General, The Nation

YouWiN – Buhari Throws Away Baby with Bath Water

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YouWiN, an initiative to rid Nigeria of unemployment, is at the brink of death due to the nonchalant attitude of President Buhari, Faruk Ahmed writes

Former Finance Minister, Okonjo-Iweala with some YouWiN beneficiaries
Former Finance Minister, Okonjo-Iweala with some YouWiN beneficiaries

Four years ago, the federal government under the former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan came up with an initiative to reduce the number of unemployed youth from the streets. The then coordinating minister of the economy and minister of finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala came up with the idea of Youth Enterprise with Innovation of Nigeria (YouWiN) where youth across the nation compete with innovative ideas and the best ideas are awarded grants of N10 million Naira each to kick-start their ideas.

The YouWiN award is a rigorous programme applied for by over 100,000 candidates, 45 years old and below, across the nation which is then whittled down to mere 1,200 or 1,500. The selection process usually takes up to a year before the eventual winners are selected; memorandums of understanding signed, grants given in tranches and subsequent monitoring ensue. YouWiN is one of the programmes in Nigeria that has been hailed for not including tribalism, sectionalism, politics and corruption in its selection.

The first batch awardees in 2012 comprised mostly men and so the subsequent edition in 2013 was tagged YouWiN Women exclusively for women. While the first and second editions comprised 1,200 each, the third edition, YouWiN 3, had an increase of 300 awardees.

Just like in any endeavour, some of these businesses could not survive the rigorous nature of the real world, but some withstood the hurdles of life, waxed stronger and engaged hands in the multitudes. Blue Dove Chemicals, the producers of woodPRO range of roof timber fortification chemicals and Favourable Standard Concept, the producers of Recreziontv show which runs Mondays 3.30pm on Silverbird Television, are just a few of the success stories of the programme.

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So far, the YouWin 1 and 2 have all received their tranches and have been monitored, while the YouWiN 3 awardees received their first tranches in February 2015 and the second was paid to about 1,200 awardees in the last week of Jonathan’s administration in May 2015. Some of the remaining 300 awardees also received theirs while President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) was on seat, but there are few still expecting the second tranche ten months after receiving the first. Right now, some businesses are stagnated, while others have been reported to be retrenching their workforces.

When PMB was campaigning for election, youth employment formed one of his cardinal thrusts. But few months into his administration, one of the most laudable programmes of his predecessor, which was hailed for taking many unemployed youth off the streets, is being strangled in the jugular. Even after leaving office, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was reported to have advised PMB not to ditch the YouWiN programme even if he was going to scrap other programmes of the previous government.

Most of the awardees this reporter chatted with, narrated how their businesses are being threatened. One of them, Tony A. G. Khah surmised the whole picture aptly: “We are a group of entrepreneurs whose businesses had a promise of doing well at the beginning of the year only to be laden with debts, in some instances, and wondering about the survival of the jobs so far created at the end of the year. We represent the future of an organized private sector driven economy that is home grown. We are a point of national unity where fertile minds from all parts of the nation are combining to birth a prosperous Nigeria. We are YouWiN 3 awardees!” But most of the awardees think the PMB administration is trying to turn most of the unborn babies into stillbirth, while throwing away those already born with the bath water.

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In an email sent to one of the awardees which this reporter sighted, the YouWiN secretariat wrote that the Treasury Single Account (TSA) caused a delay in the disbursement of funds to the awardees and that they were waiting for a pin from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to access the YouWiN fund domiciled at the CBN. But repeated visits of the awardees to the YouWiN secretariat proved to them that the programme is in coma.

An awardee who craved for anonymity said, “We just got out from the YouWiN secretariat but the humble truth is that we, the awardees, are even the ones to help the people at the secretariat to even collect their salaries before paying our tranches.” That seems to be the sorry state of the programme as it is.

Moreover, when this reporter put through calls to the enquiry numbers of the secretariat on its official site, www.youwin.org.ng, all he got in reply were “The number you are dialing is switched off! Please try again later!” Furthermore, the second boot camps organized by the secretariat regionally recently for the awardees which were not with their usual colour and grandeur further highlight the critical state of the initiative.

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As it is now, the awardees are planning to make a peaceful match to the federal ministry of finance and the National Assembly to point out the dangers that lie in the inability of the PMB administration to at least complete the payments of the YouWiN 3 awardees’ tranches, even if it is eventually going to throw away the bath water. All hands are crossed! Nigerians pray for the better!!


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