Adeniyi Somade and his wife, Gbemisola, live in Ado-Ekiti, South-west Nigeria. He currently works as an auxiliary staff at the office of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), while his wife teaches ICT at Christ School, Ado-Ekiti, one of the foremost secondary schools in Ekiti State.
In April, the couple welcomed their first child. The Somades said they owe a portion of their gratitude to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, for creating the environment that improved their lives and enabled them start their new family.
Mr. and Mrs Somade, both graduates of Computer Science and N-power beneficiaries celebrating their first child (1)
Both graduates of Computer Science, their relationship dated back to their days at Adekunle Ajasin University.
Without jobs, marriage was not top on the list for the young couple. Mr Adeniyi narrated how they felt frustrated by the Nigerian system.
"Rough and uneasy are the mildest adjectives to describe our terrible situation at that time," said 'Niyi, as he is called.
"After graduation and my National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) in 2012, I applied for all kinds of jobs and attended numerous interviews. But I was not lucky."
Gbemisola finished her youth service a year after Niyi's, and joined him in the labour market.
"We tried all kinds of petty trade, including selling kerosene," he said.
Fate eventually smiled on the couple when the federal government introduced the Social Investment Programme which targets half a million youth in the country.
'Niyi and Gbemisola were in the first set to apply for the N-Power component of the SIP.
"We were sceptical initially because we had Sure-P in the past," said 'Niyi. "My wife and I applied, but the programme turned out to give so much money to only an insignificant number of people. We did not get anything.
"Having concluded all the registration as well as the online and physical verification as applicants for the N-Power programme, it was like a joke when we suddenly received our first alert in December 2016," he recalled.
"We could not believe our eyes even though the N30,000 alert was clearly showing on our phones," he said.
With the constant N-Power stipend in the past over 15 months, the couple was not only able to save money to set up a little business, they also tied the nuptial knots.
"The steady income from N-Power emboldened us to take the step towards getting married and starting a new life.
The Somades had their beautiful daughter, Oluwafikunayomi (God had has filled up my joy), this April.
"Today, my wife and I no longer worry about what we eat, where we sleep or what to feed our baby with because we have a steady source of income," Niyi said.
PREMIUM TIMES, in collaboration with Buharimeter (a platform tracking the implementation of programmes and projects of the Buhari administration) recently assessed how the N-Power programme has fared in three selected states; Ekiti, Kano and Niger states.
The assessment reveals that the Somades are not the only ones celebrating the federal government's SIP. Thousands of Nigerians youth teaching in various schools across the country under the N-Teach sub-component of N-Power are in the same mood. However, there is apprehension among beneficiaries: what next after N-Power?
The SIP, 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 government in 2016 budgeted N500 billion for the SIP. However, as at May 16, only about N41 billion had been expended on the four programmes with the N-Power gulping N26 billion.
Under the N-Power which is the flagship component of the SIP, unemployed graduates of tertiary institutions are engaged in critical sectors like education, agriculture and health.
The SIP headquarters under the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said over one million Nigerians applied. But after a clean-up of the application portal, about 701, 000 were enlisted. About 200,000 graduates of tertiary institutions were eventually picked for the first phase. Those selected will receive stipends for two years under the N-Teach, N-Agro or N-Health sub-components.
Of all the SIP components and sub-components, the N-Teach is the most popular, due to the large number of youth deployed to teach in public schools.
The Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) criticised the programme. In 2017, the union said the government was trying to kill quality education by deploying unqualified teachers to public schools.
However, PREMIUM TIMES' checks in the three selected states reveal gross shortage of teachers in public schools; and N-Teach is filling the gaps in most of the schools.
According to James Atoke, the Vice Principal of Christ School, Ado-Ekiti, a precolonial secondary school credited with educating most of the elite of Ekiti, including the current state governor, Ayo Fayose, N-Power teachers have not only proven themselves as good teachers, but have also become indispensable asset.
The 34 years veteran teacher revealed that the N-power teachers even take up management roles in schools in remote communities due to the dearth of qualified or inadequate manpower within the education sector of the state.
Clearly, Mr. Atoke is not on the same page with the NUT.
