David Diai

shimiteDelta state has been acclaimed as the first state government to key into the National Social Safety-Net Programme (NAPPS) of the Federal Government and is now poised to harness the benefit from the welfare incentives earmarked by the Federal government to address poverty and unemployment, as well provide cash incentives and capacity building training programmes for Nigerians.

This disclosure was made during the National Social Safety-Net Programme (NAPPS) stakeholders and sensitization meeting, which held on Friday, July 15, 2016 in Government House, Asaba, to explain and educate Deltans on the benefits of the Federal Government’s special intervention projects set up specifically for Nigerian youths and market women.

Acknowledging the prime position of Delta State in connecting with the National Social Safety-Net Programme (NAPPS), the State Acting Governor, Barr. Kingsley Otuaro, who spoke during the stakeholders meeting organized by the Delta state Operations Coordinating Unit (SOCU), extolled the Federal Government for coming up with the progamme at a time of dire financial outlook, unemployment and poverty in the country, even as he took time out to explain the tenets of the Delta state SMART agenda, adding that the Federal government social safety net programme was in line with the policies of the Delta state government’s effort to meaningfully engage the youths and address the problem of unemployment through its highly successful job creation programmes.

Otuaro, who was the Special Guest of Honnour at the stakeholders meeting, affirmed that the Delta state government had in the last one year created over 17, 000 jobs through its various empowerment programmes, 6,800 of which were direct jobs, while another 10, 373 were unskilled jobs, despite the lean resources the state has been grappling with, even as he noted that the Delta state government, which was not making any financial commitment to the programme, had instead, “SMARTly identified the importance of this safety-net programme and as a SMART government, had SMARTly keyed into it in order to SMARTly collect the benefits from the programme for Deltans”, adding that the state government will not hesitate to partner with any Organization, both at home and abroad, including the Federal Government, to deliver realize its promise and empower Deltans in line with the electioneering manifesto to create jobs, reduce poverty and fulfill the objective of ensuring prosperity for all Deltans.

Otuaro, who assured traditional rulers and religious leaders that they would be adequately accommodated in the programme, also pleaded with the market women associations in the state to exercise patience, as the state government would ensure that the financial facility which was being provided for them would be made available to all of them without any discrimination.

In their own comments, Mr. Mohammed Brimah and Mr. Ikem Ishiekwene, who both represented Hajia Mariam Uwais of the Office of the Vice President and Special Assistant to the Presidency on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Social Investment, said the programme was structured into five (5) operational segments, namely the N-Power job creation and youth employment programme, to train 500, 000 unemployed graduates and non graduates as teachers and auxiliary staff; the Home Grown School Feeding programme for 5.5million pupils in classes 1-3 in Primary schools across the country and the Conditional Cash Transfer programme of N5, 000 monthly to be disbursed to targeted poor and vulnerable households.

The others are the GEEP Enterprise and empowerment programme which will provide financial facilities to about 1.66million people to be disbursed through the micro credit scheme in the state and finally the STEM-E Bursary programme, which is designed to provide financial support to a targeted 100, 000 tertiary institution students, studying courses in Education, Science and Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

These programmes, which according to Brimah would be financed under the N500 billion budgetary provision of the Federal Government in the 2016 budget, is community-based and structured with the best practices of transparency in selection processes, but would also be subject to the willingness of States to key into the Social Safety net programme, just as Delta state had already done.

In her comments, Mrs. Shimite Bello, who is the Executive Secretary, Delta State Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency, as well as the Focal Person and head of the Delta state Operations Coordinating Unit (SOCU),for the programme, highlighted the important role of traditional rulers in identifying the poor and vulnerable people in their communities, whom the programme was meant to assist and while assuring market women that the conditions to access the GEEP financial loans were not as stringent as those of the state run micro-credit scheme, assured trainees under the empower programme of regular stipends during the training period, even as she harped on the need to for intending beneficiaries to ensure they registered for the programme on-line as directed and as soon as possible since the registration process will close on July 25, 2016.

According to her, “Artisans, teachers and other trainees in health, agriculture and schools programmes will benefit as they will not only be given proper training in the respected areas of interest, but will also be given stipends during the training. Those who will qualify for loan will get it at three per cent interest rate which makes it easier for them to access”

The Delta State Commissioner for Basic & Secondary Education, Mr. Chiedu Ebie, in his vote of thanks, thanked the Federal government for the programme but was also quick to point out that Delta State deserved to be given greater attention not only as the first state to key into the programme, but also in view of the fact that the Federal Government should consider increasing the state funds for the primary school feeding programme in the state, as the primary school population in the state was over 219,000 pupils, a difference of several thousand pupils in the original calculation which the Federal government had allocated to Delta state.

Those who spoke in their goodwill messages, including the representatives of traditional rulers, the clergy, youths and market women association, thanked the state and Federal governments for making this programme available to the people and while emphasizing on the need to ensure that it was carried out with transparency and honesty, pledged to utilize the benefits of the social safety net initiatives to improve themselves and their endeavours.

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