Concerned citizens note that since Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) which was inaugurated in October 2012 is a social safety net component of Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), the programme ought to live up to the expectations of Nigerians.
They also observe that the programme, being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Finance, has all what it takes to provide short-term employment opportunities for graduates.
They, however, agree that in conformity with its mandate, SURE-P has been creating job opportunities for graduates by attaching them to firms or organisations that pay them monthly stipends for a year.
According to them, with a monthly stipend of N30, 000, the aim is not just to reduce unemployment but to give the beneficiaries the opportunities of getting the required work experience and be self reliant.
As laudable as the programme is however, observers note that the beneficiaries face some challenges that may defeat its objectives.
At the GIS Interactive Forum organised recently by the Ministry of Finance in Abuja, some beneficiaries expressed various views on their expectations from the programme.
One of the trainees, simply identified as Donald, said a private company engaged him with an agreement to employ him after the training that lasted for a year but could not honour the agreement.
He told Dr Ngonzi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance at the forum that his stipends were allegedly not paid since he was engaged by his employer.
But the minister spoke to Donald’s employer during the forum, confirmed that the case was genuine and directed that the stipends should be processed and paid.
Observers note that Donald’s case was just one of many challenges that face SURE-P trainees across the country.
They allege that in some instances, state governments are accused of using the avenue of the programme to lure jobless graduates to politics.
For instance, Mr Tunde Ogunyemi, a graduate of Ekiti State University and a SURE-P trainee, said he had to leave the programme when he discovered that his employer was not treating him well.
According to him, most of the jobs the trainees do are not relevant to their course of study while there is insufficient welfare package.
“I was posted to a restaurant to serve customers, although I was committed to the job, the attitude of my employer who insisted I must close at odd hours discouraged me,’’ he said.
Irrespective of the challenges, the Chief Project Officer of SURE-P, Mr Istifanus Bargo, said more than 170,000 graduates had registered in the scheme’s database of which 7,000 had been matched with firms.
During a recent orientation programme for interns and firms under GIS in Abuja, he said the scheme was a deliberate effort by the Federal Government to link unemployed graduates with firms with a view to enhancing their skills.
He said that the Federal Government paid N30, 000 monthly stipends to each intern for one year, appealing to private firms to key into the programme.
Bargo, however, admitted that when SURE-P was inaugurated, it had challenges of convincing employers because they were skeptical of government projects.
He said that the management of SURE-P had always told employers to see the GIS as a tool for building critical manpower required for socio-economic development of the country.
Participants at the orientation programme opined that since the Federal Government had laudable plans for the graduates via SURE-P, the managers of the programme should ensure proper monitoring and review.
They noted that if the programme was properly managed and monitored; the rate of employment would be reduced.
They, nonetheless, expressed concern about the attitudes of some people who wanted to bring partisanship into the programme, warning that such development would kill the initiative.
To reinforce the programme and make it effective in providing skill acquisition for graduates, Gen. Martin-Luther Agwai, the Chairman of SURE-P, said that the programme would spend N2.5 million to train each graduate engineer.
He said that SURE-P had also signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria to fund the training of young Nigerian engineers as a way of building capacity in the power sector.
He observed that the training would assist in providing man power required to support the power generation, distribution and transmission in the sector.
Agwai said that in spite of the anticipated cut in the revenue of SURE-P, it would employ the best managerial practice to cushion the effect of the expected reduction on its projects.
“ Definitely we have to live in realistic world; if there is that deduction, it will affect Sure-P activities.
“We will continue to do the most with the little resource that we have; definitely there is going to be a cut on what SURE-P is getting,’’ he said.
Assessing the impact of the programme, participants at the forum are convinced that SURE-P has reduced some of the problems associated with unemployment and that it has helped in boosting economic activities across the country.

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