The Politics Of Youth Empowerment In Nigeria – The N-Power Story

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N-POWER – Unemployment is one of the major issues affecting the economy of Nigeria and its society. The rate of unemployment has increased within the last few years due to the fallout from the economic challenges which made the nation’s economy insufficient for the ever-growing labour market.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria has witnessed eight consecutive rises in the unemployment rate since the 4th quarter of 2014.

The report further revealed that the country’s unemployment rate rose from 13.3 percent in the 2nd quarter to 13.9 percent in the 3rd quarter of 2016 alone bringing the number of Nigerians without jobs to 31 million as at September 2016.

Just as previous administrations made an effort to curb the issue of joblessness, the present government led by President Muhammadu Buhari has also come up with a social safety net to reduce the rate of graduate unemployment plaguing the country. One of these is the N-Power programme.

The programme is a part of the Federal Government’s 2017-2020 development plan – the Nigeria Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, NERGP, which identifies and prioritises the large-scale development of relevant skills for young citizens as a key driver of job creation and economic growth.

Specifically, the N-Power which took off in December 2016 is a job creation and empowerment programme under the National Social Investment Programme, NSIP, of the Federal Government, designed to provide a stopgap for 500,000 unemployed graduates of tertiary institutions over the next two years.

While the Federal Government is responsible for their monthly stipends, it is in partnership with state governments to verify selected unemployed graduates and deploy them to their places of primary assignment.

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The NSIP, which was part of the campaign promises of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, has four components. These are the Home Grown School Feeding Programme for public primary schools; the Conditional Cash Transfer to less privileged; N-Power for unemployed graduates; and the Government Enterprises Entrepreneurship Programme, GEEP, to encourage market women, artisans, traders, and others.

The Nigerian government had in 2016 budgeted N500 billion for the NSIP. However, as at May 16, only about N41 billion had been expended on the four programmes with the N-Power gulping the largest sum of N26 billion. Under the N-Power component of the NSIP, unemployed graduates of tertiary institutions are to be engaged in critical sectors like education, agriculture and health.

Over one million Nigerians applied. But after a clean-up of the application portal, 701, 000 were enlisted while about 200,000 graduates of tertiary institutions were eventually picked for the first phase.

However, of the 200,000 selected, “162,024 unemployed graduates have been effectively enrolled and validated-meaning they have been cleared to be receiving the N30,000 monthly stipend,” Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s spokesperson, Laolu Akande, said in a statement in May.

Those selected were to receive N30,ooo stipends for two years under the N-Teach, N-Agro or N-Health sub-components. But three months into the programme, it started facing different challenges, with about 13,000 participants alleging that they have not been paid their monthly stipend.

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This was said to be as a result of some systemic hiccups, including insufficient information and wrong Bank Verification Number (BVN).

According to the Nigeria Interbank Systems (NIBSS), which provides the technical support for the programme, failure on the part of the beneficiaries to input correct Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) and other details to match the information initially provided for processing are the reasons for the hitches being experienced.

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Investigations by Premium Times revealed that as at April, many of participants had not been getting their stipends even though they were duly registered and mobilised for their posts.

One of the unlucky beneficiaries is Abdulrazaq Muhammad who has been working since January.

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“I was deployed to teach Basic Science in Bauchi Central Primary School but N-power has not paid me because, according to them, I have problems of unmatched names on my record”, he said.

“My full name is Abdulrazaq Dahiru Muhammad but N-POWER only recognized Abdulrazaq Dahiru, so they said my details in the bank do not match what they have on their platform. And since then, they kept saying they were going to resolve it but up till date I have not been paid. I go to work every working day, and I find it difficult coping”.

The Bauchi State SIP Focal Person, Manu Mansur, blamed the hitch on the registration process. According to him, most of the applicants had not paid attention and did not give adequate information to the N-Power portal.

“They didn’t take time to ensure that the information they gave was in conformity with their bank records,” Mr. Mansur said in Bauchi.

“As you know, any payment from the office of the Vice President under the SIP has to go through the NIPS system. And that NIPS platform works in such a way that whenever information for payment are fed into to it, provided such information are contradictory, that payment will stand rejected.

