By Louis Achi

THE Federal Government inaugurated the third batch (Batch C) of the N-Power exercise on the National Social Investment Management System, NASIMS, on Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Abuja. NASIMS is the central management platform for the administration and coordination of the National Social Investment Programmes, NSIP, under the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

The inauguration was chaired by the Minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq. An elated Farouq told her rapt audience that the inauguration was in continuation of the on-going strategy by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to lift 100 million people out of poverty in 10 years. She revealed that Batches ‘A’ and ‘B’ had already been implemented, stating that the 500,000 beneficiaries will benefit in the first stream of the on-going 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 subcluster 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 optimize 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.”

Farouq further explained that the new batch will drive skills acquisition for beneficiaries, with the goal to ensure that they are economically active and possess the right vocational skillset to attract gainful employment when they graduate. The beneficiaries will be paid N30,000 each as monthly stipend. A pro-youth flagship social investment project of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration – conceived in 2016, the N-Power-targeted sectors are in the nation’s critical areas of needs in education, agriculture, health, technology, creative industry, construction and artisanal industries.

The programmes include: NPower Agro, N-Power Tax, N-Power Build, NPower Creative, N-Power Health, N-Power Teach, N-Power Tech Hardware and N-Power Tech Software. From tracking the impact of N-Power in the South-South and North-Central regions it was obvious that positive effects 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 indeed generated empowerment for the youths in the state.

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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, and overbearing hands of politicians in the programme.

Going forward, the study recommended that the authorities concerned should promote rural development through N-Power programmes. To varying degrees of success and often similar challenges, the N-Power programmes have also impacted Bayelsa, Edo, Delta, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states – all in the SouthSouth zone. A unique dimension is the N-Power – Innovation Hubs Programme.

Through this, 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 and gas, security, among other areas.

The hub is strategically placed alongside Microsoft, Cisco Academy, Slot Foundation’s training class and other similar organisations that feed the ecosystem. In addition, a branch has also been set up at the Tinapa Knowledge City, Cross River, Calabar. In the NorthCentral zone, the N-Power programme has recorded measurable impact too.

In Kwara State for instance, 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. Among the five N-Power components, education subcomponent is the most popular, due to a large number of youth deployed to teach in public schools.

Other popular subcomponents are agriculture and health. 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. Bashirah Abdulrazaq, however, regretted that the beneficiaries were not willing to repay the loan.

Meanwhile, in Makurdi, Benue State, last week, the Federal Government disbursed N20,000 each to 2,900 women to improve their living standards, Sadiya Farouq revealed during the inauguration of the grant for rural women project. Her words: “Our target in Benue is to disburse the grant to about 2,900 beneficiaries across all local government councils. The grant is expected to increase income and productive assets of target beneficiaries. It is our hope that the beneficiaries of this programme will make good use of the grant to generally contribute toward improving their living standards.”

•Achi, public policy analyst, wrote from Abuja

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