President Muhammadu Buhari has ruled out the payment of N5, 000 monthly allowances to unemployed youths in the country as promised by his party, the All Progressives Congress, ahead of the 2015 presidential election.
Buhari’s statement, which dismissed the N5,000 as largesse, has drawn the ire of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, which described the declaration by the President as an abandonment by the APC of the promise it made to Nigerians.
The President’s Saudi pronouncement contrasts sharply with those of some APC government officials who had, at different times and on various occasions, assured Nigerians that the fund to implement the promised allowance had been provided for in the 2016 Budget, which is currently before the National Assembly.
The President, who is on a one-week official visit to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, said during an interactive session in Saudi Arabia that he could not pay those not employed.
He said he had a “slightly different priority” from the position of his party on the payment of N5, 000 to unemployed youths, which he described as “largesse.”
The President said rather than paying unemployed youths, his administration would build infrastructure and empower able-bodied men to work.
“This largesse, N5,000 for the unemployed, I have got a slightly different priority. I would rather do the infrastructure, the school and correct them and empower agriculture, mining so that every able-bodied person can go and get work instead of giving N5, 000 to those who don’t work,” Buhari declared.
The APC, which defeated the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party at the March 28 presidential election, had promised during its campaign that if elected to the central government, it would pay N5,000 monthly to 25 million jobless youths. It also promised to introduce a free school-feeding programme.
A motion to compel the Buhari-led Federal Government to fulfil the campaign promise of paying the unemployed youths was recently rejected in the Senate.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, had at different times this year, stated that the funds meant to fulfil the electoral promise had been built into the 2016 Budget.
Akande had said the Presidency’s social protection plan had been segmented into six plans, namely Teach Nigeria; youth empowerment programme; conditional cash transfer; homegrown school feeding programme; free education for science, technology, engineering and mathematics students in tertiary institutions; and micro-credit scheme.
Under the conditional cash transfer which, according to him, is for extremely poor and vulnerable Nigerians, Akande said N5, 000 would be paid monthly to one million Nigerians.
He had also said work was ongoing on the identification of beneficiaries, stressing that it was the desire of the government to ensure the commencement of the programme in 2016.
Similarly, the Minister of Youths and Sports, Solomon Dalong, had also said last year that the Federal Government would commence payment of N5, 000 promised the unemployed youth during the campaign from 2016.
Dalong spoke when he visited the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, to commiserate with him over the death of the party’s governorship candidate in the inconclusive election in Kogi State, Abubakar Audu.
The minister, who spoke to journalists during the visit,said the APC government was fully committed to fulfilling all campaign promises made before the last elections.
He said the payment of the promised N5,000 could only begin after if it had been included in the budget.
“I would want the youth to understand that every promise must be backed up by budgetary provision and our promise to pay N5, 000 is not contained in the 2015 budget. So, definitely, it is going to begin in 2016 as we have made budgetary allocations for that,” he said.
When contacted to react to the President’s decision to drop the APC’s promise, Odigie-Oyegun, said he was on leave and outside the country.
He said in a short message to our correspondent, “As you know, I am on leave and outside Nigeria.”
Calls to the mobile telephone number of the party’s National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni, indicated that it was switched off.
A response to a text message sent to him on the subject was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report.
When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, said the party would soon make public its position on the general state of the nation.
Metuh told one of our correspondents in a telephone interview in Abuja, on Sunday, “We will soon make our position on the general state of the nation and all these issues known after our caucus and NEC meeting.
“What we are hearing (from the ruling party) is quite different from what they promised Nigerians before and during the campaigns.”