By Dele Ademola
The N-Power programme of the Buhari administration was designed to engage unemployed youth with various levels of education to practice what they learned in school, sharpen their skills, earn a stipend and at the end, have a reasonable capital to float a business.
It was also aimed at developing a qualitative system for the transfer of employability, entrepreneurial and technical skills. And to create an ecosystem of solutions for ailing public services and government diversification policies as well as to develop and enhance Nigeria’s knowledge economy.
To achieve those desirables, the scheme comprised six diverse categories. The categories were designed to include as many participants as possible. The officially-published categories were N-Teach, N-Health, N-Agro, N-Build, N-Creative and N-Tech.
N-Teach and N-Health were exclusively accessible to graduates. Those enrolled in these categories must have completed the compulsory year-long NYSC programme.
The other four categories, N-Agro, N-Build, N-Creative and N-Tech are opened to both graduates and non-graduates.
Based on these categories, hundreds of households in all the 36 states , the Federal Capital Territory and 744 local government areas whose wards were enrolled in the scheme were delighted that the kindly disposition of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has reached them through the N-Power programme.
Although the N-Power programme was not totally free of hiccups, the first Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq and her team did an excellent job of smoothing the teething problems to the extent that a delighted Federal government expanded intake into the programme to one million beneficiaries from the initial 500,000.
Doubling the number of enrolees under the N-power programme from 500,000 to 1,000,000 was part of the Buhari-led administration’s objective of taking 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years through various schemes, including N-Power.
There is certainty that as a result of the stipend and skills acquired by many of the participants drawn from one million households, it is logical to say that countless Nigerians were lifted out of economic hardship.
A study by two scholars Odey and Sambe in 2019 on the impact of N-power on youth empowerment in Cross River State, the home state of the current Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, affirmed that the N-power scheme has significantly contributed to poverty reduction, enhanced financial empowerment and boosted skill development.
Although Dr. Betta Edu has suspended the programme thereby causing consternation among participants and their families, it is equally indisputable that trained teachers who participated in the scheme filled many vacancies for teachers in schools.
It is worthy of note that the N-Teach enrollees were trained by N-Power management in collaboration with the federal Ministry of Education before sending them to schools to teach.
The N-health participants worked in rural and semi-urban dispensaries and primary healthcare centres for the benefit of the under-served segments of the population.
Capital Youth said at its website that other benefits of youth empowerment beside getting jobs and acquiring vocational skills include, “Improved social skills; improved behaviour; increased academic accomplishment; increased self-esteem; and increased self-efficacy.”
In addition to expanding the number of enrollees, sending them to where their services made the most impact, the federal government in March 2022 approved N14 billion to defray the cost of training 50,000 non-graduate enrolees of the scheme.
As a mark of transparency, then Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar-Farouq said that the N14 billion would be used to pay four federal government agencies to train the non-graduates for the period of nine months.
The agencies engaged, which are under the purview of different federal ministries, were the National Institute of Transport Technology (NITT), the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism and the Hydraulic Equipment Development Institute (HEDI).
There is no doubt that the resources deployed for the N-Power programme, including the N14 billion for the training of non-graduate participants, was a beneficial segment of the Social Investment Programme that had positive impact on members of one million households from which the N-Power participants came.
President Muhammadu Buhari and the pioneer Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouk showed that it is possible for our political leaders to positively touch millions of lives as they did with the N-Power programme.