WHILE the intention that gave rise to the institution of the N-Power scheme by the Federal Government is noble and laudable, same cannot be said of its implementation. The scheme is a proof of the concerns of the government about the negative effects of the high rate of graduate unemployment among the nation’s youths and its determination to scale it down. The establishment of the scheme has given the beneficiaries a ray of hope and their parents a sense of relief. But unfortunately, almost every stage of its implementation has been dogged with glitches. Initially, there were issues with the registration, then there were problems with the deployment of the beneficiaries and the most enduring and most painful of the hitches is that of non-payment of stipends to the volunteers in some cases for up to five months. This has culminated in protests by the participants in a number of states.
We cannot but wonder why a scheme that is so dear to the government and took quite a while in coming should be punctuated by hiccups and marked by snags. Why, for instance, should volunteers be owed their stipends? Was there no provision made for these in the budget? Were more volunteers than intended recruited? Are there ghost N-Power volunteers? What happened to the fund allocated for the payment of their stipends? Is the fund meant to pay the volunteers diverted or is it warehoused in an interest-yielding bank account by those managing the scheme? Has the ‘Nigerian factor’ crept into the operations of the scheme? Or is the problem that of poor management ability? Does anybody check to ensure strict compliance with the government’s directives on the scheme?
Whatever led to this sorry pass, it is indicative of poor preparation. The government should have taken its time to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s before coming out with the scheme and asking for volunteers. That is what builds credibility for government. That is what earns government the respect of the people. That is what shows the people that their leaders care about their welfare. While we agree that being a new programme, there are bound to be teething challenges, it is our considered opinion that, by now, those challenges ought to have been resolved and the scheme should be having a smooth sail.
For many of the beneficiaries who had been out of job for many years, who had been subjected to series of disappointments concerning landing a job and were happy to get this offer with the belief that the days of living off family and friends were behind them, this development is anticlimactic because they have had to resort to borrowing and begging for handouts to get to work on a daily basis. Many of them have become despondent and beginning to lose faith in the country. The belief of many of them is that they are worse off now than they were before being shortlisted for the scheme. Their reason is that their hopes were raised, only to be dashed by the government.
When leaders do what is right for the citizens, bonding between the nation and the people becomes easy and the sense of patriotism is hiked. But when citizens are made to believe that they do not matter to those who steer the ship of the nation, especially on issues that are as basic as getting paid for a job already done, getting them to commit to the country’s cause becomes Herculean. The government is at the verge of losing the respect and trust of tens of thousands of N-Power volunteers to the shoddy handling of their stipends. The only remedy is to ensure speedy payment of the backlog of stipends and guard against delayed payment in future. The time to act is now.