Nigerians react as Federal Government disengages 500,000 Graduate N-power Beneficiaries amids COVID-19 Pandemic, insist exit plan unclear as grave danger looms

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 disengement, 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 Employement, 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 26th June, 2020.

Some Nigerians are of the opinion that the disengement came at a very wrong time of COVD-19 pandemic unless the Federal Government quickens an applaudable exit strategy for the exiting beneficiaries.

Reacting to yet-to-be-disclosed plans of transitioning the 500,000 beneficiaries into Entrepreneurship as stated by the Minister of Humanitarian, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouk, Nigerians state:
 Some Nigerians are of the opinion that the Federal Government did not root the N-power program in a bid to lift the youths out of poverty. 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, 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 Corp (NYSC) where the Corps members are relieved after 1 year to wallow in unemployment, poverty and exposure to social vices after recieving 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 a Corps member from a poor background is a peanut as they depend on it for daily transportation to work, daily feeding, changing of cloths 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 job 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 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 work force, and those who are underemployed or under disguised unemployment [Journal].

It is indisputable that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrests atleast 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 balot box snatchers are intelligent, ready-to-work but unemployed graduates.

When the 500,000 graduate N-power Beneficaries 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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