"If not all of them, a majority of the N-Power teachers have mastery of the subject matter. They have not been found wanting also in the theoretical aspect of teaching. Especially the way they make use of teaching aid in classes; and that is actually very impressive.
"There is one of them who is a Physics teacher now, we have to keep deploying from one class to the other just because we don't have adequate teachers to cover those classes.
"The one that is taking Christian Religious Knowledge is a born teacher, who is very efficient and very punctual in her classes."
(Christ School Ado-Ekiti where N-Power teachers are mostly in charge of science subjects, [Photo credit: PREMIUM TIMES]
"We want more deployment of N-Power teachers in our schools and if possible we look forward to government making at least five of them permanent for us in this school. Because if they should leave, we will fall back to a situation where we would be lacking teachers", said the vice principal.
"Let me confirm to you that in some of the villages in Ekiti, it is these N-power teachers that some schools are relying on as managers of the school because there are no capable hands!
"Most of them are now functioning as vice principals and HODs in their respective schools."
LIKE KANO, LIKE EKITI
School administrators in Kano State also expressed the same view on the services being provided by the N-Power teachers.
Haliru Inuwa, the Principal of Government Secondary School, Daurawa said the eight N-Power teachers deployed to his school since December 2016 have been the saving grace for him and his students.
"We have eight beneficiaries of N-Power posted to my school here," he said.
"Most of them are handling core science subjects which most of the schools in Kano state are lacking generally. Yes, subjects like Mathematics, English etc.," said the principal.
"To our surprise, and against the earlier concern raised that they might not perform well in teaching, the N-Power volunteer teachers are not only committed to their teaching, but are also punctual."
He said N-Power teachers who constitute 26 per cent of his staffers make sacrifices to teach in both morning and afternoon sessions of his school. He said all the eight teachers deployed to his school had confirmed their proficiency in teaching.
"I have 22 teachers in this school and it is the deployment of the N-power teachers that increased the number to 30 teachers, which is even very inadequate."
At the Maryam Alloma Mukhtar Government Girls Secondary School (MAMGGSS), Kano, the management said they had nothing other than appreciation to the N-power teachers.
"We are immensely happy with the N-Power programme because the volunteers have been contributing their quota towards the education of our students here in MAMGGSS, Kano," said Mustafa Adam, a senior teacher.
"The NUT concern that these N-Power volunteers are not qualified teachers may be genuine but overtime now, they have come to prove us wrong in that regard. If you go to the classes, unless you are told you will not be able to differentiate between a mainstream teacher and an N-power volunteer.
"We have serious problem of manpower in our schools, especially in core subjects; so should this set of N-Power beneficiaries leave, we will definitely have serious challenges, because we don't have replacements", said Halima Garba, the vice principal.
Some heads of schools in Kano who did not get posting of N-Power teachers want the programme to consider their schools in the next round.
"We also want N-power teachers here and we need them badly", said a senior teacher at Government Girls Secondary school, Tarauni, whose school has only 22 teachers for 1,058 students.
Despite this glowing assessment of the N-power teachers, many heads of schools from Ekiti, Niger and Kano are really not pleased with the N-power National office which pay the volunteer teachers at the end of the month without seeking clearance from them.
The Principal of Christ School Ado-Ekiti, Christopher Ade, echoed this view, as did Haliru Inuwa, the Principal of Government Secondary School, Daurawa in Kano State.
"There should be a proper mechanism for checkmating the N-Teachers. Some of them still default classes or they do come late to classes simply because no one can sanction them from here. The N-Power office needs to give us the power of clearance before they pay them their allowances. By so doing, we can instill the culture of discipline in them."
BENEFICIARIES WANT EXTENSION
N-Power is an initiative with a sunset clause that wraps the scheme up after 24 months. The scheme is expected to deactivate the first set of existing beneficiaries' accounts by the end of this year as they were set up to receive N30,000 for 24 months. But most of the beneficiaries want their engagements made permanent.
Ajayi Fayokemi, a 26-year-old graduate of Computer Science from Adekunle Ajasin University, teaches Information Communication Technology (ICT) in the junior classes of Christ School Ado - Ekiti.
She told PREMIUM TIMES how the programme has been assisting her to fund her Masters degree programme, and also gave her financial independence from her aged parents.
