Rumblings Over First Lady’s Scheme As Female ‘Beneficiaries’ Cry Out over ‘Dashed Hope’

By Danlami Nmodu

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  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 “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” 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 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  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.