Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has directed the Graduate Internship Scheme, GIS to terminate immediately its partnership with Forcecom Networks Limited, FNL and urged security agencies to investigate the firm.
Some of the reasons adduced for the termination of the partnership are non-deployment of the interns to work on mobile money business months after they were deployed to the company, and sending timesheets showing that interns have worked and requested for payment of their monthly stipends when it is clear that the interns did not worked at all.
A statement issued by the Communication Specialist, GIS, Suleiman Haruna and obtained by our correspondent in Abuja yesterday said the guidelines guiding the GIS only allow payment for the number of days worked every month.
The stated pointed out that “Interns were paid for some months as a result of the deliberate falsehood of the company and its Managing Director, Mr. Paul Okafor”
It further stated that “Forcecom coerce interns to sign an undertaking to pay out N7, 500 of their monthly stipend for training with Lekki Business School. Forcecom removed graduates that would not sign up to the payments from the scheme during his second screening”.
It noted that “sending standing order of N7500 monthly deduction to the bank on behalf of Lekki Business School even after he had agreed with the PIU at meeting that the company is not suppose to and will not collect the money. Some interns have paid this money already”.
Forcecom is also accused of “asking interns to pay N30, 000 into another company’s account as an agent trading account when the guidelines state that mobile money agents will open trading accounts directly with the mobile money operator and fraudulently conniving with graduates to register in January 2015, and set their hire date as November 2014,” stressing that the “GIS online platform will NEVER allow payments to these category of interns.”
The stated explained that GIS had informed all interns deployed to FNL of the termination its partnership with company including plans to match them to other organisations so that they can complete their internship, learn skills and achieve the objectives of the scheme.
The matching of the graduates to other interested organisations will be concluded within three weeks, it added.
The GIS plans to brief all interns matched with FNL in all the pilot states they were deployed, and briefing for FCT interns done last Tuesday where “all the interns admitted that they had not yet started the mobile money business while some expressed surprise that they received payment even though they were yet to start work.”
The statement expressed worries by the GIS that “a few of the interns (about 20 out of the about 100) that attended the briefing in Abuja protested to the Federal Ministry of Finance and National Assembly over payment of outstanding 8 months allowance.”
It added that “these interns who are loyal to the MD of FNL were mobilised by and sent text messages by the MD to protest the lawful refusal of the GIS to pay for times not worked.”
The GIS therefore stated that “interns were deployed to FNL in batches in August, and November 2014; That no deployed intern has received training on mobile money business as agreed with FNL months after deployment and that No intern has been assigned to the designated mobile money operators branch they are supposed to conduct their mobile money business as per agreed deployment plan.”
It stressed that “interns cannot be paid for not working and for not gaining work experience; GIS will investigate and pay outstanding stipends to interns that have actually worked and payments for all interns engaged by the GIS apart from those that have not worked are being paid monthly as long as their employers submit the time sheets”.
The GIS is one of the components of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, SURE-P set up in 2012 by the federal government to reduce graduate unemployment in the country.
The objective is to provide unemployed graduates with opportunities to be in a work place environment geared towards enhancing their employability skills and capacities.

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