"I was not under any form of employment after I graduated", she said.
"So I often sought the assistance of my parents for my personal needs and especially for funds to pursue my Masters programme. Paying my fees was a major burden on the shoulders of my parents.
"But having joined the N-Power programme, things became easy for me especially in the area of financing my Masters programme. And now my parents do not have to worry about my basic needs any more. N-Power monthly stipends has been a huge support for me.
"N-Power has turned around the lives of thousands of youth in this country and my advice is that it should not just stop here. Stopping it might not only mean depriving the people engaged in the scheme means of sustenance, but it also means taking the services they are providing away.
"For example, here in Christ School, Ado-Ekiti, there is an ICT laboratory that is fully equipped but not functional because there is not teacher to take the subject. But it has been my colleague and I handling the class since we came in December, 2016. That means once we are through with this programme now, it might means they don't have ICT teachers again, because you are not sure of the discipline of the next batch that will be deployed.
Same goes for Muhammed Ndaliman, a 32 years old graduate of Biology in Niger State, who said he was jobless until N-Power in 2016.
"As a family man, I revolve most of my activities, financially around that N30,000 stipend we collect monthly.
"A lot of people in the N-power programme rely on the stipend to take care of themselves and families, for which they are very grateful to the federal government. But it is not all of us that may be able to make savings or even invest on anything due to the pressure of demands.
"That is why we are calling on the federal government to consider absorbing us into the federal civil service so that we can continue to render our services to the nation."
Olalekan Femi who teaches Mathematics and Physics in Christ School Ado-Ekiti, said he was unemployed after he graduated in 2010. N-power gave him his first job.
"Things were rough and life was practically difficult for me as a young graduate. But that is in the past now. With the N30,000 stipend I get monthly, I have been able to save some money to start up some petty business which is equally helping me to take care of myself and aged parents.
"Our fear is what happens at the end of the programme."
Olanrewaju Ojorewa, who teaches Government also in Christ School Ado-Ekiti, said the scheme should go around to schools to find out their areas of need so that appropriate deployment can be made based on the gap analysis made".
Oluwayemi Emmanuel, another teacher at Christ School Ado-Ekiti said, "So far so good, my life has been improved, and I am happy. We give kudos to Mr. President."
Yahaya Ahmed Magaji, a 28-year old graduate of Mathematics from Kano State University of Science and Technology (KUST) Wudil, now teaches Mathematics in Maryam Alloma Mukhtar Government Secondary School, Kano. He said with N-power earnings he was able to set up a poultry of 300 birds.
Just like Magaji, Hassan Abdulkadir, a 26-year old graduate of Statistics from KUST, Wudil, Kano State also teaches in Maryam Alloma Mukhtar Government Secondary School, Kano. He said they volunteers were "seriously concerned" about government laying them off at the end of this year.
"We plead with the state and the federal governments to consider engaging the N-power beneficiaries permanently especially as we are all offering services in areas where there are gaps in the public schools."
It was the same concern for 26 years old Musa Dahiru Musa, a graduate of Geography from Bayero University Kano; and Sunusi A. Sunusi, a 32-year old NCE holder in Social Studies.
"I was lucky to join N-Power in 2016 and for the first time I became a salary earner", said Mr Dahiru.
"While my tailoring business still continues, I use part of what I save from my monthly stipends to set up a poultry business and even got one person working for me, while some part of the money I earn monthly also goes to payment of my younger sisters' school fees."
Sagir Adamu, 31, holds an NCE in English-Hausa. The N-power volunteer teacher at the Government Secondary School, Daurawa, Kano, wants two things from the federal government.
"When we are through with this programme, the federal government must not lay us off like that. It is either they retain us as permanent employees or they should give us some capital to start up some kind of business on our own."
In response to the beneficiaries requests, officials gave no indication they would be permanently employed.
The Ekiti State Director of NOA, Mr Famosaya, said though it will be a good idea for government to absorb all beneficiaries, doing so might not be easy.
"When we say something is a scheme, it means it has expiration period. The scheme is meant for two years for which the government actually planned. Then if after two years they say government should just absorb them in their respective places of assignment, we need to consider the financial implication of that on the economy."
