Some top government officials introduced over 70,000 ghost workers into the N-Power Programme and fraudulently diverted billions of naira into their pockets, SaharaReporters has gathered.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission on Tuesday detained music star, Oladapo Oyebanji, popularly known as D’banj, over the alleged diversion of N-Power funds in collaboration with some government officials.
Meanwhile, a source at the humanitarian ministry on Wednesday night told SaharaReporters that top government officials have been using cronies to siphon funds under the social intervention programmes under President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
“70,000 names were infused into N-Power by officials of the Buhari regime in the last four years.
“The fake list costs Nigeria N2.1 billion per year while original N-Power candidates are left unpaid,” the source added.
In June 2021, SaharaReporters reported that 14,000 beneficiaries of the N-Power programme were being owed for five months.
N-Power is a youth empowerment scheme sponsored by the Nigerian Government under the Social Investment Program (SIP).
Other programmes under the scheme include Home Grown School Feeding, Tradermoni, Marketmoni and the Conditional Cash Transfer in the 36 states of the country.
SaharaReporters gathered that since the social investment programme of the Nigerian Government was moved to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, the minister, Sadiya Farouq, had been making attempts to stop some of the programmes under the scheme.
Aside from announcing that beneficiaries would be laid off, she had also refused to release funds for the school feeding programme in some states.
Some of the beneficiaries who spoke to SaharaReporters said they could no longer meet their needs.
They asked the government to reconsider their plight as Nigerian citizens and law-abiding youths who were energetic and hard-working towards national development having contributed to the education sector.
“The minister claimed she has paid us, but till now, none of us has yet to see a kobo. We are really suffering,” a beneficiary had said.
In September 2021, some disengaged beneficiaries of the N-Power scheme insisted on proceeding with their planned nationwide protest despite the statement by the Nigerian government to commence payment of their unpaid stipends.
Hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries of the scheme were affected by the disengagement.
According to a statement issued by Mrs. Azuka Ogugua, the ICPC’s spokeswoman on Wednesday, D’banj is under investigation for fraud connected to the programme.
The statement read: “In line with its mandate, the commission had received numerous petitions on the diversion of N-Power funds running into billions of naira following the approval and release of such funds to the beneficiaries by the Federal Government. Many N-Power beneficiaries had complained over the non-receipt of the monthly funds in spite of payment by the Government.
“About 10 persons have been invited by the ICPC over the last few months in connection with the N-Power fraud, and have been granted administrative bail after their detention. Several invitations to Mr. Oladipo Daniel Oyebanjo, to appear before a team of investigators were ignored and not honoured.
“Mr. Oyebanjo turned in himself and was taken into custody at the ICPC Headquarters on Tuesday, 6th December, 2022, and is currently assisting the investigators to unravel the circumstances of the fraud allegations by the petitioners.
“The investigation will be all-encompassing and also be extended to other collaborators of the fraud and the banks where the beneficiaries’ accounts are domiciled.”
But in a statement issued on Wednesday through Maryam El-yakub Musa. Esq., Asst. Team Head, Litigation, LAW CORRIDOR, D’banj denied the allegations and urged the public not to get carried by the “media trial”.
Noting that it was to set the records straight, D’banj’s legal representatives raised some points, saying: “It is instructive to state foremost that the report concerning the arrest and detention of Mr. Daniel Oladapo Oyebanjo is misconceived, malicious and prejudicial to the justice system anywhere in the world and we would advise that the general public be well guided.
“We acknowledge the fact that the ICPC is currently investigating allegations of diversion of N-POWER funds as already stated by the Commission and we continue to hold the expectation that the Commission will stay the course of professionalism in this matter.
“For the record, D’banj has no such contractual or incidental relationship whatsoever with any group or persons within or outside government in relation to the disbursement, operations, access or control of the operation of any government fund through an agency or its subsidiaries.”
N-Power is one of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government’s social investment programmes aimed at tackling youth unemployment and re-energizing public service delivery in four key sectors: education, agriculture, health and vocational training.
According to the government, it spends about N15 billion monthly as stipends on nearly 500,000 volunteers.
Most beneficiaries receive a stipend of N30,000, which is about $67 at the current N445 exchange rate. The government has often delayed the payment of the stipend from inception.
Meanwhile, the Buhari administration has been commending itself for initiating the programme which started in 2016, describing it as one of its major achievements, even though it is deeply eaten by corruption. However, the government says it is one of the largest post-tertiary job schemes in Africa.
The National Social Investment Programmes NSIP (an initiative the N-Power scheme is one of its elements), which was formerly under the office of the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and managed by Hajia Maryam Uwais, special adviser to the president on social intervention, was moved to the ministry of humanitarian affairs, disaster management, and social development on October 1, 2019.
The N-Power scheme had sub-components as N-Teach, N-Agro and N-Health.