“So, that was one of the most significant challenges that we faced.”

He, however, said issues associated with payments had been resolved.https://buzznigeria.com/nassarawa-state-university-keffi/

“From December to date, if any applicant does not receive any payment, that means the problem is with the applicant.”

The situation in Kwara appeared to be worse than that of Bauchi. Officials confirmed that all the 5,104 engaged had been mobilised and deployed to their places of primary assignments since December 2016.

A large number of them who spoke with Premium Times corresspondents in the first week of May lamented that they had been working without getting their stipends.

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Michael Aribisala, a 28-year old NCE holder, who had no job since he left school in 2009, said his initial joy at becoming a government worker under the N-Power scheme has faded because he could not get his stipend.

Mr. Aribisala, who was posted under the N-Teach category, said he was not given any clear reason as to why he could not get his stipend.

“No one told me I have any problem with my registration that may have led to me not getting paid. We applied online, where we forwarded our credentials and after that we did test examination online”, he said.

“It was after all these that we were picked as N-power volunteers. We received text messages that read ‘Congratulation you are one of the beneficiaries of N-power Teach’.

“I and others that are to work in the teaching line went to the state primary education board where they gave us a form which contains all our details, especially bank details.

“After about three weeks, we were asked to come and collect our posting letters and were posted to schools where we began to work as teachers.

“I have been teaching in my place of assignment since December but up till now, I have not received any stipend.

“They kept saying we had one verification or the other to do. But we have done all that. Even the National Orientation Agency (NOA) had all of us verified. We did all that we were asked to do.

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“I was posted to a school where I teach Basic Science and I go there every day to teach. I have to pay for my transport with money I collect from my relatives. Sometimes when there is no money, I trek to work.

“Sometimes I had to go without food to avoid being late to work. This is very unfair to us. A lot of us had to leave former jobs they were doing in private schools or some organizations that paid less to join N-Power, now we are working without pay.”

Salaudeen Abdulfatai, a 33-year old graduate of Computer Engineering from Ilorin South, said he registered for the programme in September last year and did verification in December. “I was deployed in January. But unfortunately, till date I have not been paid, likewise some other volunteers,” he said.

Mr. Abdulfatai said the most painful aspect was that he was teaching in a private school but had left because he was earning “not up to what the N-Power is paying beneficiaries. But here, we are stranded for nearly five months without a single kobo in our pocket.”

Yusuf Lukman and Abdulbasir Alabi also said they had not been paid.

The Kwara State Focal Person for NSIP, Solomon Ayobola, who is equally the permanent secretary in the state Ministry of Sport, confirmed that about half of the participants in the state were not paid in January.

“We had some challenges at the beginning and were unable to pay about 50 percent of the participants in January”, he told this newspaper.

“When some of them later approached us with complaints over non-payment of stipends, we had to go through their data to see what exactly the problem was. It was then that we noticed that some of them used their first names in place of their surnames. We also discovered some errors in the spelling of names which were tagged as unmatched names.

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“Some of them did not submit correct account details; some, their BVN number did not match their account number; some used names that are different from what they gave on the N-Power platform; some submitted account numbers that are dormant. So, we tried to correct some of these problems.”

Mr. Ayobola said after the corrections they were able to pay about 4,180 of the beneficiaries.

“We were left with about 1,000 names which we compelled Abuja to tell us the reasons why they are not being paid. They sent us yet another list especially those of the females who had their husbands’ names on their N-Power records while it is their fathers’ names they still bear in their banks. Some could not properly copy their BVN numbers.”

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He, however, noted that some of the beneficiaries’ problems may be difficult to resolve.

According to Mr. Ayobola, those who used their spouses’ names as their second names in opening bank accounts may not get any payment because of the conflict with their maiden names they used on the N-Power platform.

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He said the NIPS payment system used by the SIP National Cash Transfer office does not tolerate such discrepancies.

“It will be difficult for N-Power to change their names especially now that they have ended the process of verification of the first batch and we are about looking at the N-Power portal to take the balance of 300, 000. And a period of four months was given by N-Power to clear and verify all participants, which we have exhausted.

