Hajiya Sadiya Farouq – Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, explained why the beneficiaries of the federal government’s N-Power program still do not receive their monthly salaries.
The minister said the delay occurred because the ministry wants to understand and have a complete list of beneficiaries who were paid before she was asked to take over the affairs of the program.
The ministry revealed that it asked those responsible for the program to provide historical background, justifications, the last approval and the last list of beneficiaries that were paid.
The N-Power program aims to train and provide jobs for 500,000 young and unemployed Nigerian graduates aged 18 to 35 in the 774 local government areas.
On February 25, 2020, the Minister hinted that there are 473,137 beneficiaries in the program.
The minister released this in Abuja on Monday, during a visit by members of the Chamber of Deputies Committee on poverty alleviation. The committee was on a familiarization visit to the ministry, led by its president, Hon. Abdullahi Salame.
Regarding the delay in payment of N-Power beneficiary grants, the Minister said: “I know that we received a complaint in October while we were just entering NSIP into the ministry and we needed to understand the program, considering that it already existed before we board. We needed to understand before we started signing a large sum of money and that was why we were late at the time.
“Unfortunately, we were operating with a director who oversaw the office of the permanent secretary, and in January, we got a new permanent secretary who also needed to understand the nature of the program.”
Giving more reasons for the delay, the ministry’s permanent secretary, Tijani Umaru, said: “When I joined, I realized very clearly that the government was spending huge sums of money on the program. The amount is very colossal and we wanted to read and understand why, as an accountant, it is very instructive for me to understand what we are paying and to be able to be anywhere and guarantee payments and to say that we assume full responsibilities for the payment.
“We issued a press release from the ministry to say that there would be small delays and this is the result of the fact that we have to put all payment proposals under the microscope because they are paid in billions of naira and it is simply not possible to build on a foundation that we haven’t started.
“We apologize for any delays, but we also say that this is also part of the job and we have to go through due process and make sure that due diligence is observed in all sectors.
He continued: “When the payment proposal comes from the minister to me, I have to ensure that what I send back to the minister is something that she can comfortably sign in accordance with due process. Nobody is doubting anyone. It is not easy to sign a file with one or two pieces of paper asking for billions of naira.
“Therefore, to safeguard the minister, we ask these programs to provide us with the background, justifications, the last approval and the last list of beneficiaries. This is very critical for us. The minister takes responsibility and to some extent, and I also take responsibility.
“When there is a consultation with the public accounts committee, I must respond and, if any arise, I want to be able to respond directly and defend what is right and also say that the payment was made on time for the interest of the people in which the government decided to spend it. After we pass that stage, I believe that everything will be on autopilot and the subsequent payment will be very fast. ”
According to the minister, program beneficiaries should leave the program after two years, but she noted that there is no plan for current beneficiaries to leave after more than three years.
She said: “There should be an exit plan for N-Power graduates, because the agreement was for them to leave after two years and we have exceeded the time they should have left.
“So now we are looking at different exit options for them and we are working with the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to see how we can get them out and support them in using the skills they want. The exit plan will be launched soon.