Following reports of absenteeism and other anomalies stunting the growth of the government’s empowerment scheme, (N-power), the National Social Investment Office (NSIO) on Wednesday said any identified absconding volunteer will be suspended from the scheme as there is zero tolerance for sabotage.
The agency added that concrete steps were being taken to address the problems, which border mainly on absenteeism and truancy on the part of some N-teach beneficiaries who have consistently abused the privilege of being engaged to serve their land.
Justice Tienabeso Bibiye, the Communications Manager of NSIO who gave the warning in a statement in Abuja, said the NSIO sacked well over two thousand volunteers for either absconding or absenting themselves from their Primary Places of Assignment (PPA).
“We also disclosed that over 18,000 beneficiaries voluntarily exited the programme after securing jobs elsewhere”.
According to Bibiye, the N-power beneficiaries assigned to schools by the various state governments are monitored by the School Heads, adding that monthly reports are expected to be made to the state government-appointed focal persons who then forward the report directly to the central N-Power office.
“While several complaints and observations have been made which has resulted in the expulsion of affected erring beneficiaries from the programme as stated earlier, we however note attempts of some to conspire with school principals who directly interact with these beneficiaries, thus providing unreliable data, further reiterating the deep-rooted corruption in the system.
“This anomaly is being checked as we have since partnered with several security agencies including EFCC, the DSS and ICPC to investigate, apprehend and prosecute those seen to be undermining the Social Investment Programmes of the Federal Government.
“We want to appreciate all our hardworking N-Power beneficiaries (who are in the majority) for your remarkable contributions to fill the gap in the education, health and agricultural sectors. Your work has left an indelible impact on National development. We also wish to commend the media for its unwavering dedication and interest shown in monitoring the SIPs and exposing its shortfalls.
“We assure Nigerians that all erring N-Power volunteers would be immediately suspended and placed on payment hold whilst we conduct investigations. This would serve as a deterrent for the future as we have always done with any reports of truancy and indiscipline as was also mentioned in the Businessday investigative report.
“The government will continue to keep to its promises by responding to the needs of everyone, especially the unemployed, and those at the bottom of the pyramid.
It must be clarified, however, that the ‘ghost’ syndrome, which presumes that the individuals do not exist”, he explained.
He noted that all the N-power beneficiaries have been pre-verified through a close working relationship with the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), who at inception, confirm the identities of each and every Npower beneficiary, before payment commences.
“What we are currently facing in the field concerning a minority of N-Power beneficiaries is the challenge of truancy and not the ghost workers syndrome”, he added.