Supposed beneficiaries of 'YouWiN' empowerment program say they are no better off in Nigeria's huge unemployment market.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan launched the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWiN) program with plenty of fanfare circa 2012.
YouWiN was fashioned to help young entrepreneurs and women float their own businesses, given Nigeria's huge unemployment figures.
To achieve this goal, the government was going to hand beneficiaries grants, technical support and guidance through mentors.
At the launch of the 4th edition of YouWiN in 2014, Jonathan claimed that the government’s empowerment project had created more than 22,000 jobs and counting.
With Jonathan losing the 2015 presidential contest to Buhari, YouWiN was always going to face an uncertain future.
However, in June of 2016, the Buhari administration through the ministry of finance, announced that it was reviving YouWiN.
Buhari’s redesigned and repackaged version of YouWiN was named YouWiNConnect!
The Buhari administration also announced that it had approved the payment of N2.6B to 638 YouWiN awardees in 2016.
According to Salisu Dambatta, Director of information in the ministry of finance, YouWiNConnect was going to combine funding with enterprise education to better prepare entrepreneurs in areas such as accessing bank finance, accounting, marketing and tax filing.
Dambatta said the refocused and redesigned YouWiN will take the empowerment program “to the next level.”
Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun said the YouWiN!Connect is a “multi-media enterprise education initiative that will provide the tools and skills required to support the emergence of the next generation of successful Nigerian-owned enterprises across the nation”.
However, supposed awardees of Buhari’s YouWiN have told Pulse that the federal government hasn’t been keeping its own end of the bargain thus far.
“Few of us got a grant from the federal government last year...July”, one beneficiary narrated to Pulse this week on condition of anonymity because he feared a victimisation on account of his testimony. He continued; “we were semi finalists of those who qualified for YouWiN initiative under the Jonathan administration.
“The initiative was supposed to create employment for folks and help entrepreneurs like me”, he lamented. "But it's been everything but alleviating.
“Since last year, we only got a very small amount from the grant...which we all went to Abuja to sign a memorandum for; between us and the government. They were supposed to pay us three months after the 1st tranche was released, but you know Nigeria government na, they have dilly-dallied till date...now a lot of us are stranded and there are no funds to continue with business or pay rents. The government is killing us gradually”.
Another beneficiary told Pulse that he registered for the financial empowerment program online like everyone else. “My brother, the whole thing is a huge scam right now”, he said with a vigorous shake of the head.
Our first respondent for this story added that “independent monitors had come to verify how the money was used but some had been cleared for the 2nd tranche while some have not been cleared.
“I have been cleared but no one has given me a dime since. I have reached out to the ministries of finance and trade, but no one is listening to us.”
Attempts by Pulse to get a reaction from Okechukwu Enelamah who is the minister for industry, trade and investment, met a brick wall at the time of filing this.
Calls placed to the mobile of finance minister Kemi Adeosun, were also not answered. A text message sent to Adeosun’s cellphone number had also not been replied, 72 hours after.
One exasperated YouWiNConnect awardee screamed at the top of her lungs: “These funds had already been released to this administration to reduce poverty and create employment..so why the delay?"