– Wants FG to fulfill its promises to them before exiting
Over 14,000 beneficiaries of the Federal Government funded empowerment programme, N-power have accused the government of using them to win the 2019 presidential election and thereafter dumped them.
The beneficiaries further berated the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development for leaving them in the dark as regards their entitlements since they were disengaged.
The beneficiaries led by Comrade Bashir Usman Gobir, the National President of N-power Beneficiaries Association of Nigeria (N-PBAN) in all the 36 States and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) staged a peaceful protest on Bauchi to express their displease over the situation.
Speaking with Journalists after the protest, Bashir Usman Gobir said: “We are here at the NUJ Press Centre in Bauchi to express our displeasure with the Federal Government of Nigeria over the promise made to over 500,000 people who participated in the N-power programme across the country.
“In 2016, 200,000 beneficiaries were enrolled. In 2017, another 300,000 were enrolled, making a total of 500,000. The programme was meant to run for 2 years. So, because of the 2019 general elections, we were told that our payments will continue but with the condition that we must use the stipend being paid to us, N30, 000 monthly, to ensure the reelection of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term. This was relayed to us by someone from the office of the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo because the programme was under his office then. One Mr Afolabi, who was the National President then before the programme was moved to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, was the one who relayed the message to us.
“We were categorically told that if we used our voters card to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari, we will be given permanent offers and to the glory of God, we did as we were told. We engaged in serious campaigns across the country. They even gave us smartphones which we used for the campaigns.”
Bashir Usman Gobir however lamented that, “after the 2019 General elections which was successful, we were told that we will have additional six months to still be part of the programme before the authorities will decide the best thing to do for us and we indeed got the additional six months to March 2020.
“Some of us were then exited from the programme, 80,000 of them. But the Ministry later claimed that it screened and discovered that only 17, 000 people were affected because they were Federal Government employees but benefiting from the programme.”
“At the end, the Minister said that she had discovered that they used their adhoc account details during the election duty, which exposed them, some of them used their NYSC account details, so promised to pay them”, he further said.
The National President added that, “But in the month of May of 2020, they just exited the first batch of the beneficiaries, 200,000 people. Then again, in June 2020, another 300,000 people were exited but were told to be patient as they will be given employment in the service while others will be set up as employers of labour. The promise was by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk. The programme was transfered to the Ministry at the end of 2019.
“In order to convince us, the N-power recruitment portal was opened for us to access in order to upload our details including bank details and other information. We did that in the portal called N-Exit. That was in 2020.
“Then, in 2021, nothing happened up till end of the year. We did not hear nor see anything from them. W sought audience with the Minister to know what the problem was because some of us could not access the portal until it was closed.”
According to him, “Only 333,000 people were captured. Those who could not access the portal then protested. They were then asked to use their phone numbers to fill the forms online. Yet, they could not make it. Till the end of the year 2021, the Ministry did not do anything about the situation.”
“At the beginning of 2022, they brought up some numbers *465# which one will dial through which we will be trained on skills acquisition knowing fully well that we are graduates. At the end, we were charged the sum of N30 each time we dialed the numbers. At least, one will spend N60 before he could get it right.
“Many tried more than 10 times and yet nothing happened, they then apologized to us that it was network problem, at the end of it, 300,000 people across the country scaled the huddle. Out of the number, 70,000 people were selected as Batch A to be trained in various skills, that was in March 2022. They actually went for a 4-day training after which they were given certificates of training.
“We later heard that for each of the venue of the training, the sum of N20m was allocated to take care of the participants for accommodation, feeding and allowance for transportation but nothing was done to us by the officials.
“Earlier, there was selected payment of 5 months allowance to a negligible number of the beneficiaries, same people received N150, 000 on 3 occasions making N450, 000 each while majority did not get anything. Out of the 500,000 beneficiaries, only 14,000 are yet to be settled.
“We have tried to ensure that they got their entitlement but to no avail. To drive home our demands, we organized a peaceful protest across the country and went to the Social Investment offices but they told us that it was beyond them at it is a problem of the Ministry, we could not get across to the Minister, we then went to the Senate and delivered our protest letter, that was in 2021, yet, nothing happened.”
Bashir Usman Gobir added: “The Minister then used security operatives to terrorize us for demanding for our rights. I am from Sokoto State but we chose Bauchi State for our mega protest because all the ones we did in Abuja did not yield any positive results, the Minister is married to a Bauchi man and is always around here, so we feel that it will work out positively for us here in Bauchi”.
He also said that, “We heard that she is in Bauchi now. We hope that she will get our message through you Journalists. Nobody is sponsoring us to do what we are doing. We are the ones sponsoring ourselves. Each member has contributed a token to drive the protest, N100, N200, N300, N500 etc.
“The Minister later changed the concept and name of the scheme, we are N-power Beneficiaries, even the new beneficiaries are facing same problem and they kept calling me but I told them to go fight their cause because I am not their leader.
“We met, spoke with the SA Media and she told us that everything about N-power is no longer with the Ministry but returned to the CBN. We are calling on the Federal Government, as it promised us that if we voted for Buhari in 2019, it will give us employment. Later, they promised us skills acquisition training, some us benefited while majority have not. The present administration is winding down. It should therefore give the 500,000 beneficiaries of the N-power programme something to settle themselves and become useful considering our ages,” he concluded.