The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, has given more reasons as to the indefinite suspension of one of the federal government’s National Social Investment Programme N-Power.
Recall that the minister had announced it’s suspension interview on Saturday.
The minister in a statement issued on Sunday, gave more reasons on the suspension of the programme.
According to her, findings revealed that some consultants were holding on to beneficiaries’ funds disbursed to them long ago, even when their contract ended in March 2023 without any renewal.
The minister also explained some beneficiaries had other jobs but were still benefiting from the payments, while those who truly worked were not paid.
She also said, “the programme was suspended because there was need to audit the number of people in the programme, those who have exited the program, those who are being owed, whether they reported to work or not, and how funds have been utilised over the period.”
The reasons were contained in a statement signed by the National Programme Manager of N-Power, Dr. Akindele Egbuwalo on behalf of the minister.
The minister also said the programme would be expanded to accommodate 5 million Nigerians in the next five years.
In addition to that, she also said the age bracket of beneficiaries would be reviewed to 18-40 years old as against the former practice where the age limit was 35.
The statement reads: “It is imperative to inform Nigerians, particularly beneficiaries of the N-Power programme across the country, of the temporary suspension of the programme.
“This action has become necessary to give room for a detailed investigation into the operations of the N-Power in the last twelve months.
“The total number of persons enrolled on NPOWER since inception to date is 960,000 people. Most of them have exited from NPower 1.0 and NPower 2.0 batch A and B.
“There is a need to audit the number of people in the programme, those who have exited the program, those who are being owed, whether they reported to work or not, and how funds have been utilised over this period of time.
“Recently, we discovered instances of programme beneficiaries whose participation has lapsed since 2022 but have remained on and continue to expect payments from the government. In addition, some beneficiaries must honour their obligation to the programme. They do not report to their places of primary assignments as required but still receive monthly payments. Some have other jobs and have left this bracket but are still benefiting from the payments, while those who truly worked are not paid.
“These instances have made the need for a thorough audit imperative, as we also look into claims of those being owed for up to eight to nine months’ stipends to ascertain the veracity of their claims.
The graduates & non-graduate volunteers Batch C1 & C2 are in this category. We want to establish the exact number of people owed and the total amounts, thereby eliminating ghost beneficiaries.”
On what has been uncovered so far, Edu said: “Preliminary findings of our audit have shown that some consultants are holding on to beneficiaries’ funds disbursed to them long ago, even when their contract ended in March 2023 without any renewal.
“We condemn this practice and will not tolerate it going forward. Work is ongoing to identify those involved, understand why the payments didn’t get to the final beneficiaries, and recall the funds to pay those owed.
“We appeal to Nigerians to understand the rationale behind the temporary suspension and investigation of the programme as we work to restore the nation’s confidence in the programme and for the new N-Power to serve Nigerians better. Things have to be properly done for us to move forward.”
On the age bracket and the number of beneficiaries the programme is targeting, she said: “This restructuring and transformation will also birth an expanded programme to reach beneficiaries aged 18-40 (the previous age limit was 35).
“We are targeting 5 million beneficiaries in 5 years at a pace of one million per year under the graduate and non-graduate stream.
“In addition, the restructuring will accommodate some new programmes, in Education, Health, Works, Agriculture, Technology, fashion, entertainment, and other relevant areas of skill acquisition and employability”.
The minister promised to earn the confidence of Nigerians in the expanded programme, as transparency and accountability will be the benchmark.