The duo of the Director General of the NDE, Mallam Abubakar Nuhu Fikpo, and the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo SAN, were recently in Cross River State. The trip was part of the national inspection exercise meant to ascertain the desired effects of the Special Public Works Programme, encourage the participants and explain the rationale behind the slight delay in the payment of stipends.
The Minister and the Director General took time to visit some project sites and addressed the participants. Festus Keyamo in his characteristic mien was blunt as ever. He told the participants that the Buhari led administration is sincere in its determination to ensure that the poorest of the poor are the main beneficiaries of the 774,000 jobs. He explained further that the slight delay being experienced in the payment of stipends is to ensure that all active participants receive their pay. “It is to allow clean data return of genuine beneficiaries by the participating banks to the Directorate after thorough verification of all BVN before payments are effected”. The Director General of the NDE, according to him, is on top of the situation. The goal of the verification exercise is simple: Disable the Nigerian factor which allows a participant or non participant to be paid twice or thrice or even more while the active participants on the field go home unpaid. The amount voted for the program is huge and staggering; it should not be allowed to go into idle hands, it is to check corruption, he concluded
However, some of the participating banks are already living to the billing. Thousands of the beneficiaries have received their stipends in the last two weeks, others are currently receiving theirs and yet many others will smile to the bank before the end of the months because “everybody will be paid” according to the Minister.
Whatever the merits or demerit of the popular Extended Special Public Works Programme, a stop gap measure should not be compared to permanent or regular employment which commands minimum national wage. Many naysayers have played down the importance of theprogramme on the strength of rampant hearsay that the monthly payment is below the national minimum wage. The Minister emphasized repeatedly that theprogramme is an ad-hoc initiative and not the expected all cure antidote against the unemployment monster ravaging the country. The federal government, according to him, is working out bigger schemes to generate permanent employments for the masses. The NDE in particular, he said, has the mandate of the Federal Government to skill – up the entire population. NDE,he said, has multifaceted skills acquisition programmes coupled with numerous entrepreneurial training schemes, andwith its presence in the 36 states of the federation and the FCT, NDE certainly has all it takes to drive efforts of the federal government in providing permanent skilled jobs especially for the youth and women nationwide.
According to the Minister, provision of marketable skills will drive Self employment which in turn will generate millions of blue collar jobs as obtainable in China and Japan, having the capacity to stimulate the economy and contribute immensely towards lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next ten years.
Edem Edet, a 28 year old man from Calabar Municipal, was passionate in his plea for the extension of the 774,000 jobs Programme because of the necessary succor the stipends provided for his family. He started the work in February 2021 and so far has been paid for a month. Though the amount is small, Edet said it brought a good relief to him. His colleague, Pascal Afruom, was full of praises to the administration of Muhammadu Buhari and by extension, Minister of Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo and the NDE for the wonderful programme. He saluted the courage of the Minister in standing his ground against all odds especially at the National assembly whose members, according to him, wanted to hijack the programme and deny the downtrodden. The programme, he said, means a whole lot to his family.