N-power Exit: An escalation of Nigeria's Social unrest

The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian, Disaster Management and Social Development, on Friday 19th June, took a sudden decision of disengaging 500,000 N-power beneficiaries who were selected across the 774 Local Governments of the Federation, who have committed at least 2 years in Civil Service in the Education, Health and Agric Sectors of the Nigerian Economy, on a monthly stipend of N30,000 ($77.4).

On the day of announcing the disengagement, the country recorded 667 new confirmed cases of Coronavirus infection while the Country's COVID-19 over all cases were 19,147 Confirmed cases, 487 Deaths, 6,581 Recoveries and, unemployment rate above 23.1% as the Minister for Labour and Employment, Dr Chis Ngige fears it may rise above 33.5% percent.

Reactions have trailed the decision of the Federal Government to disengage the 500,000 volunteers in an era COVID-19 is ravaging the country and the world, and especially, as the exit plans of transitioning the exiting beneficiaries into Government entrepreneurial schemes and Private sector engagements are not clearly stated while a date for the recruitment of New beneficiaries has been fixed to commence on the 26th of June, 2020.

Some Nigerians are of the opinion that the disengagement came at a very wrong time of COVD-19 pandemic unless the Federal Government quickens an applaudable exit strategy for the exiting beneficiaries in order to avert severe social disorder that may follow the drastic decision.

The N-power program, established in 2016, is an initiative of the President Mohammadu Buhari led administration aimed at providing requisite knowledge and skills which would enable the graduate beneficiaries to excel above edge in life opportunities, and equally serve as a synergy between the trained beneficiaries and essential jobs.

The N-power program core design was necessitated by the evidence of low skills which stand against inexperienced young graduates in getting jobs, at a time even entry level jobs require at least 2years Job experience. It was meant to provide requisite on-the-job skills for the Volunteers, link the trained volunteers to available jobs and opportunities while ensuring that the volunteers sustain themselves in the course of the program through a monthly Stipend of N30,000.

The 500,000 beneficiaries were meant to undergo a compulsory on-the-job training where they were guided and supervised by the Heads of their offices, and monitored by not only their heads but also external syndicates who report at intervals to the Focal Persons in the States and the N-power team in Abuja under the leadership of Afolabi Imoukhuede, the SSA to the President on Job Creation.

More than 10,000 Beneficiaries of the program who defaulted while in the program, had their ‘accounts held on no work no pay’ and exited after 45 days upon their inability to prove that they have not absented themselves from their places of assignment.

The purpose of the N-power program was a pre-thought and followed a tireless commitment for it’s achievement, and for the liberation of the youths from the shackles of poverty.

Japhet Omojuwa in a review of the BookNever an Afterthought’, Private Sector Pragmatism to Government Idealism and the N-power Success Story  by Afolabi Sokpehi Imoukhuede, noted “the kind of corruption you would have expected from something that huge did not happen; Politicians did not have their way. They ran the Program so effectively, using a lot of Technologies, and there was never a time when things fell apart.”

Today, the 500,000 trained, able-bodied, ready-to-work, intelligent youths have been notified of the Federal Government’s intention to exit them to a shady destination, fearfully, the saturated street and job markets at time many economic activities have been shut down as a result of a world Pandemic.

Most of the beneficiaries who gave in their best commitments in manning the unmanned classrooms, Health Centers and Agricultural zones, Blocks and Circles are well above 33 years, an age termed unfortunate to get a job in Nigeria.

Some of the beneficiaries who were desperate to secure 'a one Million Naira Reward' for a best N-power success story, gathered unachieved stories and never were awarded such huge amounts. Today, there is a claim that more than 109,000 beneficiaries have established and running their businesses even in the midst of Coronavirus Pandamic that has crippled many businesses.

Glaring reality, age has forced many of these beneficiaries into marriage, with kids and a hopeful engagement at the end of their programs.

Many Nigerians are of the opinion that if the Federal Government intends to lift 1 million Nigerian youths out of poverty, it should reconsider a more proactive and effective approach other than sending the Batch A and B to an undisclosed destination.

Some inferred that if the Federal Government had trained the N-power beneficiaries in the area of entrepreneurship and empowered them with a sum equivalent to N30,000 in two years immediately after the Training, it would have been indelible in the history of Nigeria, and would have given them a huge opportunity of mentoring and employing other Nigerians.

But similar to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) where the Corps members are relieved after 1 year to wallow in unemployment, poverty and exposure to social vices after receiving a monthly Allowance of N33,000 ($85) [previously N19,000], the N-power beneficiaries who have passed through the peril of NYSC, faced hardship of unemployment and engaged by the Federal Government to survive on N30,000 ($77.4) monthly Stipends, would if not properly considered by the Federal Government, go back to face worse situations which would deepen the Country's insecurity, crime and Social vices amids a world Pandemic.

The stipend or Allowance of an N-power beneficiary or Corps member from a poor backgrounds is a peanut as he/she depends on it for daily transportation to work, daily feeding, changing of clothes and shoes, creams and pastes, soap and deodorants and sending money to their poor parents, with little or nothing to save at the end of each month.

In Nigeria, graduate unemployment is alarming. They constitute about 60% of the Nigeria labor supply market. They belong to the “active poor”; active because of the immense youthful energies at their disposal, and are poor because they are either jobless or have jobs that pay less than is adequate for decent living (Uwem and Ndem, 2012). Many of them live on less than $2 dollar a day. They are forced by the circumstances to work under poor, insecure and precarious conditions in the informal economy [Journal].

Graduates are intelligent and creative people with the ability to think critically (Gareth, 2011), and who compete for jobs in the domestic and global labor market places. Graduate unemployment imposes socio-economic costs; it is a waste of manpower resources, the investment in education and training is unused. This study defines graduate unemployment to include graduates of universities and polytechnics who are capable and willing to work but could not find a job or are discriminated against for lack of experience. In this category also includes graduates who have never worked, those who have lost their jobs and seeking re-entry into the workforce, and those who are underemployed or under disguised unemployment [Journal].

It is indisputable that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrests at least 10 youths aged 18-35, who are either graduates or undergraduates of tertiary institutions, every two weeks on internet related Crimes.

It is also indisputable that 98% of Yahoo Boys (Internet Fraudsters) in Nigeria, such as Hushpuppi and many others, are intelligent, ready-to-work but unemployed graduates of tertiary institutions; more than 60% Niger Delta Militants, more than 10% Boko Haram members and more than 70% Political thugs or ballot box snatchers are intelligent, ready-to-work but unemployed graduates.

When the 500,000 graduate N-power Beneficiaries were taken out of the streets, 500,000 potential Yahoo Boys, Militants, Boko Haram or other Social and Economic threats were disengaged from the street.

The era of engaging the N-power beneficiaries was also an era the prisons were decongested by 500,000 and millions of Naira saved from feeding weak prisoners.

The Education, Health and Agric Sectors witnessed a tremendous boost as this team of able-bodied, intelligent, ready-to-do young men and women were ready to work even beyond the working hours.

It is agreeable to infer that one can easily predict what would be the outcome of disengaging the 500,000 trained graduate N-power Beneficiaries without a meaningful means of livelihood to fall back on, in this era of devastating pandemic, economic downtime and untold hardship among Nigerians, and when parents struggle to eat twice a day.

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