At first they all thought it was a dream come true.Several unemployed young female graduates had applied, they were duly screened and 200 ladies were eventually chosen for the pilot programmes of First Lady, Patience Jonathan’s Lady Chauffeur Driving Scheme.To qualify for the training the prospective beneficiaries filled the forms,submitted their credentials and went through some screening by the National Directorate of Employment,NDE.That was how 200 unemployed female graduates were selected for the scheme.Nobody who already had a job or a car was allowed to go for training.
At the flag off of the scheme held at the State House in May this year by Mrs Jonathan, the beneficiaries were told it was a collaborative project with Abuja Leasing Company and the office of the First Lady.A top shot of NDE told Newsdiaryonline.com it was actually NDE that fashioned and go the First Lady into the programme.At the flag off Osita Chidoka ,Corps marshall of the Road Safety, topshots of VIO , Abuja Leasing Company and NDE were all there.
One of the chosen ladies told Newsdiaryonline .com during the flag off ceremony, the First Lady said “as she was talking, the vehicles for the beneficiaries were already on ground.Every benefiary would be given one vehicle,a Peugeot car worth N1.3millon .She said she was empowering women because it was her dream”.And the ladies thought the cars would be given to them free of charge so they begin to pay back instalmentally afterwards
After the flag off the girls went for the mandatory training at Aso Driving School in Abuja.But rather than being given the cars after the training, “we are now hearing of a new condition that we must pay N300,000” one of those who went through the training said. She further calimed that that even a lady from the office of the First Lady, when contacted ,told the girls to try and pay because nobody should expect the cars for free.Now the young ladies who are not well – to –do are smelling a rat .They fear some officials are plotting scheme them out .Since all of us have not worked before we are finding it difficult to raise the initial payment.That is why we are are now crying out” one of the ladies said.
She added “While we going for the training they we were not told that we are expected to pay any amount of money in order to be given a car which we were to use for commercial purpose and pay back between two and three years.We were not told initially we needed to pay money before being given the car.They said it was an empowerment scheme by the office of the First Lady.
Continuing the unhappy female graduate told Newsdiaryonline.com “Now it is like dashing our hopes.We were not prepared for it.In fact, if they had told us earlier, some of us would have possibly struggled to raise some funds but where do they expect us to get N300,000 just like that?
The girl who was close to tears at some point said, “well we accept their condition but they should reduce the amount for us.Let them be a little flexible because this is too harsh.Some us are struggling to feed.They should help us”
Newsdiaryonline.com contacted an official of NDE.The official who agreed to speak “under condition of anonymity because I was not authorized to speak to you”told Newsdiaryonline.com that actually the amount of money the ladies are expected to pay is N295,000.He explained that NDE actually signed the agreement with Abuja Leasing Company to facilitate the programme. He added that after the training for the ladies, Kaduna based ASD Motors came into the picture and offered to release the Peogeout 309 cars, 2006 model depending on how many of the girls passed the training.
The arrangement he said was that Abuja Leasing Company would release the car to each beneficiary after making initial payment of N295,000 for each car which cost N1.3million and each beneficiary would be expected to pay N31,944.44 monthly after taking possession of the vehicle.”
“ Ordinarily to get a lease for this sort of thing you would need to pay more than N600,000.That is the case .What has been given to the girls is a fair deal.Nobody is trying to shortchange anybody,” the official said as he insisted the cost of insurance,registration and tracking are all embedded in the N295,000 initial payment expected from unemployed the female graduates.
The question the girls are asking is where do the officials expect them to raise this sum of money from at a go?.And why were they not told much earlier so that they could struggle to raise the money?
So far the ladies and the official Newsdiryonline.com spoke with said none of the prospective beneficiaries has been able to make the initial payment of N2950,000.So who will bell the cat? The girls say they need help because what they though was a genuine an empowerment project has now become a source of frustration. “Some of us are already thinking of giving up for lack of funds”one of them said.
They are calling on the First Lady to truly come to their aid.Or will women affairs ministry come to the rescue of these hapless ladies?Only time will tell.