Winners of the third edition of the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria programme on Wednesday stormed the headquarters of the Ministry of Finance in Abuja and almost paralysed activities there.
The angry youths, who were in their hundreds, accused the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, and other top officials of the ministry of frustrating the release of their grants, which they said had remained unpaid for about a year.
The protesters described the development as frustrating as it was negatively affecting the businesses, which the initial grant was used to set up in 2014 when their proposals were approved by the Federal Government.
The YouWin programme is an innovative competition aimed at job creation by encouraging and supporting aspiring youths to develop and execute good business ideas.
The accomplishments of the 1,200 YouWiN awardees were celebrated at the Presidential Villa on April 12, 2012.
The YouWiN Women was the second edition of the scheme, which was designed for only female entrepreneurs aged 45 years or less.
Under the third edition, which supported both male and female entrepreneurs, 1,500 awardees were announced in 2014.
Speaking to our correspondent during the protest, one of the affected entrepreneurs in the YouWin 3 programme, Mercy Terhile, said each beneficiary was expected to receive between N10m and N15m to commence a business.
She said with about 1,500 beneficiaries, the amount being expected was in the region of N15bn and N22.5bn.
Terhile, who claimed that she had sacked some of her workers as a result of the development, said, “In 2014, we were declared winners by the Federal Government in the YouWiN 3 programme. Some of us were paid the first tranche of our grants before former President Goodluck Jonathan handed over in May last year.
“Since President Muhammadu Buhari took over, no money has been paid to us. Our businesses are dying. We recently learnt that the President had approved that the money be paid to us but that the Finance minister and officials in the ministry have delayed it for over six months.”
Another beneficiary of the scheme, who gave his name as Bobby Adewale, told our correspondent that the ministry attributed the payment delay to the non-provision of Bank Verification Number by the awardees.
He said, “We heard they moved money from the YouWin account in banks to the Treasury Single Account. Later, they claimed that they were waiting for our Personal Identification Numbers.
“After that, they claimed we don’t have the BVN. About 1,500 people are affected and from our records, only 120 of that figure don’t have the BVN, and we are not sure if these 120 people are ghost awardees because they have told us that except they get the BVN of these 120 people, no money would be released to us.
“This is not fair; how can you delay the payment of 1,380 people because of 120 people who have yet to provide their BVN?”