to Niger as part of efforts to understand existing structures and to apply global best practice to the discharge of her mandate.

Upon her return she turned her attention to a burning issue the decade-long insurgency in the North East and how the inability of humanitarian actors to work in synergy was having a deleterious effect on their efforts. To fix that problem, Sadiya Umar Farouq quickly convened the Civil-Security Cooperation (CISEC) workshop. The objective was to bring stakeholders together to deliberate on ways of fostering understanding amongst humanitarian and security actors. This was to ensure a more effective and seamless delivery of humanitarian aid to affected communities in the North East.

Having inherited a suite of programmes, Sadiya Umar Farouq did not go the usual Nigerian route of dumping the old and starting out afresh. She instead chose to continue the programmes while reviewing and realigning them for efficiency and it was in so doing that she ran into what may well be the greatest headwind of her almost one-year ministry – N-Power Batch A and B beneficiaries.

What has Sadiya Umar Farouq done to keep her perpetually in the cross hairs of the N-Power beneficiaries? The quick answer to that question is nothing. She is just unlucky to have been entrusted with managing 500,000 young and boisterous people with a thing for hurling insults on social media.

The second answer is that the programme has experienced hiccups since being domiciled with the ministry; the most disruptive of which has been the constant delay in payments which came about following the federal government’s migration of all payments to the new GIFMIS platform.

The N-power programme, a key component of the National Social Investment Programme, is for Nigerian youth between the ages of  18 – 35 who are currently unemployed but ready to learn skills that would enhance their employability or detour into entrepreneurship.

The N-Power programme which is open to graduates and non-graduates (for specific segments) was 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. This effort is also expected to contribute to the administration’s vision of lifting 100 million people out of poverty by creating opportunities to enhance the productivity of the Nigerian youth.

The programme has enrolled 500,000 beneficiaries thus far – 200,000 from Batch A which started in September 2016 and 300,000 from Batch B which kicked off in August 2018. Of that number, over 100,000 have gone on to set up businesses in their communities, thus underlining the impact and imperative of the N-Power programme.

That impact is about to be felt again following the commencement of enrolment of Batch C. The announcement of a Batch C enrolment was greeted with anger and vitriol on and off social media especially by Batch A beneficiaries who despite having spent over 40 months (instead of the agreed 24 months) did not seem willing to make way for other youths to access the programme.

The application portal opened on Thursday June 26th and in 48 hours, despite rumours and speculations clearly intended to derail the programme, 1,000,000 young and eligible Nigerian youths had applied on the portal to show, clearly, that the N-power programme is one that many young Nigerians believe and want to access to help provide them with skills that would propel them further on their road to success.

The application process is still on-going but Sadiya Umar Farouq is already confident of a successful outcome as the tweets she shared on twitter seem to indicate.

“Of the 500,000 beneficiaries enrolled in Batches A & B, about 109,823 have gone on to set up businesses in their communities, underlining the impact and imperative of the N-Power programme.

I want to thank the outgoing beneficiaries of Batches A & B for their service. They have been worthy ambassadors of the National Social Investment Programmes and I look forward to many of them impacting the economy in positive ways.

As the Batch C application and enrolment continues, I await more success stories of positive impact from young men and women who remain the hope and future of this country.”


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