The Director-General of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Dr. Nasiru Ladan Mohammed Argungu, said the agency has taken over the full control of the Special Public Works (SPW) programme meant to engage 774,000 young people across 774 local government areas.
In an interview on Sunday, Dr. Argungu said, “The fact is that now the execution of this project is 100 percent in the hands of NDE, and we have set the machinery in motion.
“An agreement was reached and I want you to put it on record. The agreement was reached by the DG of NDE, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, the Minister of State, Festus Keyamo and the Minister, Chris Ngige. The decision was taken by four of us that NDE as the implementing agency should go ahead to implement and execute this programme,” Argungu said.
He revealed that within the week, the NDE team from the head office, with the team from the minister’s office will be touring some states “to ensure that all arrangements are in order so that we can meet the October 1, 2020 deadline as the take-off date for this programme.”
The NDE boss said the agency has enough human capacity and facilities to handle the programme. “Before this 774 project, we had 691 desk officers out of the 774 local government areas but as I speak, we have desk officers in all the 774 LGAs. Our staff strength is almost 3,000, enough to cater to a lot of activities.”
The NDE head noted that while the SPW programme is ready to take off on October 1, 2020, a pilot study was conducted across eight states by engaging 40,000 people was successful.
“Of course, from the breakdown I gave you, it is something we can handle 100 percent. We have done pilot studies in eight states – Ebonyi, Edo, Kwara, Ekiti, Borno, Katsina, Adamawa and Jigawa. We have not done in Adamawa and Jigawa because of the COVID-19 issue, but all arrangements are in place. For the six states, we have done it successfully.”
Dr. Argungu also said the programme has six key objectives. “It is far beyond that. As far as NDE is concerned, the government is trying to use one stone to kill six birds.
“The first point is that you are much aware that even in developing nations, their economy is driven by micro economy. Think about N52 billion going into the grass roots at LGA, ward level and unit level. Micro economically, what it will do to our economy is that it will have a direct impact on our macro economy.”
Secondly, he said it is creating jobs at the grass root, minimising rural to urban migration. Thirdly, President Muhaammadu Buhari has directed that wherever there is gathering of over 100 youths, NDE should engage a local preacher to emphasise to the youths in their local language about the importance of living in peace and harmony with self-reliance.
Fourthly, NDE’s department of Small Scale Enterprises has Basic Business Training (BBT) unit that will sensitise participants about investing part of their N60,000 stipends to improve their businesses or farm activities.
There is also the fifth aspect of community supervision where NDE officials will be enlightening the beneficiaries about guiding the critical governments’ infrastructures in their localities.
The sixth point is to engage the beneficiaries after the three months as Agricultural Extension Workers (AEW). “We have a programme in NDE under the Rural Employment Promotion (REP) department called Sustainable Agricultural Development Training Scheme (SADTS) where young people are trained on modern agricultural skills. So we are going to train most of them in this area as agricultural extension workers.”
He said NDE studies show that there are vast fertile lands across states where farm practices can be enhanced. Dr Argungu also noted that in states like Osun, Oyo, Ogun and the rest, with N100,000, one could hire one hectare of land for maize farming with a profit margin of N125,000.
“The Gombe State governor, Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, visited NDE recently because he has the idea of engaging 10,000 young people across the 11 LGAs in Gombe State.”
On the implementation, he said, NDE was deploying three staff in each LGA to add to three LGA monitoring committees and the three-member state implementation committee to to ensure everything is in order. He said forms with security features have been printed and given to to banks for applicants to collect without any cost.
Screened applicants will get their accounts linked to the Special Public Works (SPW) account. “If they don’t have, we will make arrangements with banks with wide reach because nobody would need to leave his locality.”
Allaying fears of sabotage, he said all interests have been carried along as 400 of the slots will take care of that per LGA. “The remaining 600 spaces are open to all Nigerians. Once you are 18 years and above and unemployed, you are qualified to join this programme. Some degree of disability can be allowed to be engaged in this programme.
“One other clarification is that, neither the leadership of the Senate nor the House of Representatives, not to talk of any lawmaker, has ever spoken to me about slots on this project. So the issue of the National Assembly members trying to hijack this programme, honestly, it is not true,” he clarified.
Speaking of the reforms at NDE, Dr. Argungu said he streamlined 81 trade trainings to 15. “Between 2014 and early 2017, which is about three and half years, only 14,082 people were trained by NDE. I assumed office on April 18, 2017, and from that time till date, and with the adjustment we made, we have already trained 1.6 million people. In this year, we are laying more emphasis on resettling more trainees.”
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