Nigeria: Buhari's Aide, Minister Disagree Over Exit Plans for N-Power Beneficiaries

2 December 2019

The Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Investments, Maryam Uwais, has denied the claim by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, that the National Social Investment Office (NSIO) had no exit plan for N-Power beneficiaries.

Mrs Uwais said the administrators had made exit plans which have not been implemented as discussions were still ongoing on many fronts. She also said she had briefed Mrs Farouq on those plans.

Mrs Uwais was reacting to a statement by the minister of the newly-created ministry, Mrs Farouq.

In her statement earlier on Monday, Mrs Farouq had said the retention of N-Power beneficiaries who should have exited was responsible for the delay of payment of the stipends of the beneficiaries for October and November.

Her comment was against the backdrop of rumours that the delay in the monthly payments to N-Power beneficiaries was because the government plans to drop them without an appropriate disengagement package for them.

The N-Power programme kicked off in 2016 with over 200,000 young Nigerians selected in the first phase. The beneficiaries were to have dropped out of the scheme after two years of internship.

In a press briefing on Monday, the minister lamented that the administrators of the scheme did not make an exit plan for the beneficiaries who ought to have "exited the programme 16 months" ago.

"N-Power beneficiaries enrolled in 2016 are yet to be exited 16 months after the elapse of their contract; they are supposed to have been graduated to a more productive venture; That the Ministry is currently making efforts to develop an exit strategy, which is non-existent," Mrs Farouq said.

But in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, Mrs Uwais itemised the various efforts made by the office of the Social Investment Programmes (SIPs) before and after the programme was moved to the new ministry under the leadership of Ms Farouq.

President Buhari in his Independence Day speech had announced the transfer of the NSIPs from the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to the newly-created Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development .

The presidential adviser said before the initiative was moved to the new ministry, she and the vice president met with the Ministry of Finance and requested for loans as a package for the beneficiaries.

"On the exit plan for the N Power beneficiaries, we have written the governors to see if they could employ some of them. We have got a lot of discussions with a lot of government agencies on the prospect. We even had discussions with IBM and they were planning to train them online."

Mrs Uwais, a lawyer, also said she had briefed Ms Farouq concerning the prospect of a meeting with the Ministry of Finance and that the minister had agreed to the plan.

She also said the NSIO had sent reminders but is yet to get feedback from the minister.

"We have had a meeting with the Ministry of Finance in the presence of the vice president and asked for a certain amount as capital funding as loans just to exist them (N-Power beneficiaries) through the GEEP programme.

"Soon after that meeting, we were relocated to the new Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. So I had briefed her of that possibility that we need to meet with the Ministry of Finance for this purpose and she agreed.' And I reminded her again last week.

"Unfortunately, nothing yet. I have not got a response from her. She is the minister, I have told her to get us an appointment with the finance ministry so we can finalise the issue of the exit plan because time is going.

"We are stalled because we do not know what the package is that we are going to give them," she said.

"So we have everything wrapped up. Except the conclusion of our appointment with the finance ministry, we cannot do much. So it is a bit surprising to me that she said we do not have any exit plans because I have briefed her that we did," she said.

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