Junaid Oluwaseun is a 2008 graduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), in Nigeria’s southern Ogun state. For years, he struggled to be gainfully employed or experience personal growth. But in 2016, ‘Seun secured a slot as one of the beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s N-Power scheme, and that proved a turning point that changed his path in life.
The N-Power, an offshoot of the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIPs), is a temporary employment scheme for Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 35. The recruitment process was largely transparent. Under the graduate segment of the programme, the two most popular sub-categories are the N-Power Teach (N-Teach) and N-Power Agric (N-Agro). Beneficiaries, also called volunteers, are posted to different Place of Primary Assignments (PPAs): N-Teach enrollees to government-owned schools, and N-Agro to relevant public corporations and parastatals.
Oluwaseun was assigned to the Ogun State Agricultural Development Programme (OGADEP).
With savings from his monthly stipends of 30, 000 naira (about 65 dollars at interbank exchange rate on April 29, 2023), he bought a plot of land and set up six fish ponds in Sagamu (also spelt as Shagamu), a city known for its rich agricultural heritage.
“Through the acquisition of knowledge and skills from N-Power, I was able to set up a catfish farm in Sagamu here. And then, I employed workers who are assisting me. We have interns too. I was able to achieve this from N-Power stipends.
“This business was started with 2, 000 bits of catfish, and at the moment, I have been able to raise 6, 000 pieces. Having been unemployed for some years, I can say that I am now self-employed,” Oluwaseun said with noticeable delectation.
“The programme (N-Power) has assisted me tremendously because I put some money into the cooperative. With that, I was able to get enough to start my farm.”
In Nigeria, ‘Cooperative Society’ are institutions formed for mutual assistance of its members. It is mainly the movement of people who are not affluent.
Being an individual with a strong Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) drive, Oluwaseun took his business idea one step further, turning the catfish into smoked products and exporting them to the United Kingdom (UK). He presently runs JND Farms and Consultancy Service.
Since 2016, the Nigerian federal government has empowered and upskilled over one million youths through the N-Power scheme – 200,000 from the defunct Batch A set which started in September 2016 and ended four years later; 300,000 from the Batch B who were on board between August 2018 and July 2020; and 1 million Batch C beneficiaries (510,000 for Stream C1 and 490,000 Stream C 2), according to figures from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
Now in its third phase, known as Batch C II, the Vice-President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, once spoke about the prospect of the famed programme being the largest post-tertiary job scheme in Africa.
N-Power Funds Used to Start Bird-Breeding Business
Usman Isah, a Batch B N-Power beneficiary based in Yola, Adamawa State capital, has a similar mindset as Oluwaseun. He explained how he ventured into the poultry sector, raising birds for the purpose of sales.
He started small and grew big.
For someone who received employment compensation for 22 months, it means he earned a total salary of N660,000 (six hundred and sixty thousand naira) during his two-year stint with N-Power.
“I saved part of my stipends which were paid monthly by N-Power and used it to purchase a carton of birds, that’s about 50 pieces. Now, I have over 500 birds. I have also been empowered by N-Power as a Facilitator, to train members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) on how to breed birds and how to modify feeds,” Isah said.
‘I Acquired Land for Rice Production Thanks to N-Power Money’ – Nigerian Youth
Justice Chikwado Obinyelu, an Anambra State N-Power Agro beneficiary was out of work for four years, but N-Power salvaged his situation. In his words, “N-Power came in to put a smile on my face”.
With savings from his monthly stipend, he initiated a rice farming named JUSTCHY Agrofarm in his native Awka, employed three staff and also started his family.
“The little stipend I received, that is the 30,000 Naira, I invested part of it and as we speak, I have rice production farms. Additionally, it made it easy for me to be able to employ three labourers. This N-Power made me to be a married man today [sic].”
N-Health Worker Trades in Shoes
Since its inception, N-Power has deployed over 150,000 beneficiaries to Primary Health Care centres in the country (N-Health). This is done in collaboration with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the Federal Ministry of Health.
Through the N-Power Health program, young graduates are trained to work as support health assistants. They are also trained to provide communication and advocacy services to the patients at the health centres. These volunteers function as volunteer health assistants across Nigeria.
Being an N-Power beneficiary affords one the chance to explore other means of income. Dauda Ozomata Isaac, one of the now-exited N-Health beneficiaries, did not limit himself as he invested in the shoe industry.
“I am based in Kogi, North-Central Nigeria, but I often travel to Lagos to buy shoes to sell. I facilitate this through the little money I get on a monthly basis. So, I can tell you that it (N-Power) has impacted me a great deal,” Isaac enthused.
N-Power Nigeria Contributing to Growth and Investment of Business in Africa
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in a report released in February 2023 revealed that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — driven by the service sector — grew by 3.52 percent in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2022.
The figure represents a growth of 1.27 percentage points compared to the third quarter (Q3) of 2022, which stood at 2.25 percent.
According to the bureau, the service sector improved by 5.69 percent and contributed 56.27 percent to the country’s GDP.
The service sector is the area of the economy that produces and offers services.
TOP MEDIA reports that N-Power scheme contributed to the empowerment of youth through poverty reduction, improving financial health, on-the-job experience and investment in small scale businesses.
Smart beneficiaries earn more money and stand out
As an N-Power Beneficiary, Alioha Ihechi learnt how to process cassava. She used her stipends to purchase equipment and proceeded to institute a local food product, Oyoyo Super Fufu flour.
Gbadebo Olayinka, an N-Teach Batch A beneficiary who saved 10 thousand naira monthly from his stipends used the savings of four months and property from a friend to start a cassava farm. In addition, he operates a Cash Center in his community where people pay in money and withdraw.
Angela Mojisola is a Batch A N-Agro beneficiary in Ogun State. With the savings from her N-Power allowance and her fish farm, she purchased eight plots of lands for 500, 000 naira (a little over 1,000 dollars at interbank exchange rate on April 30, 2023).
“Small Things Matter”, Says Diaspora-based Former N-Power Beneficiary
Although the remuneration for N-Power graduate beneficiaries is considered meagre by some people, Ibrahim Adeyemi, a Batch A N-Agro beneficiary, stated that nothing is too small to make a difference.
He explained that every single thing, no matter how insignificant it may seem, really does have an impact.
“I enrolled in the program the very day after I finished my NYSC. I was chosen and assigned to Agege Local Government Area (LGA) in Lagos State. There, I gained knowledge about poultry production.
“During the program, I was earning thirty thousand naira. I used to have a cooking gas refill business which I didn’t have enough resources to grow. But with the emergence of N-Power, I was able to save part of the stipends and make more investments in my cooking gas business.
“Also, in my own modest way, it helped me to provide for my family’s nutritional needs.
“It meant a great deal to me. Today, with the earnings from N-Power, my small business, coupled with my financial discipline, I am studying in the UK.
“Nothing is too small if you can make a huge thing out of it,” Adeyemi told TOP MEDIA.
Editor’s note: This report was independently produced by TOP MEDIA’s Ridwan Yusuf.