The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu has given fresh updates on the decision by the federal government to suspend the N-power programme indefinitely.
She gave the update in a statement issued on her behalf on Sunday by the National Programme Manager of N-Power, Dr. Akindele Egbuwalo, noting that the scheme was suspended for audit and better restructuring.
Naija News recalls Edu on Saturday announced the indefinite suspension of the program, adding that the government has launched an investigation into its activities.
She stated that the decision to suspend N-Power was due to some irregularities within the scheme, adding the government has launched an investigation into the utilization of funds since the inception of the program.
According to the Minister, some beneficiaries are not found in their place of assignment, yet they expect monthly stipends. She added that some beneficiaries who should have exited the scheme are still on the payroll.
Shedding more light on the decision by the government on Sunday, the Minister said several flaws have been noticed in the scheme.
She explained 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 and some beneficiaries on their part now have full-time jobs but still collecting N-power allowances while those who truly worked were not paid.
Edu said the N-power scheme would be audited to determine the actual number of people in the programme as well as how funds are being utilized.
Apart from the investigations, the Minister revealed that the Tinubu government plans to review the upper limit on the age of beneficiaries to 40 instead of 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.
The statement added that, “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.”
Edu appealed to Nigerians to understand the rationale behind the government’s decision on the matter.
“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.”
“This restructuring and transformation will also birth an expanded programme to reach beneficiaries aged 18-40.
“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,” she added.
The Minister assured that it won’t be business as usual again with the N-power scheme while all those with genuine issues would have their cases resolved.
She said: “It shall no longer be business as usual as we make concerted efforts to put the nation on the right footing, ensuring that no one directly or indirectly unleashes suffering on Nigerians.
“We assure all beneficiaries with genuine claims that we will resolve their cases once we complete the verification exercise and honour all valid outstanding obligations. Nobody will be owed.”