Afolabi Imoukhuede, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Job Creation and Youth Employment, (Office of the Vice President), has revealed to Daily Sun that the Federal Government has spent over N140 billion on the N-Power programme which he says has reduced the high rate of unemployment.
In the face of growing unemployment, what have you been doing in the last four years, as presidential aide on job creation?
One of the key challenges we have with our youths is the issue of jobs. Anytime we meet in any youth fora it’s always about jobs. The good thing is that it is not only peculiar to Nigeria; incidentally in any and every global conversation right now, it is also about jobs. I remember the last election in America, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton focused on whose plans will produce more jobs. So, it is a global problem that we all face and it’s more global because of the advent of technology and impact of technology even on us as humans.
In Nigeria, our problem is systemic and it stems from education. And that is why the President’s mandate in his second term, as he declared on June 12, is about reforming the education sector so that our children will begin to get the right skills from the onset that will therefore reduce this challenge of employability.
What we did in the last four years was having realised we have a shaky foundation in education, we asked what can be done because even if we reform education as we have begun to do, our youths can’t go back to school to start all over. They have finished and need to get into the labour market; so we need to prepare them for the challenges of the labour market.
That was why we decided at the time to have one component that would speak to job creation and ensure that it is focused towards the youths, and that is the N-Power. We then decided that we would use N-Power to address Nigeria’s employability challenges. Our focus therefore is that you must be within the bracket of at least secondary school, post secondary school and above, because those are the ones going to labour market or are already in the labour market.
So, the next step was to speak to the sectors and understand the challenges they are having with our people and create what is almost like a remedial, that is use N-Power to correct the gaps that they say our people have so they be employable.
We also need to change the orientation of our youths. The era when you finish school and you are waiting for a white-collar job is over. We are in the era of entrepreneurship and enterprise has become very critical.
Lastly, remember we also designed what is called the Economic Recovery and Group Plan (ERGP) which the President launched which took certain sectors as priority sectors with agriculture being one and even moving to agro business, construction, basically look at none oil and gas sector.
So putting all of those together, we came up with different segments that helped to address the needs of youth and at the same time meeting the needs of the market.
So, you know about the N-power graduate programme that as we speak has 500,000 youths engaged across the 774 local government areas in Nigeria. Let’s also remember that but for the dedicated commitment of the President; we won’t even have the N-Power programme. We started this programme in the heat of recession, December 2016 with recruitment of the first batch. So if there was no strong commitment to the youth and to Nigerians in general, that was going to be one programme we would have ditched.
Now, we are not just dishing out money because each of them get N30, 000 monthly stipend which as we speak, none of them is being owed.
The most interesting part is what we collaborate with all the 36 states of the federation including the FCT irrespective of party affiliation. The programme is for all Nigerians.
Another thing is that technology has been the main backbone of this programme and we have worked with technology partners, Nigerian youths as well. Our partner is a Nigerian company made up of Nigerian youths and every technology we have deployed has been home grown.
From the inception of the programme, how much has been invested?
It is very simple in talking about the amount that has been invested. I am saying that in Batch 1, they started earning from December 2016, so roughly we invest N72 billion annually just for Batch 1 alone. That is apart from the gadgets that they get and all the sponsored trainings that they get. For instance, all the trainings for N-Agro, training for health for those who are in health, we sponsor all of that through the federal agencies, ministry of agriculture and ministry of health. So direct on our people it is N30, 000 x 200,000, which is six billion naira every month for the first batch, which started in 2016. So they have been there for over two years, that is N72 billion multiply by two years or thereabout. But since August last year, the wage bill moved from N6 billion to N15 billion because it’s now 500,000 of them that earn N30, 000 monthly. We have been on N15 billion for almost one year because by end of July it will be one year that we have been making that investment every month. So if you put it together that just tells you how much investment we have made and like I have said, we don’t owe anyone because the money is paid directly to them not through proxy.
What is the idea of recruiting N-Power beneficiaries for community policing?
Like I said, they all work in PPA and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship means at some point you must exit the programme. This is one programme where we celebrate resignations, like Daniel from Taraba who got a job in CBN or Mohammed, an IDP from Borno, who used N-Power to settle himself and today he works with NTA in Yola. So when they resign like that we celebrate because you must exit at some point.
We know the security challenges and limitations of the Nigeria Police Force, we know that they want to recruit another 10,000 but the governors felt as Chief Security Officers (CSOs) of their states, 10,000 officers for the entire country is small and how many are you going to give every state? So they felt we should have N-Power volunteers that are community based. The beauty of this programme is that it is so transformational because they impact their community where they reside, unlike the NYSC where you are yanked from your base and taken somewhere else. Also remember in N-Power, beneficiaries must be post-NYSC graduates except you are in the non-graduate programme which I will speak about or you are in NCE programme which obviously you are not deployed for NYSC.
So that is the beauty that the governors saw and realised that these are the foot soldiers and no state has less than 10,000 N-Power beneficiaries now. States like Osun has 17,000, FCT 14,000 and when you divide that into local councils, it tells you how many foot soldiers they have. This is something we have marketed to the governors, the ministries, departments and agencies.
So yes, we are working with the NGF because we supply the data to them and Nigeria Police.
What is the outcome of the N-Built training you had with the heads of centers for review?
In taking care of the youths we needed to be careful so it won’t look like an elitist programme, that was why we designed the non-graduates programme. But I can tell you that 50 percent of the beneficiaries of non-graduate programme are already graduates, who are not looking for white-collar jobs but want to learn a trade. We also have the N-Tech that deals with training our young people on software development; we have 4,000 of them. We are just about to roll that out but we have rolled out already the first series of the hardware, which we call N-Tech Hardware where we will train 6,000 young Nigerians, 1,000 per geo-political zone on how to repair this smartphones, laptops and all that. The reason for that is that…remember I said we have our 200,000 devices at community level. As at last year we had 250 centers but by early this year, we now have 401 centers that are participating in the N-Built programme. So far we have trained 20,000 in Batch 1 and another 20,000 already in Batch 2 began their training in March just before the elections and will train for another one year. Out of this number, construction has 28,000, automobiles getting close to 10,000 and hospitality getting about 2,600 trainees.
Are the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) among your beneficiaries?
Yes. I just told you about Mohammed who lived in Bama local government. His story is such that he went to work and by the time he got back his house was razed down. According to his story, he rode to Maiduguri with his bicycle and his rosary and of course his family had dispersed. He didn’t know who survived and who didn’t until months later. His certificates had gotten burnt and he became a resident in the IDP camp. Some of them heard of N-Power in the camp, applied and they got selected without knowing anybody. From the savings from their stipend, five months later, he had moved out of the camp and rented a place in Maiduguri. In May 2018 when the Vice President went to launch the innovation hub in Yola, he was the one that walked up to us and reminded us that he was the Bama story we met in Maiduguri. He was hired by NTA and he is now the correspondent of NTA in Yola at that event.