“N-Power beneficiaries are becoming business owners”

About 109,823 beneficiaries of the N-Power programme now have their own businesses, which represents about 22% of the 500,000 Nigerians that have benefited since its inception.

The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, said the beneficiaries of Batch A and B of N-Power have established businesses in their communities.

Statistics like this gives me joy and once again, I want to say congratulations; I look forward to hearing amazing testimonies and meeting beneficiaries of this programme who will be doing great things in the future,” the minister said.

Embracing the change

The N-Power Volunteer Corps is the post-tertiary engagement initiative for Nigerians between 18 and 35. It is a paid volunteering programme of a 2-year duration. The graduates will undertake their primary tasks in identified public services within their proximate communities.

Although the 200,000-strong Batch A participants started in 2016 for a two-year programme, they have only just transited into other areas of activity after almost four years.

However, the wait seems to worth it for some. A number of the beneficiaries gave good testimonies about the impact of the programme in their lives and all expressed their gratitude to the Federal Government for the opportunity.  In the account of Angela Nabu:

“I am a graduate of Ladoke Akintola University, where I studied Agriculture. I wanted to go into fish farming but was not sure how to go about it. When I learnt of the N-Power, I decided to apply and was enrolled in the programme without knowing anyone or being connected to anyone. The selection was clear and free. I gained practical experience working with the Ogun State Agricultural Development Programme, Ilaro Zone (OGADEP). I was able to save some money from the stipends to start my own fish farm. Today, I have 12 ponds. I have people working for me and I have trained one IT student and I am willing to train more.’’

For Oluwatosin Oyedele, N-Power came at a crucial time when just she started her family, having relocated to a new state.

“Although I was deployed as a class teacher, my interest was far beyond the classroom. I was able to raise some funds over time which I used to start my clothing business. I also used my spare time to improve the culinary skills that I learned earlier. These have been my mainstay since the end of the programme,” she concluded.

Mrs Oyedele graduated from the Yaba College of Technology in Lagos.

For Saddiq Mustapha, a beneficiary from Katsina State and graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, the challenge was being idle after his one year mandatory National Youth Service to the nation.

“By virtue of the experience gained and training in video production and editing, I was able to set up a multimedia company and run the largest online media business in the state with thousands of followers,” he said.

A lofty ambition

According to Hajiya Farouq, President Muhammadu Buhari has a vision of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years by creating opportunities that would improve the productivity of Nigerian youths for entrepreneurship or employment.

She said, “Thus, the need to find ways to engage them is of utmost importance. However, the commencement of the enrolment of Batch C was predicated on the need to give more Nigerian youths the opportunity to benefit. This is because, keeping only 500,000 beneficiaries for four years defeats the purpose of Mr President’s vision, hence the need to scale up and was in no way meant to be punitive.”

With about 4.5 million youths entering the job market annually in Nigeria, it is a growth rate that is barely able to retain existing manpower. The unemployment situation attained the level of a national emergency a long time ago. The National Directorate of Employment (NDE) programme and the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), among others, was established to address the problem of unemployment in a functional and practical manner. However, these programmes have had a minimal impact over the years.

The huge variance between the number of graduates churned out by Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning and the absorptive capacity of the economy remains a major source of concern. The gap between knowledge acquired and the practical demands of the job market appear to make it worse. Many employers of labour complain that Nigeria’s educational curricula are not designed to equip products of higher institutions for the workplace. Consequently, most products of higher institutions are forced to queue up, in the ever-lengthening labour market, most times without any hope of ever being hired.

The multiplier effect

Going by the dependency quotient of about 1:10 in Nigeria, those 109,823 participants who have established their own businesses means about one million persons touched. Also, most of these beneficiaries sited their businesses in their communities.

This is arguably the single most significant boost to rural youth empowerment in Nigeria in recent years. Those local businesses will trigger unprecedented multiplier effects in these communities. The other implication is that the pernicious rural-urban migration will be reduced by a minimum of the same number of persons.

The N-Power programme is only one among many on-going programmes that are providing various opportunities to millions of people for self-actualisation, entrepreneurship and gainful employment. 

Government plans to monitor the progress of the businesses, helping through mentorship, peer review facilitation, and targeted retreats that enrich their business acumen and community orientation. The beneficiaries have been identified as potential renaissance catalysts for civic orientation, nationalism, and communal development.

While acknowledging the beneficiaries’ contributions during a digital meeting, the minister said, ‘’You are our model N-Power beneficiaries. Please avail yourselves of all opportunities provided by the government like interest-free loans and leverage on those opportunities while using N-Power as a stepping stone”.

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