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Dashed Hope As FG Drags On 774,000 Job Implementation

The Special Public Works (SPW) initiative announced that plans to mitigate unemployment may suffer a setback as the Federal Government continues to drag the implementation of the programme.

The programme, which is scheduled to last for 3 months, will engage 774,000 unemployed Nigerians going by 1000 persons per Local Government Area in Nigeria.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on October approved N26 billion naira for its implementation of the program.

SPW is a dry season/off-season transient job programme originally designed for the rehabilitation/maintenance of public and social infrastructure. Participants were to be paid an allowance of N20,000 monthly and recruited largely from the pool of unskilled persons in Nigerian rural areas.

According to plan, the programme was to kick off in October and run till December, but as at the time of filing this report, it is yet to commence.

However, an interview with Nuhu Muhammed Bolaji, a successful applicant of the programme who has been waiting patiently for its implementation, reveals he has been left in despair 

“I felt so bad about the delay on the 774,000 jobs. I’ve already lost hope on the job, because the job which, supposed to have started October 2020 and Federal Government later announced that the program shall commence November 1st and we are now in December. The program is yet to commence,” the unemployed Nuhu lamented with faces full of worries and pessimism.

Reacting to the trend, Olorunniyi Christopher Kehinde, another applicant, also expressed his disappointment but enjoined Nigerians to give the government more time to carry out the task.

“I must say the truth, it affects me in one way or the other. But the simple truth is that the deed has not been done. So, I think we should have some patience as we are waiting for the outcome of the project,” he said.

Another successful applicant, Abdulrahman Dolapo, reacted angrily to the delay trailing the work and called on the government to come to their aid so that the program can commence soon.

“Personally, I was so furious about this because many of us have put all our minds into it. My hope on this is now zero because since November, nothing till now, so what else?”

“The government should please help us in order to have new hope for this program. I’m saying this because there are many graduates among us and most of us have no means of surviving than to put our minds on this maybe, it’s going to help us someday,” he expressed.

Zakariyah Murtadho Mamalosho recounted his ordeal and the effect of the delay on his personal life as his expectation of the program is fading away.

He said: “I’m so disappointed for the delay in commencing the work because it has ruined some of my plans in past months and this month should have been the last month for the program but unfortunately nothing is done yet.”

Zakariyah has lost patience as he has waited for so long without seeing any positive future of the program. He now wants the authorities involved to explain to the citizens the causes of the delay.

“My hope on the work is getting low now because there’s no transparency anymore. My expectations on it is that, the committee on the work should come out openly and tell us what’s causing the delay in commencing the work and what measure they’ve taken to rectify it,” he demanded.

A Looming Spike In The Unemployment Rate

The rate of unemployment in the country has worsened due to the severe complications wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) on the nation’s economy.

A fact sheet published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that the country’s unemployment rate, as at the second quarter of 2020, hit 27.1% prior to the 23.1% in the last quarter of 2018. 

Comparatively, the country’s unemployment rate increased by four per cent compared to the last reported data by NBS By implication, meaning that about 27.1 million Nigerians exist without work.

Along the line, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige has envisaged the future of the unemployment crisis in Nigeria to increase rapidly to 33.5 by the end of 2020.

Consequently, the increase in the unemployment rate will also influence the poverty rate in the country. In May 2020, a data report published by NBS shows that about 40.1 per cent of Nigeria’s population is poor. In short, over 82.9 million Nigerians leave below the poverty line.

Just recently, the World Bank predicted that the rate of poor Nigerians will increase from its approximately 90 million to 200 million by 2022. It noted the rapid increase is due to the effect of Covid-19 pandemic on the nation’s economy.

In The Shackle Of Controversy

Since the initial stage, the SPW programme has generated a heated debate between the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, and the Joint Committee of the National Assembly on Employment and Labour. The controversy revolved around the recruitment process and control of the program. According to the Minister, some politicians were palling to hijack the program after fifteen per cent of the job slots had been given to the lawmakers to manage and share at their own interest and capacity.

Aside from the misunderstanding between the Minister and the Federal Lawmakers, another tussle emerged between the Minister and the Director-General of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Nasir Muhammad Ladan Argungu, over who to play the supervisory role of the programme. 

Since then, waves of postponement have clouded the programme. Twice, the program has been shifted. Firstly, the program did not commence in October and was rescheduled for the 1st of November. After the expiration of the later date, the program was said to kick start by December 1. Till now, only bank registration has been done in some part of the country while the real task has not commenced.

Meanwhile, the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) is an agency under the supervision of the Ministry of Labour and Employment. A report by The Nation recounted the chaos between the Minister and Director-General of NDE. 

In a directive dated December 4th, 2020, President Muhammad Buhari sacked the DG of NDE effective from Monday, December 7th, 2020 and ordered the Minister of the supervising agency, Sen. Festus Keyamo to nominate an acting DG with conditions included.

Although, the reason for his sack is not yet disclosed but many accounts suggested that it was as a result of the power play between the Minister and the relieved NDE Boss, Nasiru Ladan.

In a recent development, the House of Representatives has asked the Buhari-led government to reinstate the sacked NDE DG and suspend the work from commencing a day after Sen. Keyamo announced January 2021 for the commencement of the program. According to them, the suspension is necessary as the integrity of legislators is at stake and to build institutions.

Long Wait Stokes Controversy Amongst Experts

Development personnel and stakeholders expressed mixed reactions at the delays that trail the programme in the country.

When contacted, Olasupo Abideen Opeyemi, the Executive Director of Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative urged Nigerians to give the government more time to enhance the good outcome of the program. 

“Considering the impact of Covid-19 and bureaucratic processes involved in government policies and projects, it will be good given the government more ample time to ensure sustainability, good monitoring, evaluation and achieving the aim of the project,” he pleaded.

Furthermore, Olasupo charged the government to ensure proper follow up in any project embarked by the government and suggested an everlasting solution to the high unemployment and poverty rate in the country.

“To a large extent, the current government is trying with different initiatives they’ve set up but there is no monitoring and evaluation.”

To curb poverty and unemployment, he said the government needs to “change the tertiary institutions’ curriculum, incorporate apprenticeship/internship, introduce career fair into teachings in tertiary institutions, youth empowerment beyond rubber stamp approach and cut the cost of governance.”

Another expert, Jide Ojo, a Development Consultant, Author and Public Affairs Analyst spoke, bemoaning the current delay and incessant postponement of the programme and discussed the side effect of the delay. 

“The government shouldn’t have dangled the carrot of 774,000 social work if it does not have the resources or the operational plan for effective take-off and implementation.”

“As the country is affirmatively in an economic recession, the effect is negative. Dashed hopes of the 774,000 recruits who had hoped they would earn an income from the government however little. This will heighten trust deficit in government as this particular intervention had been listed as part of the 35 achievements of Buhari’s government in his first year in office,” he mentioned. 

He advised the government to be steadfast in their dealings with the people 

“The government needs to prioritize, reduce its overhead to ensure people’s salaries are paid without further delay. As 774, 000 is a promise made by this administration and if it wants to be trusted, it must give up to that expectation,” he said.

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