Paucity of funds threatens NDE empowerment
There are indications that many empowerment schemes of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) may not be implemented this year amidst paucity of funds.It was learnt that non-release of budgetary provisions greatly hampered the training of unemployed persons in 2016.
Although no official of the Directorate was willing to speak on the cash crunch, The Guardian learnt that the Directorate survived mostly last year on collaborative efforts with lawmakers who used the existing mechanisms of the Directorate to empower members of their constituencies, development bodies and international agencies.
Not only that, the Directorate also collaborated with the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), ‘Future Assured’ of Mrs. Aisha Buhari, wife of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Even as the Chairman of the Board of the NDE, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has failed to use his position in the National Executive Council (NEC) to better the lot of the Directorate and also have the habit of absenting himself at promotional events of the NDE. Indeed, the Minister was absent in Katsina State where the wife of the President launched a training scheme for 200 women. Again, the Minister was conspicuously missing in Lagos where the Mrs. Aisha Buhari launched the South West training for women under Future Assured and the NDE.
He was not also there when the NDE launched an app that was designed to link farmers and the market while he was away at the launch of local initiative on the local manufacturing of pencil and toothpick in Akure, Ondo State late last year.
On the budgetary provisions for the NDE, The Guardian gathered that out of N2,689,485,414 that was budgeted for personnel that included salary, contributory pension and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), N2,246,039,729.40 was released leaving a balance of N443,445,684.60 which represented 83.51%.Regular overhead had the budget of N1166,069,199 but got N120,010,501.72 with balance of N46,058,697.28 which represented 72.27 per cent.
Non-regular allowances (skills acquisition training stipends) had N1,309,000,000 in the 2016 budget but received N1,199,916,667, representing 91.67% leaving a balance of N109,083,333.Out of the total recurrent cost of N6,854,040,027, only N3,565,966,898 was released which represented 52.03%.
On the capital projects, on-going projects had a budgetary provision of N1,601,339,492 and new project had N227,661,060 but the combined got N154,058,346 leaving out a balance of N1,724,942,206 which represented only 8.20%.N4,684,471,710 was budgeted for zonal and constituency projects but only N2,381,762,162 was released leaving a N2,302,709,548 as deficit.Out of the capital projects that had a total of N8,442,472,814, only N2,689,878,854.48 was released while N5,752,593,959.52 is still outstanding.
In total, NDE got N6,255,845,752.60 out of its N15,296,512,841 budget with releases standing at 40.90% for a parastatals that has the Minister as the Chairman of the board.In his reaction, the Acting Director General of NDE, Kunle Obayan, said though the releases were far in between, NDE was not the only agency of government that was affected.
He explained: “Yes it is true that the NDE got less than what it budgeted for in its budget. But tell me one agency of government that got all it budgeted for. We all know that the resources available to government have dwindled in the last few months due to the low price of crude oil at the international market. Overall, I will applaud government for giving us what it could afford. What we got may not be enough for us to do all we wanted to do, but we made appreciable impacts. We also embarked on collaborative efforts that helped increase our impacts.”
The NDE Chief also lauded the support the Directorate has been receiving from the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige since he came on board as the Minister as well as the Chair of the yet to be appointed NDE board.
According to the law establishing the NDE, the Minister of Labour is made automatic Chair of the Board.Obayan hinted that NDE would prioritize the registration of the unemployed persons and creation of enterprises for which N902.8m has been earmarked in the 2017 appropriation.