BusinessDay

FG To Suspend Absconding N-Power Volunteers after BusinessDay Investigative Report

Our attention has been drawn to a recent investigative piece written by Ibrahim Adeyemi, and published in the December 17, 2019 issue of Business Day Nigeria newspaper and on its online platform, businessday.ng.

​The federal government, through the National Social Investment Office (NSIO) has said it will suspend volunteers found to have absconded their duty post in the states where they were posted.

The development is coming after a BusinessDay report uncovered the rot in the NPower programme, a social investment programme pioneered by the Muhammadu Buhari administration to tackle poverty and improve the health and education of children and other vulnerable groups.

The National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) was launched by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, in 2016. A vehicle aimed at increasing inclusive growth by tackling various socio-economic issues such as poverty, hunger, and rising unemployment rates, the programme—which happens to be the largest social investment programme in Africa sees to the equitable distribution of resources to disadvantaged members of the society.

The N-Power Teach is arguably the most popular of the four categories of the NSIP initiative given that it has attracted the most interest from a large number of young people in the country, many of whom are out of jobs. The scheme was designed to support regular elementary school teachers in educating young minds. Thus, the Federal Government pays the programme’s volunteers a monthly stipend of N30,000 and gives them tablet computers. However, shoddiness, ghost working and other forms of official malfeasance continue to blight the N-Power Teach scheme in schools across the country. Public schools in Sokoto State are no exemption.

In the investigative report, volunteers were found to have colluded with the principals of the various schools where they were assigned to cheat the system.

The NSIO statement signed by Justice Tienabeso Bibiye, communications manager, National Social Investment Officer, noted that like every endeavor, the Npower has “a few instances” of negligence and corruption, but there have been some recorded as a result of the programme.

“Consequently, we have taken concrete steps to address these problems which border mainly on absenteeism and truancy on the part of some N-teach beneficiaries who have consistently abused the privilege of being engaged to serve their land. Not too long ago, the National Social Investment office NSIO issued a press statement that disclosed the sack of well over two thousand volunteers for either absconding or absenting themselves from their Primary Places of Assignment (PPA). We also disclosed that over eighteen thousand beneficiaries voluntarily exited the programme after securing jobs elsewhere,” Bibye said in the statement.

Bibiye also clarified that volunteers assigned to schools by the various state governments in collaboration with the federal government are monitored by monitored by the school heads who monthly reports to the state governments’ appointed focal persons who then forward the report directly to the central Npower office. The BusinessDay report found that these heads of schools often collect money from the volunteers and allow them to skip classes, thereby leaving the students without quality education.

NSIO said it has partnered with several security agencies including EFCC, the DSS, and ICPC to investigate, apprehend and prosecute those seen to be undermining the Social Investment Programmes of the Federal Government.

“We assure Nigerians that all erring N-Power volunteers would be immediately suspended and placed on payment hold whilst we conduct investigations. This would serve as a deterrent for the future as we have always done with any reports of truancy and indiscipline as was also mentioned in the Businessday investigative report,” Bibiye said.

 

 

Below is the NSIP statement:

Our attention has been drawn to a recent investigative piece written by Ibrahim Adeyemi, and published in the December 17, 2019 issue of BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper and on its online platform, businessday.ng. The piece titled, “Sokoto’s Ghost Teachers, Corrupt School Principals are Stealing FG N-Power Funds”, is an illuminating read that attempts to uncover the activities of truant beneficiaries of the N-Power programme in Sokoto State, and the supervising heads that enable these duplicitous acts

Spread across the 36 States of the country (including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT), the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) was launched by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, in 2016. A vehicle aimed at increasing inclusive growth by tackling various socio-economic issues such as poverty, hunger, and rising unemployment rates, the programme—which happens to be the largest social investment programme in Africa sees to the equitable distribution of resources to disadvantaged members of the society.

The Businessday investigative piece which focuses on one of the four components of the programme, the N-Power Programme, with a direct emphasis on the N-Teach aspect of the programme, makes several assertions.

While the writer highlights the endemic problem of the ghost worker syndrome in Nigeria and successful efforts made by the Federal Government to curb it, he explains that the N-Teach programme—Sokoto State specifically—currently suffers from a widespread case of ghost workers. Observing one of the schools under the programme, he explains, “It’s a decayed primary school populated by pupils averse to learning and ghost teachers – who abscond permanently from their place of primary assignment (PPA) but regularly earn monthly stipends.” Upon further inspection, he also uncovered a trend of negligence and corruption in the relationship between some beneficiaries and their immediate supervisors, the school heads and principals.

Just as in every other aspect of human endeavor, Npower has a few instances of challenges amid several overwhelming success stories which for many, makes it the most successful youth empowerment initiative in Nigeria’s political history.

Consequently, we have taken concrete steps to address these problems which border mainly on absenteeism and truancy on the part of some N-teach beneficiaries who have consistently abused the privilege of being engaged to serve their land. Not too long ago, the National Social Investment office NSIO issued a press statement that disclosed the sack of well over two thousand volunteers for either absconding or absenting themselves from their Primary Places of Assignment (PPA). We also disclosed that over eighteen thousand beneficiaries voluntarily exited the programme after securing jobs elsewhere.

It must be clarified, however, that the ‘ghost’ syndrome, which presumes that the individuals do not exist, is not entirely accurate in the description of the incidents uncovered by the journalist. All of the Npower beneficiaries named actually exist, having been pre-verified through a close working relationship with the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), who at inception, confirm the identities of each and every Npower beneficiary before payment commences. The issue pointed out in the report is actually in relation to them absconding from work, having been deployed to their primary places of assignment by the relevant State authorities. What we are currently facing in the field concerning a minority of N-POWER beneficiaries is the challenge of truancy and not the ghost workers syndrome.

The beneficiaries assigned to schools by the various State Governments who are active partners with the Federal Government in the implementation process are monitored by the School Heads and monthly reports expected to be made to the State Government appointed Focal Persons who then forward the report directly to the central N-Power office. While several complaints and observations have been made which has resulted in the expulsion of affected erring beneficiaries from the Programme as stated earlier, we, however, note attempts of some to conspire with school principals who directly interact with these beneficiaries, thus providing unreliable data, further reiterating the deep-rooted corruption in the system.

This anomaly is being checked as we have since partnered with several security agencies including EFCC, the DSS, and ICPC to investigate, apprehend and prosecute those seen to be undermining the Social Investment Programmes of the Federal Government.

We want to appreciate all our hardworking N-Power beneficiaries (who are in the majority) for your remarkable contributions to fill the gap in the education, health and agricultural sectors. Your work has left an indelible impact on National development. We also wish to commend the media for its unwavering dedication and interest shown in monitoring the SIPs and exposing its shortfalls.

We assure Nigerians that all erring N-Power volunteers would be immediately suspended and placed on payment hold whilst we conduct investigations. This would serve as a deterrent for the future as we have always done with any reports of truancy and indiscipline as was also mentioned in the Businessday investigative report.

The government will continue to keep to its promises by responding to the needs of everyone, especially the unemployed, and those at the bottom of the pyramid.

Justice Tienabeso Bibiye

Communications Manager, National Social Investment Office NSIO

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