However, the Niger State Director-General of N-Power, Muhammed Usman, said there is a possibility of government arranging an exit package for those concluding their time under the programme.
"The issue of sustenance is one of the areas we have looked into with serious concern," he said.
N-POWER IMPROVED STATES' ECONOMIES
The Director-General of N-power in Niger State, Muhammed Usman, said aside the social engagement of youth, the APC government of President Buhari has also used its SIP to boost the economy of states across Nigeria.
He said about 5,110 youth were engaged in Niger State and posted across the state.
"And for 24 months these people are going to be paid N30,000 each, which means about N3.7 billion injected into the Niger state economy", he said.
He said with another batch of 8,000 persons expected to be engaged, "Niger state stands to have a total of N5.7 billion injected into its economy by the Buhari administration.
On the concerns that some of the N-Power beneficiaries do not attend classes to teach, the Niger state focal person said a monitoring committee had been set up to check defaulters.
"We have set up a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) team which comprised people that will from time to time go round schools, hospitals and agricultural project sites where the beneficiaries are posted and monitor those posted in those areas," he said.
Although the Ekiti State Governor, Mr Fayose, is an unrepentant critic of the Buhari administration, recent findings by PREMIUM TIMES suggest N-Power is one programme his government supported
The Ekiti State director of NOA, Dayo Famosaya, said despite the difference in political differences, the SIP programme especially the N-power scheme was well received by the state government.
"The programme has been very successful in Ekiti State", he said.
"Many of the beneficiaries never believed in the programme until they started to see alerts. That actually made it a huge success because most of the beneficiaries said they now believe in President Buhari's commitment to reducing unemployment.
"What we are looking towards now is the second phase of the programme which was supposed to kick-start in December 2017.
"The first phase in Ekiti, we had about 3,200 beneficiaries. So if you are taking that figure of young graduates out of the job market, you can imagine what it means for the society. In the next phase, we have about 8000 candidates to be enrolled into the programme.
"Governor Fayose has really cooperated with NOA to ensure that as many as possible youth participated in the exercise."
In Kano State, the NUT still seemed not sold on the programme, despite the fact that it has been salvaging the public schools of its inherent manpower challenges.
When the state chairman of NUT, Hambali Muhammed, was contacted by our reporter for an interview, he was brief and dismissive in his response.
"We don't know anything about N-power in Kano because the government did not carry us along when they were recruiting the beneficiaries they sent to schools," he said.
"Besides, the N-Power teachers are not members of the NUT so, we are not in the position of assessing them. So we stand by the earlier position held by of our National headquarters on this matter. Thank you."
In Niger State, the NUT also holds some grudges about how the teaching programme was being carried out.
"We just woke up one morning only to see that government had deployed teachers under this N-Power programme into our schools, regardless the advice and warning we earlier gave.
"N-Power teachers are not our responsibility because they are not registered members of the union. I think the SUBEB or the Ministry of Education should be the ones assessing them, not NUT. Any attempt to give response as to whether they are doing well or not, we will not be seen to be doing justice to the issue because we have never assessed them in the classrooms.
"Until they are subscribed to us as a union, that is if government eventually gave them full employment, then we cannot accord them recognition".
The Niger NUT chieftain said he subscribed to the concerns in some quarters about posting "unskilled" teachers with higher wage to work in the same environment with seasoned teachers on lesser pay.
"What we must understand is that it is one thing to deploy teachers to schools to teach, and it is another thing to assess the quality of instruction they impart to the students. And paying this group of volunteer teachers above some of the mainstream teachers is even counterproductive because it will definitely dampen the morale of other qualified teachers"
He said it was to avoid turning the teaching profession into a "dumping ground" that the NUT prevailed on the government to revive the Teachers Registration Council so that "any one going into the classes to teach in Nigeria must meet all the requirements of a teacher to be allowed to do so".
However, the NUT official agreed that just like in states like Kano and Ekiti, there is gross inadequacy of teachers in Niger. He blamed the situation on teachers retiring with "government not making any provision for replacement."
This article is a product of a partnership between PREMIUM TIMES and #Buharimeter to fact-check the viability or otherwise of the federal government's N-Power Programme.
#Buharimeter is an initiative of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the Department for International Department (DFID).