N-Power: What We Want FG To Do To Absconding Beneficiaries – Stakeholders
N-Power beneficiaries. Image: Powerhopes.com
Concise News reports that in a fact-finding investigation conducted by Premium Times in collaboration with Zeitgeist Aesthetics, a not-for-profit organisation on how the National Social Investment programme (N-SIP) has fared in three selected states: Katsina, Kano and Adamawa, the stakeholders suggested that the government should embark on stricter measures in handling the issue of absentees.
The assessment included interviews with officials, beneficiaries in various schools under the N-Teach, N-Health and N-Agro sub-components.
In Adamawa state, Asabe Jefe, from Aliyu Mustapha Memorial Maternity clinic popularly known as Yola Maternity Centre, shared her views about the ‘laziness’ of the N-Health volunteers posted to her health centre.
The 56-year old female health worker described the N-Power volunteers as ”thieves.”
”I do not know that she (a beneficiary) works here, the only one that comes is not even punctual.
“I do not even understand why they are here, and they still get paid for nothing,” she said in the Hausa language through an interpreter.
”What they are doing is no different from people who go around with guns and steal from people.”
Mrs Jefe, who is the principal community extension worker said she has two N-Health volunteers deployed at her clinic, a male and a female. She said, the female volunteer never comes to work.
”Although the other person comes, he is never punctual,” she added.
Asked what could be done regarding the truancy, she said: ”It is very sad because President (Muhammadu) Buhari designed this programme to reduce poverty and unemployment, and these young people have refused to come to work. I do not know; maybe they should stop paying them.”
Despite the various irregularities that characterise the scheme, it also has some level of success.
At the primary school section of Mustafa Government Day in Yola, Adamawa state, the Head Teacher, Samira Hummawa, told Premium Times that the N-Power volunteers have been punctual, ”but some do not come to school regularly”.
“I can tell you the N-Power teachers have added more impact to this school and the society at large,” Mrs Hammawa said.
”Before they (N-Power teachers) came, we did not have enough teachers in this school, but now they have been very helpful most of the classes are no more empty.”
In Katsina State, Mariam Salele, the principal of Lami Abba Community Girls Secondary Science School, in Kofar Sauri, a district in the state capital, said 10 N-Teach volunteers were deployed to her school, ”and all are punctual.”
She showered the N-Power programme with praises, thanking the federal government for introducing the programme.
Mrs Salele said: ”They (beneficiaries) are punctual, and enter their classes.”
According to Mrs Salele, in the past, the government did not provide the school with enough teachers, leaving them to go source for their teachers.
”Before, we just had four teachers from the government. Now the programme has helped us with ten N-Power volunteers in this school which they have been very helpful,” she said.
One of the many hurdles characterising the N-Power programme is the lack of adequate supervision by the federal government.
Although beneficiaries are supposed to be marking attendance on N-Power device received, this online news medium cannot ascertain its effectiveness.
Also, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) helps the government to provide a level of supervision for the project but the agency has its own unique challenges.
Manu Garcia, the NOA Yola North supervisor, told Premium Times that ”the agency is aware that some of the beneficiaries are going to work while some are not going to work”.
“We did mapping out of N-Power programmes, across the LGA areas, we have submitted the form to the N-Power office,” Mrs Garcha said.
”There was one N-Power Teach volunteer I called, telling her that the school principal reported that she has not been going to school, she responded that she thought it was a monthly N30,000 stipend empowerment programme,” Junadu Abubakar, the N-Power programme desk officer in Adamawa state explained.
Abubakar urged the federal government to create a special team within the N-Power office to help supervise the scheme.
”There are schools that are in remote areas that cannot be located easily to supervise,” he said.
”We are only limited to the metropolitan and use their private resources to move around.”
Meanwhile, Premium Times quoted the N-Power coordinator at Kano State Secondary Schools Management Board, Abdurra’of Madaki, as saying his office lacked the resources like vehicles to move to rural areas to monitor the volunteers.
“The ones that are deployed in the rural areas are still fair, they are punctual, but those that their place of primary assignment is located at the Kano city are not punctual,” Mr Madaki said.
He also lamented that he once enrolled some beneficiaries to a vocational programme ”just to keep them abreast in the labour market; in case the programme comes to an end to prevent over-dependence, but many refused to attend.”
The coordinator said he went further to get the beneficiaries identity cards as a means of identifying themselves and to weed out impostors and for their security but the attempt was rebuffed.
Meanwhile, Tunde Ajileye, a finance expert and partner with SBM Intelligence, said there is need for more supervision by the authorities to ensure the programme’s success.
“The N-Power is essentially the NYSC without the structure plus checks and balances put in place to ensure people stay in their places of assignment found in the NYSC.
“In spite of those structures, people still abscond during NYSC, not to then talk of a poorly designed N-Power.
“Why has the N-Power, which was meant to be an intervention, been rolled over with beneficiaries continuing? Of course, because the work is ‘decoupled’ from value creation. They see it as free money” he said.
The coordinator, Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), Olanrewaju Suraju, also urged the federal government to strengthen its evaluation team who supervise the N-Power volunteers.
”What the N-Power are doing is a disservice to the nation,” Suraju said. ”If such beneficiaries are getting paid but not discharging their expected responsibilities, it is a disservice to the nation.
”The N-Power should have monitoring/evaluation mechanism. I suspect that they do, they should remove such persons from the N-Power scheme and get serious people onboard,” he said.
The scheme currently engages no fewer than 500,000 youth graduates deployed to provide public health services in teaching, health, agriculture and tax and monitoring.
N-Power also engages another 200,000 non-graduates in training or on attachment to organisations as interns.