Youth inclusion, empowerment through N-Power, other NSIPs in North-Central

On March 11, 2021, in Abuja, the federal government inaugurated the third batch of the N-Power exercise on the National Social Investment Management System (NASIMS). NASIMS is the central management platform for the administration and coordination of national social investment programmes (NSIP) under the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. The inauguration was chaired by the Minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq.

According to an elated Farouq, the inauguration was in continuation of the ongoing strategy by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to lift 100 million people out of poverty in ten years. She reminded the audience that Batches ‘A’ and ‘B’ had already been implemented, stating that the 500,000 beneficiaries would benefit in the first stream of the ongoing process for batch ‘C’, while the same number of Nigerians would benefit in the second stream.

Her words: “I am delighted that we are gathered today for the launch of the Batch ‘C’ on the National Social Investment Management System (NASIMS). The N-Power cluster, which is a combination of many sub-cluster initiatives, is aimed at providing opportunities in skills acquisition, competency building, and entrepreneurship training among the poor for human capital development.
“The N-Power, Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme, National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, and Conditional Cash Transfer are undergoing a series of strategic realignment and restructuring with the view to optimising their operations and maximising their impacts. Today, we have reached another milestone in the process of recruiting and onboarding of the Batch C N-Power beneficiaries, beginning with 500,000 beneficiaries.”

Farouq explained that the new batch would drive skills acquisition for beneficiaries, with the goal to ensure that they are economically active and possess the right vocational skillset to attract gainful employment when they graduate.
Furthermore, according to the Minister, the beneficiaries would be paid N30,000 each as monthly stipend, adding that the scheme would increase national employment indices and ensure the productive engagement of millions of youths.

 “It would reflate and stimulate the economy, since the beneficiaries will be paid a stipend of N30,000 per month, thus improving their disposable income levels as well as positioning them as better economic agents,” she said.
“To ensure transparency, institutional memory and dynamic impact assessment of the N-Power cluster, it will now be administered through the NASIMS, designed to optimise and complement the structural reforms of NSIP and other activities of the ministry.”Fundamentally, poverty alleviation and productive youth engagement remain major challenges of modern economies around the world today. Nigeria is no exception. As a result of poor enterprise culture, the current, carefully designed poverty alleviation programmes and skills acquisition projects in Nigeria are now major drivers of change. They have assumed a multi-dimensional footing, cutting across all facets of age groups, educational strata and geographies.
The current N-Power, one of the Special Intervention Projects (SIPs), is a unique job creation and empowerment initiative of the federal government, conceived by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. It is designed for both young graduates and non-graduates in order to harness their skills for innovation, entrepreneurship and productivity. The targeted sectors are in Nigeria’s critical areas of needs in education, agriculture, health, technology, creative industry, construction and artisanal industries.

The SIP is the largest and most ambitious social safety net programme in the history of Nigeria, with 12 million direct beneficiaries so far: 500,000 N-Power beneficiaries currently enrolled and have been deployed and are receiving N30,000 in monthly stipends. Having successfully trained and fledged Batch-A and Batch-B, the Ministry inaugurated Batch-C participants recently.
It is worth further clarifying that the N-Power is a flagship component of the federal government’s Social Investment Programme (SIP). Others are the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, Government Enterprise and Entrprenuership Programme (GEEP) under which Tradermoni, Marketmoni and farmer moni are captured and the Conditional Cash Transfer. But the most commented about is probably the N-POWER because the beneficiaries are largely graduate youths who are very active on the Social Media.
The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, led by the Honourable Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq, supervises the important N-Power programme. According to Umar Farouq, “In the period since its inception the programme has enrolled and trained 500,000 beneficiaries. As at the last count about 109,823 beneficiaries from Batches A & B have gone on to set up businesses in their communities, underlining and highlighting the impact and importance of the N-Power programme. Some of them are even engaged as aggregators for the Home- Grown School Feeding Programme.”It is common knowledge that the driving forces of economic growth and social development hinge on skills and knowledge. Beyond the current high level of unemployment, harnessing the nation’s young demography through appropriate skill development efforts provides an opportunity to simultaneously achieve national inclusion and productivity. Not surprisingly, large-scale skill development is the main policy thrust of the N-Power Programme.

The key N-Power Programmes include: N-Power Agro, N-Power Tax, N-Power Build, N-Power Creative, N-Power Health, N-Power Teach, N-Power Tech Hardware and N-Power Tech Software. N-Power is also linked to the federal government’s policies in the economic, empowerment and social development arenas.
Having weighed anchor in 2016, the trajectory of the programme attests to its dynamism. From tracking of the impact of N-Power in the North-Central region, it was obvious that considerable and positive effects were registered. Considering the challenges of youth restiveness and the high level of unemployment rate bedeviling the region, the N-Power programme has done well.