“This group of women beneficiaries would not want to go back to their banks to change their second names from their husbands’ to their fathers’ names. And N-Power cannot help them to do that. This group of persons does not constitute (up to) 0.05 percent of those we have registered so far.”

Mr. Ayobola said those not on the list of beneficiaries with registration problems had been referred to NOA office in Ilorin where they were re-verified and that a list of about 900 had been sent to Abuja for processing of their payment.

Similarly, Funmi Olowosulu, a participant who was posted to LGEA Primary School, Lokoguma, Kogi State, where she teaches, is yet to receive her monthly stipend of N30, 000 three months after enrolling in the programme, because of inconsistency in her personal details, as well as her Bank Verification Number (BVN).

Another beneficiary, Umar Abdulrasheed, who spends N80 daily on transportation to work, has also not received his stipend for the same number of months.

Additionally, he is indebted to his neighbours who usually bail him out of financial difficulties in the hope that he would defray same once his stipends are paid.

Like Abulrasheed, John Ogar, a participant in Cross River State, has not been paid his stipend, alongside his colleagues since they started work three months ago.

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The situation is not different in Rivers, Edo, Enugu and Kaduna states, where participants have protested and called on the Federal Government to come to their aid by addressing the numerous challenges facing the smooth operation of the programme.

A good number of participants in the programme are frustrated because their expectations were yet to be met, months after the programme kicked off.

Notwithstanding the hiccups dogging the N-Power scheme, operators of the scheme have assured of a seamless payment process beginning from April, promising that irregularities besetting the programme, including disparities in the payment of the approved stipends among others would soon become a thing of the past.

National Coordinator of the scheme and Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Maryam Uwais, said the government did not foresee the kind of challenges and discrepancies that have been thrown up in the scheme, as it believed that the entire process would be watertight.

“All of these things are being thrown up because of human factor because we have people who think they can manipulate the scheme, navigate the system and all of that. These are some of the things that delayed some of the payments. But we have put in place systems that won’t allow that.

“This is the very first time that we are doing something on such a large scale. And we needed to set up structures that are seamless. This is a new structure, and we are learning. So, it’s a matter of setting up those structures that are seamless. And then, this is like the third time that we are paying, and I assure you that by the time we are paying for the month of April, it will be better.

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“For now, majority of the volunteers have been paid. They are being paid based on the fact that they have been deployed and the states have come back to us to say they’ve been deployed.

“Once states get back to us, we send the information to the Ministry of Budget and Planning where our money is kept, the ministry sends the information to NIBSS and then NIBSS compares with the account number of the candidate,” Uwais informed.

On the discrepancies that have cropped ‎up in the course of the programme, she explained that measures have been put in place by the operators to address these challenges.

“First and foremost, we discovered that some people did not supply the right information. For instance, instead of Maryam Uwais, they wrote Uwais Maryam, and you know that technology will reject it, unless the name is right. So, we had to address that,” she said.

Corroborating Uwais’ submission, Afolabi Imoukhuede, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Job Creation and Youth Employment in the Office of the Vice President attributed the delay in the payment of stipends to the need to ensure that only genuine beneficiaries are paid.

He gave several other reasons why some of the beneficiaries were not paid including inefficiency on the part of officials handling the programme in various states, failure or inability of beneficiaries to interact with the N-Power portal, failure to submit themselves for physical verification and supply of wrong bank details and BVN.

“When the beneficiaries were applying, while entering their data, we asked them for BVN at that point in time,” Mr Imoukhuede told PREMIUM TIMES.

“Before we went into selection we had to cross-check the authenticity of the BVN, and we found out that some did not match the names of the BVN; and we tried to do a general check on the BVN and we found out that a certain percentage of the BVN were actually genuine.



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“After we had done the 200, 000 beneficiaries list in the first batch, we asked those concerned to go to the portal to put their BVN and bank accounts; that was when we started getting confessions from them.

“Some came to confess that ‘oga sorry o, it was my wife’s BVN that I used’; or ‘I borrowed a friend’s BVN’ or that ‘I just put any eleven digits to fill in the space’ and others even said they used their brother’s account because they did not have one.

