How widespread corruption destroyed Npower Programme, Preliminary Investigation Report reveals

The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation headed by Dr Betta Edu has revealed how wide spread corruption in the then Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development led by Sadiya Umar Farouq marred the objectives of the Npower Programme.

This is contained in a preliminary investigation report titled "Press Statement on the ongoing Audit and Temporal Suspension of Npower Programme" signed by the recently appointed National Npower Programme Manager, Dr. Akindele Egbuwalo, on Sunday, for the Honorable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.

Egbuwalo disclosed that the audit's preliminary report showed that, "the total number of persons enrolled in NPOWER since its inception to date is 960,000 people".

The Npower Programme which began in 2016 was said to have engaged 500,000 beneficiaries in the Batch A and B, as 200,000 Batch A and 300,000 Batch B beneficiaries, and 1 million beneficiaries in the Batch C, as 510,000 Batch C1 and 490,000 Batch C2, as widely announced during Farouk's leadership.

Purportedly, 1.5million persons were engaged in the Npower programme and supposedly benefited from the programme since it's inception in 2016 till date.

Egbuwalo further noted that "most of them [the beneficiaries who are among the 960,000 persons] have exited from NPower 1.0 and NPower 2.0 batch A and B, but were still enrolled in the Npower programme, and being paid.

"There is a need to audit the number of people in the program, those who have exited the program, those who are being owed, whether they reported to work or not, and how funds have been utilized over this period", he added.

The ministry also disclosed that "preliminary findings of the audit have shown that some consultants are holding on to beneficiaries' funds disbursed to them long ago even when their contract ended in March 2023 without any renewal". 

"We condemn this practice and will not tolerate it going forward. Work is ongoing to identify those involved, understand why the payments didn't get to the final beneficiaries, and recall the funds to pay those owed", the Ministry added.

Speaking on the lapses of the beneficiaries, the Ministry stated: "recently, we discovered instances of program beneficiaries whose participation has elapsed since 2022 but have remained on and continue to expect payments from the government. 

"In addition, some beneficiaries must honor their obligation to the program: They do not report to their places of primary assignments as required but still receive monthly payments. Some have other jobs and have left this bracket but are still benefiting from the payments, while those who truly worked are not paid

The ministry added that these instances have made the need for a thorough audit imperative, as they also look into claims of those being owed for up to eight to nine months' stipends to ascertain the veracity of their claims - the graduates & non-graduate volunteers Batch C1 & C2 being in the category, noting that they want to establish the exact number of people owed and the total amounts, thereby eliminating ghost beneficiaries.

Speaking on the way forward and the need to restructure the Npower programme in other to pave way for a more transperant and accountable Npower 3.0 to be launched soonest, the Ministry stated as follows:

"We appeal to Nigerians to understand the rationale behind the temporary suspension and investigation of the program as we work to restore the nation's confidence in the program and for the new N-Power to serve Nigerians better. Things have to be properly done for us to move forward.

"This restructuring and transformation will also birth an expanded program (Npower 3.0) to reach beneficiaries aged 18-40 (the previous age limit was 35). We are targeting 5 million beneficiaries in 5 years at a pace of 1 million per year under the graduate and non-graduate stream.

"In addition, the restructuring will accommodate some new programs, in Education, Health, Work, Agriculture, Technology, fashion, entertainment, and other relevant areas of skill acquisition and employability.

"To earn the confidence of Nigerians in the expanded program, transparency and accountability will be the benchmark. It shall no longer be business as usual as we make concerted efforts to put the nation on the right footing, ensuring that no one directly or indirectly unleashes suffering on Nigerians.

 "We assure all beneficiaries with genuine claims that we will resolve their cases once we complete the verification exercise and honor all valid outstanding obligations. Nobody will be owed."

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