Exited beneficiaries of the federal government’s N-Power scheme are still expectant of their promised empowerment fund. The estimated 500, 000 beneficiaries were withdrawn from the N-Power programme in June and July 2020.
Politics Nigeria recalls that Nigerian authorities announced in January that beneficiaries of the N-Power initiative who have concluded the two-year job programme can access permanent job opportunities or business prospects “in line with the N-Power exit strategy activated by the Muhammadu Buhari administration”.
Under the plan, the FG said 200,000 beneficiaries will be engaged as financial services operators under a Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF) scheme operated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Several others will have the option of benefiting from the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) micro-enterprise loans.
While the NEXIT portal was indeed opened to collate and process beneficiaries’ information in line with the government’s exit strategy, no disbursement has been made to any single disengaged graduate beneficiary, Politics Nigeria can authoritatively report.
Orioye Gbayisemore, a beneficiary from Ondo State, had confirmed, according to NAN, that many of his colleagues in his community had already uploaded their data on the N-exit portal while Mrs Vivian Nkiruka Nellys, another beneficiary in the FCT, said she uploaded her data at the end of December 2020 in preparation for the new scheme for the former N-Power beneficiaries.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Farouq, confirmed the activation of the Federal Government’s exit strategy for Batches A and B of the N-Power scheme at the 4th annual review of the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) earlier this year.
“Plans have been concluded for the transition of the N-power Batch A and B through the creation of the NEXIT portal, which would allow those who choose to sign up to access other government empowerment opportunities,” Farouq had said.
In a similar vein, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, had promised in an interview on Lagos Classic FM Radio programme that the Buhari administration will not abandon the N-Power beneficiaries.
According to N-Power exit strategy document, at least 200,000 former N-Power beneficiaries will be onboarded on SANEF while at least 30, 000 others would be deployed for the Mass Agric programme, a component of the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), and another number will be given opportunities to improve or start new businesses under a micro-enterprise initiative.
The SANEF scheme is a project powered by the CBN, Deposit Money Banks, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems, Chattered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Licensed Mobile Money Operators, and Shared Agents with the primary objective of accelerating financial inclusion in Nigeria.
Requirements for the SANEF programme include the N-Power certificate; Bank Verification Number; Bank account number; duly completed agent enrolment form from operator; proof of identity, among other documents.
Speaking on another programme for the former N-Power beneficiaries, a ministry official who explained the plan noted that the micro-enterprise initiative, the third programme under the exit strategy, is one where exited N-power beneficiaries are offered the option of applying for a proposed GEEP loan to fund their small businesses.
Yet, ex-N-Power beneficiaries are saying the government is not ready for them.
James Ekwerike, a former N-Power beneficiary commented on a recent post sighted by this reporter on N-Power Lagos Facebook page, “It’s over a year since we’ve been pushed back into the street, no hope… no effort by this government. But I have one word for them, until all exited beneficiaries are given grant or permanent job, Nigeria will suffer insecurity more and will become worst, unless each region separate and organize themselves and live in peace.”
Another, Bashir Yusuf Nakwakuti wrote: “There would be nothing good that could come out from this scheme under the leadership of this heartless disastrous woman (referring to Sadiya Farouq).”
Smith Onyeforo opined: “There is always light at the end of a tunnel, we are still waiting patiently.”