By Wasiu Popoola
The beneficiaries of the Federal Government N-power volunteer programme have decried the financial extortion being meted against them by the handlers of the programme, State Ministry of Empowerment and Job Creation, in Ebonyi state.
The youths who had on December last year staged a protest against the handlers for asking them to pay five hundred naira each as documentation fee, were worried that the same extortion that led to the protest has continued unabated.
It could be recalled that Special Assistant to the Acting President on Media,Mr. Laolu Akande warned that on no account should any state government or anybody else ask the N-power volunteers to pay a dime
However, investigations by our correspondent revealed that the handlers are yet to comply to that singular directive from FG.
It was gathered that on February 2017, one Nnanna Okoroafor, an aide to the Hon. Commissioner for Youths Empowerment and Job creation, Chief Donatus Njoku resumed the exploitation spree again. He allegedly distributed what he named deployment/posting forms to N-power volunteers and directed that they fill the form and return it for signing with five hundred naira.
It was further gathered that the over three thousand hapless youths already benefiting in the programme grudgingly complied to his directive and paid the money to him at hand before he signed the said form.
One of the N-power volunteers told our reporter in confidence that apart from the five hundred naira they paid, the handlers led by Okoroafor collects amounts ranging from five to ten thousand naira to redeploy persons who wish to change their posting due to distance.
“The one going on presently, is that the same Okoroafor Nnanna who claims to be carrying out the orders of his boss, has issued another form he named ‘Clearance Form’, and directed that we take it to the Head Teacher of the school we are posted to, for him/her to acknowledge through signatory that we are performing our duties and return it for signing with five hundred naira each”,the source added.
He lamented that even when FG said every participants should be posted to schools near him/her, in Ebonyi, some were posted to areas where they need to rent an apartment and live to be able to carry on with the programme.
When Okoroafor was confronted with the allegations, he claimed that handling the N-power programme required enough money and that despite writing to the state Governor, David Umahi to support them with fund, he was yet to grant the request.
He said the five hundred naira collected from the N-power volunteers were for digitalization,and payment adding that it was optional.
But the participants insisted that the payments were all made compulsory.
Reacting, Chief Njoku said the only people that were asked to pay money were those who made mistakes during application.
“But any other kind of payment, I am not aware and such should always be reported to me. There are things certainly,they must pay for, like if one makes mistakes during application;such person will pay for it to be corrected”,he said.
According to the Commissioner, he addressed the participants before the programme commenced fully and explained to them what they should pay for, and what not to pay for, and also directed them to report any form of extortion to him, but he was yet to get any form of complaint directly from the participants.