“At that point when they realised how serious the programme is, they wanted us to give them permission to change the wrong BVN, and we said no; still put in your account numbers. I believe that they will be able to make changes. At that time it was necessary for us to check how many Nigerians that had made claims that were genuine”

Mr. Imoukhuede, who is also the special assistant to the vice president on job creation and youth empowerment, said at the time payment began in December last year and January this year, less than 50 percent of beneficiaries were paid.

He said President Buhari later gave an instruction that they should be given a second chance because it was the first time “we are doing something transparent because Nigerian are used to systems that allow cutting corners.”

Mr. Imoukhuede said, in order to remedy the situation, the N-Power Abuja office sent the lists of those with such problems down to the states, and instructed the state focal persons to help them collate all their updated bank accounts and as well as their BVN printouts.

On the issue of beneficiaries not being paid even though their names were not on the list of those with problems, as in Kwara, the national coordinator said such occurrence was an error on the part of the state focal persons.

He, however, said the problem in Kwara was not a good representation of efficiency of the officials handling the programme.

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Going forward, Mr. Imoukhuede said, proper terms of reference and job description for focal persons had been fashioned out to avoid the challenges experienced in the first phase.

The federal government on June 17, opened the N-Power portal for the second batch of applicants. About 290,000 applicants registered in the first three days, Mr. Imoukhuede said.

As more unemployed and underemployed Nigerians seek to join the N-Power beneficiaries, and despite the challenges faced by many, current beneficiaries who have no problems with their pay only have commendations for the Buhari administration.

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Must-Know Facts About N-Power

The N-Power programme is for young Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 35.

In introducing the scheme, the Federal Government provides a structure not only for large scale and relevant work skills acquisition and development; but also utilises a large volunteer workforce (graduates) to fix some of the problems in public services and stimulating the larger economy.

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With the Non-Graduate category (N-Power Knowledge and N-Power Build), young Nigerians are trained to build a knowledge economy equipped with world-class skills and certification to become relevant in the domestic and global markets.

N-Power also focuses on providing our non-graduates with relevant technical and business skills that enhance their work outlook and livelihood.

N-Power Goals

  • To intervene and directly improve the livelihood of a critical mass of young unemployed Nigerians.
  • To develop a qualitative system for the transfer of employability, entrepreneurial and technical skills.
  • To create an ecosystem of solutions for ailing public services and government diversification policies.
  • To develop and enhance Nigeria’s knowledge economy

Categories Of N-Power

1. Graduate Category

  • N-Power Volunteer Corps

2. Non-Graduate Category

  • • N-Power Knowledge
  • • N-Power Build

N-Power Volunteer Corps

This is the post-tertiary engagement initiative for Nigerians between 18 and 35. It is a paid volunteering programme of a 2-year duration. The graduates will undertake their primary tasks in identified public services within their proximate communities.

All N-Power Volunteers are entitled to computing devices that will contain information necessary for their specific engagement, as well as information for their continuous training and development.

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In 2016, through N-Power, the Federal Government engaged and deployed 200,000 young Nigerians in public primary schools, primary healthcare centres and in agriculture development project centres in all the Local Government Areas in Nigeria.

This has been the largest post-tertiary engagement of human resources in Africa. This year, 2017, the N-Power Volunteer Corps is enlisting 300,000 more volunteers to bring the number to 500,000 N-Power Volunteers as promised by the government.

N-Power Volunteer Corps covers the following aspects:

1. N-Power Teach

N-Power Teach Volunteers will help improve basic education delivery in Nigeria. Volunteers in this group will be deployed as teacher assistants in primary schools around Nigeria. They will not replace the current teachers, but will work as support teachers across Nigeria, assisting with teaching, school management and other functions within the schools. Where possible, they will also assist in taking basic education to children in marginalised communities.

N-Power Teach is open to all graduates. However, graduates that have majored in education (either at NCE or B.SC level) are encouraged to apply.

1a. N-Power Teach (STEM)

N-Power Teach (STEM) is a component of the N-Power Teach programme. Through this programme, young graduates with the skills and interest in computer programming and other related fields will assist in the implementation of the Federal Government’s STEM Programme for primary and secondary schools.

