N-Power focal persons are officials appointed by State Governors to assist in implementing N-Power in their States. They have the responsibility of managing the job creation scheme and acting as a liaison between the State and the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), office of the Vice-President. To underscore the importance attached to the programme, focal persons are mostly cabinet-level appointees of the Governor. Some States have also created a Social Investment Programme Office to make coordination and supervision, seamless.
The focal persons have had to face some challenges since the commencement of the N-Power programme in December 2016. These include late deployment of volunteers to their Place of Primary Assignment (PPA); late verification exercise for shortlisted candidates; inadequate operational facilities; non-payment of stipends to some N-Power volunteers amongst others.
Lagos State faced the most notable hiccups that resulted in volunteers’ protest in January over non-deployment. The State focal person, Mrs Shola Falana attributed the delay in commencement of verification to the delay in getting approval for the exercise from the State Government. The verification was later done shortly after the protests but volunteers were back at the State Assembly in March to protest the non-payment of their stipends for three months. It is however likely the issues have been addressed at the moment following the quietude of volunteers in recent times.
It is another kettle of fish in Taraba as the State focal person, Mrs Beatrice Kitchener in May stated that 2000 out of the State’s 3,965 N-Power volunteers have been paid their stipends up to date. She further revealed that another 1,000 volunteers’ profiles have been updated by her office and they would be paid by the end of May. “Their initial invalidation was partly caused by the discrepancies between bank details and profiles of volunteers”, she stressed. Over 400 volunteers that were erroneously alleged to be absent from duty would also have been paid by end of May according to Mrs Kitchener. While it can be deduced from the focal person that Taraba also faced some challenges, it seemed better managed than Lagos.
Kwara was another State that faced agitations of N-Power volunteers in April. Some beneficiaries alleged non-payment of their stipends for five months. They insisted they had effected corrections, thrice, on discrepancies pointed out in their registrations and bank details without making a headway. The State focal person, Elder Ayobolu Samuel reacted by stating that the beneficiaries had been told to go to the right quarters to correct the anomaly. It is disappointing that the State focal person does not have the capacity to directly intervene and address the shortcomings.
The situation of the N-Power programme across the country calls for better synergy between focal persons/ State Governments and the Federal Government. The role of focal persons should be clearly defined and they should have the capacity to interface with Abuja to correct anomalies in volunteers’ details within their jurisdiction. State Governments through the focal persons should also embark on extensive sensitization campaign to raise awareness about the appropriate way of registering and filling bank details as the second phase of the programme gets underway.
States should also ensure logistics for focal persons and the smooth implementation of the Social Investment Programme is adequately catered to. We cannot let unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks derail an otherwise laudable initiative that is already changing lives.
N-Power is the job creation and empowerment scheme of the Federal Government