Thursday, September 23, 2021 3:00 pm
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Hundreds of beneficiaries of federal government’s temporary employment programme, N -power on Thursday lamented extortion by officials assigned to carry out their physical verification at Ikwerre local government Council Secretariat, Isiokpo, Rivers State..
The extortion and a near chaotic atmosphere at the venue of the verification at about 11 am led to the invitation of security agencies by the management of Council and temporary disruption of the exercise on Thursday.
The security officers fired teargas and gunshots into the air to disperse the hundreds of beneficiaries outside the Council Secretariat gate.
Moments later, the Ikwerre local government Council Chairman, Samuel Nwanosike, addressed the beneficiaries outside the gate, appealing to them to be orderly with promise that everyone would be attended to.
They beneficiaries later allowed back into the Secretariat to continue with the verification exercise with strict order that they should be on on queue.
However our correspondent who has been monitoring the verification exercise at the Local Government Council confirmed that a lady allegedly working for a Verification Officer simply call “Chi” is the person involved in illegal collection of the sum of N2,000 from each beneficiary before verification.
A beneficiary at the venue lamented: “The intervention of the Council Chairman did not stop the collection N2,000 from anxious beneficiaries by “Miss Chi” to ensure that they quickly verified.
“However, the Verification Officer still remained the staff with the only computer system being used for the verification.”
Speaking under condition of anonymity, one of the beneficiaries lamented that, “Since last two weeks we have been coming to the Secretariat to be physically verified and for the appropriate documentations done. To our surprise, even when we had bought office files as directed, the ones we bought were rejected for no other reasons than we must by the same type of office files from them at N500 each.
“Even when we arrived the venue as early as 6.30am-7am each day, we are not attended to on ‘first come, first serve basis,’ only those who paid the required N2,000 and above, depending on your bargaining power or those who you know facilitators are attended to”.
The beneficiary further lamented that that the reports that they have been getting from centres in other local government Council Secretariats in the state were that the process was more orderly as the beneficiaries were verified in batches on scheduled days.
On the contrary, he noted that at Ikwerre local government Council Secretariat, Npower programme officials asked all the beneficiaries who are above 400 to report daily for verification, a situation which he said was responsible for the rowdiness and desperation which the officials are taking advantage of.
It was also observed that only one computer system is devoted for the verification of the over 400 beneficiaries.
This has created unnecessary massing of people at the Secretariat without due observance of Covid-19 protocols.
Some of the distraught N-power beneficiaries who spoke to this magazine therefore asked the relevant authorities to prevail on the Npower programme verification officers in Ikwerre local government Council Secretariat, Isiokpo to attend to beneficiaries in batches, and strictly in accordance to how early they arrived at the venue and numbers assigned to them to end the present rowdiness.
They also called for the deployment of more staff and increase the number of computer systems deployed for the verification to quicken the exercise.
“I have been looking for a job since I graduated four years ago, and just as I am happy that my name came out in this year’s batch, I am now extorted. I have been traveling from Port Harcourt to Isiokpo for the past three weeks to get verified to no avail,” one of the beneficiaries lamented to this magazine.
This magazine could not get the reaction of the Executive Chairman of Ikwerre local government Council, Samuel Nwanosike, on the allegation and the rowdiness in the secretariat as at the time of filing in this story.