In Kwara State for instance, N13.3 billion has been spent on N-Power beneficiaries as at September 2020. The 15,246 N-Power beneficiaries comprised Batches A and B who volunteered in the state before they exited the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP).
Among the five N-Power components, education subcomponent is the most popular, due to a large number of youth deployed to teach in public schools. Other popular subcomponents are agriculture and health. The scheme recently disengaged both Batches A and B graduates enrolled in the N-Power scheme, opening a new portal for fresh intakes of volunteers that have seen a record of over five million people that so far applied.
The Kwara State NSIP Focal Person, Bashirah Abdulrazaq also gave a breakdown of the total expenses spent in a period of five years. She said the Batch A beneficiaries in Kwara State, who were engaged for a period of 42 months, gulped a total sum of N7.4 billion, while the Batch B beneficiaries received a total sum of N5.7 billion in 24 months.

Her words: “Non-graduates received the sum of N10,000 every month and were engaged for a period of 24 months with a total sum of over N24 million spent.” She further disclosed that the Kwara State government has replicated the youth empowerment programme, codenamed K-Power, in order not to throw beneficiaries into the labour market after exiting N-Power.
Also, about 10,000 people benefitted from the “trader moni” programme in the state with over N1.3 billion disbursed to them. Bashirah Abdulrazaq however regretted that the beneficiaries were not willing to repay the loan.In this zone, the N-Power Agro volunteers function as intermediaries between research and farmers. They operate as facilitators and communicators, helping farmers in their decision-making and ensuring that appropriate knowledge is implemented to obtain the best results on farms.

From evaluation, it was noted that the inclusion of non-educated youths was important. Some stakeholders urged extension of the programme beyond two years and that more sectors should be added to make it multi-sectoral in reducing unemployment and poverty. But clearly, the programme is not an open cheque and needn’t be so to be effective.What obtains in Kwara, Nasarawa and Kogi are largely replicated in the other states that constitute the region: Niger, Benue and Plateau.
In Nasarawa State, the federal government distributed tools and equipment to over 5000 N-power build pre-apprenticeship participants in Lafia to make them more self-reliant. This was confirmed by Alhaji Dauda Wase, the Nasarawa State Coordinator, National Directorate of Employment (NDE), while presenting Testimonials and distribution of the training tools and equipment to the beneficiaries.
The tools and equipment distributed to the beneficiaries were for masonry and tiling, electrical installation, carpentry, plumbing and pipe fittings, automobile repairs, catering, housekeeping, bakery and confectionery, among others. Throughout the duration of the just concluded pre-apprenticeship basic training in Nasarawa, each trainee was provided with a nourishing meal per day and the sum of N10,000 stipend every month.

In Kogi State, over 12,000 youths have benefited from the N-Power scheme. It’s worth repeating here that the NSIP is not all about N-Power; it also has other key components like the Conditional Cash Transfer, CCT, (Household Uplifting Programme), Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (tradermoni, marketmoni, farmermoni) and the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSF).
The CCT programme directly supports those within the lowest poverty bracket by improving nutrition, increasing household consumption through cash benefit of N5,000 monthly. Kogi State is one of the eight pilot States that started the Cash transfer programme in 2016. It has two categories of cash transfer and a livelihood support targeted at poor and vulnerable households.
Aside the direct cash transfer of 5,000 to the most vulnerable of the vulnerables, the CCT also has Top-up Transfer which incorporates benefit linked to a selection and participation of households in activities that focus on capacity building and human capital development. This co-responsibility is state specific. in Kogi State, it is health.

As for the Cash Transfer Unit, the Kogi SIP Team does capacity building both for the cash transfer facilitators at the LG level and the beneficiaries who cut across the 21 LGAs of the state; coaching and mentoring the beneficiaries; training the trainers.; Enrolling would- be beneficiary households from the State Social Register (SSR) and payment to the beneficiaries on completion of data capture.
Courtesy of Kogi SIP Team, over 50,000 SMEs in the state have benefited from the programme.
However, some identified systemic hiccups challenging the seamless operation of the N-Power programme include insufficient information and wrong Bank Verification Number (BVN) and a few other minor issues. But the supervising Minister has assured of reviews where necessary. Mr Chukwuma is an Abuja-based freelance journalist.

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