By Cecilia Ologunagba
The Ministry of Budget and National Planning had empowered no fewer than 174,160 youths out of 200,000 selected for N-power programme in the country.
The N-Power programme recruits and trains young unemployed graduates as teachers, agricultural extension workers and health support workers, etc.
The Minister, Udoma Udo Udoma, said this in his speech read on Tuesday in Abuja at the Town Hall Meeting to celebrate the achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari Administration’s two years in office.
He said all beneficiaries from 36 states had been engaged and had started receiving payments as part of the implementation of the N-power programme.
The minister said the N-power was implemented under the Social Investment Programmes as promised by President Buhari during his campaigns to help the poor and vulnerable people.
‘‘Hence, in the 2016 Budget we voted the sum of N500 billion for social investment programmes.
‘‘These projects are being implemented by the Office of the Vice- President, with my Ministry as the accounting Ministry Department Agency (MDA) for the programme.’’
Udoma said that so many people had also benefited from the Federal Government Cash Transfer programme, the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP).
He said that the Cash Transfer Programme was aimed at providing targeted transfers to poor and vulnerable households, with the final aim of graduating them out of poverty.
‘‘So far, 35 states have been engaged in the programme by signing its MoU and 30,000 households with validated Bank Verification Number (BVN) have been paid in the first 9 states.
‘‘Payments to address backlogs are currently ongoing.’’
In addition, he said that the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme was aimed to increase the enrolment and completion rates at the primary school level.
The minister said it was called home-grown because it relied heavily on the local value chain from the small holder farmer in the community to the accredited caterer in the same community.
‘‘Twenty six states have so far engaged with the programme by carrying out their capacity building workshops with the aim of establishing their multi-sectoral teams and determining the delivery flow in their states.
‘‘Of these 26 states, home grown school feeding has commenced in 7 states while cook-pupil mapping has been carried out in 16 states.
‘‘So far, 11,937 cooks have been selected, trained and on boarded, and have commenced feeding the pupils; 1,051,619 pupils are currently being fed in 8,487 schools across the seven states,’’ he said.
Udoma further said that GEEP had so far disbursed a total of 57,000 soft loans across 28 states to various beneficiaries.
‘‘GEEP aims to provide soft loans to artisans, traders, youth, entrepreneurs and market women etc,’’ he said.
The minister said that the social investment programmes would continue under the 2017 Budget titled: “The Budget of Recovery and Growth,” which has just been passed by the NASS.
He said the 2017 Budget would consolidate on the gains of the 2016 budget, including earmarking about 31 per cent for capital projects.
‘‘The Budget was prepared on the basis of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and contains many projects that will stimulate growth in the economy such as the social housing fund and the Special Economic Zones programme.”
Udoma said that the ministry had followed up with the development of a more comprehensive medium term – ERGP 2017 – 2020.
‘‘ERGP will take us out of recession to a strong, diversified, inclusive, and sustained growth.
‘‘The Plan will help us fire on multiple engines of agriculture, manufacturing, solid minerals, services etc., and not just the single engine of crude oil production.
‘‘It sets out our policy direction for the economy over the medium term, and serves as a guide for investors and businessmen,’’ he said.
The minister, however, assured that President Buhari would deliver on its promises of tackling corruption, restoring security, and fixing the depressed economy.
According to him, Mr President has remained irrevocably committed to keeping these promises.