15 September 2015, Abuja — AS the senate probes into the management of funds appropriated to the power sector from the Olusegun Obasanjo civilian administration to date, there were revelations weekend of alleged diverting of the sum of N3.5bn meant for the payment of participantsof the scheme by the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Power, Dr. Godknows Igali.
In a petition submitted to the chairman of Senate Adhoc Committee on Power, Senator Abubakar Kyari ( APC Borno North), Beneficiaries of the National Power Sector Apprenticeship Scheme, NAPSAS alleged that the Ministry recruited 7200 youths for the apprenticeship scheme which was expected to last for six months but stopped abruptly.
In the petiton, the group noted that each participant of the scheme was expected to be paid N20,000 monthly stipend for six months after which they may be absorbed into the power sector but that was not to be as at the moment, due to failure of the permanent secretary to implement the programme to the fullest even after N3.5 billion has been budgeted for it since last year.
It would be recalled that Senate President Bukola Saraki had last month announced a 13-man ad-hoc Committee to carry out a holistic investigation into the management of funds appropriated to the power sector from the Olusegun Obasanjo civilian administration to date.
Senator Saraki had urged members of the committee to consider their reputation and integrity and come up with a report that would be acceptable to Nigerians. He lamented that a lot of money had been spent on the sector with no results, while Nigeria is still faced with the challenge of power supply.
The committee which has Senator Abubakar Kyari, APC, Borno North, as chairman, was also saddled with the responsibility of looking into irregularities in the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN and to inadvertently probe how the Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’adua and Jonathan administrations managed funds allocated to the sector.
The committee headed by Senator Abubakar Kyari, (Borno North) was charged with the task of looking into the entire power value chain including generation, transmission and distribution with a view to identifying what the problems in the sector are.
The Permanent Secretary, Dr. Igali had appeared before the Committee last week Tuesday where he revealed that a total of N2.74 trillion has been invested in the country’s power sector from 1999 to date.
According to the aggrieved apprentices of the scheme, what actually made them to protest and expose the alleged scam being allegedly perpetrated through the scheme by the power ministry was recent false claim made by the permanent secretary that a total of 600 apprentices among them, have been formally absorbed into the power sector after their training, adding that Igali claimed in the media that 600 NAPSAS had been recruited after completion of thier training and offered employment across the eleven electricity Distribution Companies otherwise known as DISCOS.
NAPSAS however challenged Ambassador Igali to publish names and addresses of those recruited by the DISCOs after their trainings.
The petition by the group most likely would be treated by the Senate Ad Committee on Power during its public hearing on the sector soonest.
Part of the petition by NAPAS read : “NAPAS is capacity building Program that was flagged off by the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Power, for various categories of unemployed Nigeria youths, in November 2014 with the overall purpose of bridging the skilled manpower gaps presently experienced in the power sector.
“In the Program guideline, it was stipulated that the total number of participants will be 7400 from across the federation, with 200 participants each, to be drawn from the 36 states and the FCT.
“It was also stipulated that the programme is to last for six months with intensive hands-on training and each participant would be paid a monthly stipend of N20, 000 at commencement by Federal Government through Ministry of Power/NAPSA and probably, be absorbed into the power sector at the end of the six months training period.
The Training was also scheduled to be carried out by the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN).
“Consequently, the Federal Government flagged off the commencement of this Programme at the Presidential Villa on November 6, 2014 witnessed by some few selected number of Participants (Trainees) numbering up to 25 with open declaration by President Jonathan that a total of N3.5 billion had been earmarked for it , mostly for payment of monthly N20, 000 stipends to participantsfor six months training.
“The Training was supposed to be continued immediately but suffered some delay, for reasons no one cared to inform us, the trainees about. until Monday December 15, 2014 when we were invited for the induction exercise at Bolingo Hotels, Central Business District Abuja by 10:00am during which credential of the entire trainees were screened and final successful participants selected .
“On the 2nd February 2015, the trainees were mobilized for the first phase of the training, across the states and FCT for 10 days (2-13th feb.,2015),after we had earlier registered through NAPTIN website.
”To our disappointment, the trainees were not paid after that first phase, even when the payment were made, it was only some of the trainees in Abuja that were paid 18,000Naira only as against 20,000Naira budgeted for each trainee.
“We add here that after our training in February, there were some adjustments to the effect that some trainees with qualification less than first degree, were actually deployed into the field for their fieldwork experience, while those with degrees were redistributed to some other areas like metering, solar, billing etc as against what they had previously made as their choices, and that brought about the second theoretical training between May and June 2015.
“On March 2, 2015, NAPTIN’s management sent out text messages to us requesting from us the Trainees to reply with our Full Name, Phone numbers, Passport photograph and signature between March 2, 2015 and March 3, 2015 and send to a provided link@email@example.com” to enable them process our Identity Card for field Posting.
“We all responded as requested but never heard anything relating to Identity card, neither were we given any form of identity till date. We kept waiting to hear from NAPSAS/ NAPTIN for what and when next while we were sitting at home.
“On 22nd March 2015 we received another text message from NAPTIN management prompting us to report on Monday April 13, 2015 at the various selected designation nationwide for a 16 weeks hands-on skills training on both Solar Installation and Maintenance as well as Metering depending on the Field of Study and Qualification of the Trainees which we responded to , but also ended abruptly after two weeks without any cogent reasons given or payments made”
*Henry Umoru – Vanguard