The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu said her ministry has written to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to probe the withheld allowances of some beneficiaries of the N-Power programme.
The minister explained that the move was part of measures to ensure transparency and accountability in the federal government’s programme.
She also said the ministry hopes to get the unpaid allowances from the consultant.
The minister gave more reasons why the programme was suspended during an interview on television monitored by The Nation.
Edu said: “We are conducting further investigations as to why young Nigerians who put in their efforts were not paid when you have the money sitting there.
“The week I arrived as a minister, they quickly rushed to pay 20,000 out of the number of persons they were supposed to cover which was about 360,000 persons, they paid 20,000 and then the next week they said they wanted to pay another 40,000 and the question was why are you paying them in trickles when you have monies enough to pay everybody who at least you owed for a certain amount of month and so all of these were all the grey areas we had with the N-Power and at this point for investigations to go on fully without any form of obstruction, we had to suspend the programme.
“Before the suspension, we had about 360,000 people and these are drawn from across the nation serving in education, Agro, health and about five other areas.”
On whether the irregularities that led to the suspension of the programme were from the government or the consultant side, she said: “Yes is it just one private organization, it’s just one consultant that is involved in the disbursement.
“So the funds were transferred from the government account into the account of the consultant who was expected to pay, however, that fund has sat there for quite a while.
“We have already written; first we’ve asked for a return of the complete funds that are in his possession after the initial audit into the N-Power CBN government account.”
On the identity of the consultant, she said: “I think it’s foreclosed, and like I said there are parts in which the structure of the programme did not help delivery and then there are parts in which the consultant is to be held accountable.
“For me where I see the error with the consultant is the speed in paying persons who are beneficiaries when you have funds available.
“Where I see the error on the part of the government is in terms of monitoring and evaluation. Initial uptake of persons who are coming in and offload of persons who are supposed to leave and of course the sustainability plan for these persons.
On whether the consultants and whoever is found culpable would be brought to book, she said: “Sure, we have started already and that’s why we suspended the programme, if we wanted to put things in secrecy we would not do so.
“The anti-graft agency is already on notice and they’re investigating the matter. The ICPC has been written to because this is government money and we need to recover it to pay all those who truly have been owed. Like we said all young people who have been owed, President Tinubu will ensure that you are completely paid for the months you worked.”
On how to identify those who truly worked and are owed, she said: “So one of the things which we are bringing on board is to create a portal where people who have complaints can put this complaint out. We have already created a situation room, we have created a committee that is handling the investigation of N-Power and we are going to put out the portal detail so Nigerians whether in Batch A, Batch B or Batch C who have truly worked and we can get evidence from their place of primary assignment that they truly worked and they were not paid can put in their complaints which will be addressed by this government.”
On how the beneficiaries will be selected upon the completion of the probe, she said: “For N-Power, it will be based on first come first serve, as far as you meet the criteria for each category, you would be given a chance on first come first serve.
“We are not necessarily going to allocate quotas to states, we are rather going to be using the local governments and the reason is so that we can take it as far down to the grassroots as possible and give a bigger opportunity for everyone.”
She also hinted that the allowances for beneficiaries may be reviewed based on proposals, adding that it was subject to review of the minimum wage.
The minister stated: “So the present pay right now at some point they were paid N30,000 at some point they were paid N20,000 and I was told that’s it exit package for them but we are going to have a unified payment for everyone who will come on the scheme. We are still working that out, it’s still a work in progress we have made certain proposals we have proposals of N50,000 we have proposals of N60,000 and some have said that we should wait until we have that agreement on what the new minimum wage is and then pay them according to the new minimum wage so that’s all the discussion that we have on the table while we are restructuring.”