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Discipline Requirements

Post-tertiary qualification in any of the following courses

  • Computer Science
  • Computer Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Information Systems or similar courses

Preferred Skills/Experiences

  • Computer Programming
  • Computer Graphics Design
  • Computer Generated Images Development
  • Animation
  • Server Administration
  • Database Management
  • Networking

2. N-Power Health

N-Power Health Volunteers will help improve and promote preventive healthcare in their communities to vulnerable members of the society including pregnant women and children and to families and individuals.

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A. Discipline Requirements

Post-tertiary qualification in any of the following courses

1.Community Health Extension (JCHEW & SCHEW) 7. Health Education
2. Nursing 8. Environmental Health Technology
3. Midwifery 9. Microbiology
4. Medical Laboratory Technology 10. Biochemistry
5. Pharmacy Technology 11. Biology
6. Medical Records 12. Agricultural Science and other allied disciplines.

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B. Qualifications

Post-tertiary qualification in any of the following courses

1. JCHEW 6. RN
2. SCHEW 7. RM
3. NABTEB 8. B. Tech
4. OND 9. B. Sc
5. HND

C. Qualifying Institutions

Post-tertiary qualification in any of the following courses

  • Schools of Health Technology
  • Nursing Schools
  • Midwifery Schools
  • Polytechnics
  • Universities

3. N-Power Agro

N-Power Agro Volunteers are responsible for providing advisory services to farmers across the country. They will disseminate the knowledge that has been aggregated by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in the area of extension services. They will also gather data of Nigeria’s agriculture assets.

Discipline Requirements

Bachelor’s degree, HND or OND in Nutrition, Agricultural Sciences, Agricultural Economics, Agronomy, Animal Science, Crop Science, Food Science & Technology, and other agro-related disciplines.

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4. N-Power VAIDS

The Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) seeks to encourage non-compliant and partially compliant taxpayers to voluntarily declare their correct income and assets and pay the appropriate tax due to the government.

A minimum of 3,700 N-Power VAIDS volunteers will be selected to assist in attaining the objectives of VAIDS, working with the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Joint Tax Board.

The N-Power VAIDS volunteers will function as community tax liaison officers and will have the following key responsibilities which will include tax promotion, document review, record keeping, answering online inquiries, customer management, report writing, amongst others.

The Scheme is designed for 1 year after which N-Power VAIDS volunteers who have performed commendably might be offered job opportunities by the relevant tax authorities.

Others who remain on the N-Power Programme and have not secured jobs will be transferred to N-Power Teach to conclude the remaining 1 year.

Discipline Requirements

Bachelor’s degree, HND or OND in Accounting, Economics, Law, Business Administration, Banking &Financeand other allied disciplines in the social sciences.

How To Apply

Note that: 

  • The N-Power application portal will opened at a particular time and date which will be announced to enable all eligible Nigerians register.
  • Applicants are to note that the application process is completely free and there is no application fee.
  • Applicants are requested to read and understand all relevant information prior to applying.

Applicants should note the following steps:

1. Visit www.npower.gov.ng. Read up about the different N-Power categories so that you understand the category that suits you best.

2. Before you go on to apply, ensure you have a printout or accurate details of your Bank Verification Number, BVN, and a recent passport photograph.

3. Then click on the “N-Power Programmes” and select the programme you want to apply for- either the graduate or non-graduate category.

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4. Once you get on the application portal, you will be required to read the terms and conditions of the N-Power Programme and accept that all the information you will provide must be truthful and accurate.

5. Fill in your 11-digit BVN; then fill in your surname, first name, and middle name in identical terms to your BVN information; followed by details of your active bank account;

6. If your BVN details are inaccurate, you will not be permitted to go past this interface. If the BVN details are accurate, you will be allowed to proceed to the application portal to fill in all the personal information required and your academic qualification. You will receive a unique N-Power identification number.

7. Ensure to provide your own telephone number and email so that you can be reached directly.

8. You will also need to upload your passport photograph in either JPEG or PNG files in no more than 25 kilo bytes.

9. Before you complete your application, you will be assessed on your knowledge of grammar, general knowledge, and for N-Power VAIDS, basic numerical concepts.

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