By Louis Achi
Poverty alleviation and productive youth engagement remain key challenges of modern economies around the world. Nigeria is no exception. Readily to be blamed is a poor enterprise culture. But genuinely concerned governments have responded appropriately.
Under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, carefully designed poverty alleviation programmes and skills acquisition projects are now major drivers of change. Conceived in 2016, they have assumed a multi-dimensional footing cutting across all facets of age group, educational strata and geographies. These are the N-Power Programme and other National Social Investment Programmes, NSIPs.
It is designed for both young graduates and non-graduates in order to harness their skills for innovation, entrepreneurship and productivity. The targeted sectors are education, agriculture, health, technology, creative industry, construction and artisanal industries.
READ ALSO: USSD: What happens to anarchy deferred?
Others SIPs are the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, Government Enterprise and Entrprenuership Programme, GEEP, under which Tradermoni, Marketmoni and Farmermoni are captured and the Conditional Cash Transfer.
On Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Abuja, the Federal Government inaugurated the third batch of the N-Power exercise on the National Social Investment Management System, NASIMS. NASIMS is the central management platform for the administration and coordination of national social investment programmes, NSIPs under the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. The inauguration was chaired by the Minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq.
According to Farouq, the inauguration is in continuation of the ongoing strategy by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to lift 100 million people out of poverty in ten years. She reminded the audience that Batches ‘A’ and ‘B’ had already been implemented, stating that the 500,000 beneficiaries will benefit in the first stream of the ongoing process for batch ‘C’, while the same number of Nigerians will benefit in the second stream.
Her words: “I am delighted that we are gathered today for the launch of the Batch ‘C’ on the National Social Investment Management System, NASIMS. The N-Power cluster, which is a combination of many sub-cluster initiatives, is aimed at providing opportunities in skills acquisition, competency building and entrepreneurship training among the poor for human capital development.
“The N-Power, Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme, National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, and Conditional Cash Transfer are undergoing series of strategic realignment and restructuring with the view to optimise their operations and maximise their impacts. Today, we have reached another milestone in the process of recruiting and on-boarding of the Batch C N-Power beneficiaries, beginning with 500,000 beneficiaries.”
From measuring the effect of N-Power in the North Central region, the critical impacts were undeniable. In Kwara State, N13.3 billion has been spent on N-Power beneficiaries as at September 2020. The 15,246 N-Power beneficiaries comprised Batches A and B who volunteered in the state before they exited the National Social Investment Programme, NSIP.
The Kwara State NSIP Focal Person, Bashirah Abdulrazaq, also gave a breakdown of the total expenses spent in a period of five years. She said the Batch A beneficiaries in Kwara State, who were engaged for a period of 42 months, gulped a total sum of N7.4 billion, while the Batch B beneficiaries received a total sum of N5.7 billion in 24 months.
Her words: “Non-graduates received the sum of N10,000 every month and were engaged for a period of 24 months with a total sum of over N24 million spent.” Also, about 10,000 people benefitted from the “Trader moni” programme in the state with over N1.3 billion disbursed to them.
Just last weekend in Benue State, the Federal Government disbursed N20,000 each to 2,900 women to improve their living standards. According to Sadiya Farouq, this complements the core N-Power empowerment of youths. Her words: “The grant is expected to increase income and productive assets of target beneficiaries.”
What obtains in Kwara, Nasarawa, Kogi and Benue are largely replicated in other peer states of the region: Niger and Plateau. In Nasarawa State, the Federal Government distributed tools and equipment to over 5000 N-power pre-apprenticeship participants in Lafia, to make them more self-reliant. This was confirmed by Alhaji Dauda Wase, the Nasarawa State Coordinator, National Directorate of Employment, NDE, while presenting testimonials and distribution of training tools and equipment to the beneficiaries.
The tools and equipment distributed to the beneficiaries were for masonry and tiling , electrical installation, carpentry, plumbing and pipe fittings, automobile repairs, catering, housekeeping, bakery and confectionery, among others. Each trainee was provided with a nourishing meal per day and the sum of N10,000 stipend every month.
In Kogi State, over 12,000 youths have benefited from the N-Power scheme. It’s worth repeating here that the NSIP is not all about N-Power. It also has the Conditional Cash Transfer (Household Uplifting Programme), Government Enterprise and Empowerment Program (tradermoni, marketmoni, farmermoni) and the Home Grown School Feeding Programme, HGSF.
The CCT programme directly supports those within the lowest poverty bracket by improving nutrition, increasing household consumption through a cash benefit of N5,000 monthly. Kogi State is one of the eight pilot states that started the cash transfer programme in 2016.
In the South-South region, remarkable results were registered. A study by Newman Enyioko of the University of Port Harcourt found that the major activities of N-Power programmes towards poverty alleviation in Rivers State generated empowerment for the youths in the state.
The study revealed that N-Power Programmes’ beneficiaries are mainly university and polytechnic graduates. It also revealed that the major factors affecting the implementation of N-Power programmes towards poverty alleviation in Rivers State include: Insufficient information, non-payment of stipend to participants as at when due, wrong bank verification number, BVN; overbearing hands of politicians in the programme, high transportation fare paid by the participants to work, website and internet hiccups. Going forward, the study recommended that the authorities concerned should promote rural development through N-Power programmes.
The N-Power programmes also impacted Bayelsa, Edo, Delta, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states, all in the South-South zone. The N-Power – Innovation Hubs Programme is a noteworthy innovation. Through this programme, the Federal Government plans to establish eight technology innovation hubs around the country with one in each geo-political zone. An early beneficiary, the South-South Hub, in partnership with the Edo State Government’s ‘Edo Innovates’ initiative, is focused on training the youths and supporting entrepreneurs with solutions across education, oil & gas, security, amongst other areas.
Achi, a veteran journalist, wrote from Abuja