Violent crimes recorded in the past in Abia State, especially in Aba, were attributed to joblessness and poverty. For the mere fact that no serious government is expected to stand and watch while its future generation wastes away, the state government has re-strategised to create new avenues to keep the youths of the state gainfully engaged. This prompted a number of strategic actions, including the decision to partner with corporate bodies to do something urgent.
Abia State, therefore, in partnership with Kunex Industries Limited, has established a Centre for Entrepreneurship Education Development at the Abia State Polytechnic and the College of Health, Aba, to further boost its youth empowerment programme.
The state intends to use the programme to engage the teeming unemployed youth population in meaningful ventures that would take young men and women of the state off crime.
Abia has comparative advantage in manufacturing. Aba, our commercial hub, has one of the largest concentrations of micro, small and medium entrepreneurs in the country.
Aba’s Ariaria International Market, one of the biggest industrial markets in West Africa, hosts thousands of artisans engaged in leather works- shoes, bags and belts.
The state is also using the programme to engage youths in agriculture. About 850 of them from the 17 local council areas of the state are to be trained in poultry, piggery, plantain plantation and aquaculture. These youths will also be given seed capital after their training to help them establish their own farms and become employers of labour.
Also last week, about 1,000 Abia youths graduated from the first phase of the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP), which commenced in 10 states including Abuja late last year (2013). They were trained in garment-making and information and communications technology (ICT) in the programme geared towards quickly addressing the nation’s number one socio-economic menace and unemployment through massive skills acquisition.
The current administration in the state is teaming up with corporate organisations and other well-meaning individuals in Aba, in particular, to empower youths. The scheme is called Youth Empowerment Scheme aimed at engaging the youths meaningfully and to refocus their attention to positive activities.
His Excellency, Theodore Orji, has already touched the lives of a sizeable number of youths in the state. So far, more than 25,000 Abia youths have benefited from the scheme, which was launched at the beginning of His Excellency’s second tenure. The administration has inaugurated 500 tricycles and 20,000 mobile telecommunication gadgets to be distributed free to youths in the state. Governor Orji affirmed that his administration initiated the programme to engage the youths meaningfully and to refocus their minds from negative activities.
To ensure that the items got to the real beneficiaries, the governor advised that it should be distributed at ward levels, through the local government authorities. He urged Transition Committee Chairmen (TCC) of the local councils to liaise with traditional rulers of various communities in their localities, party executives at ward level, market women and youth groups to ensure that the targeted groups were captured.
In the governor’s word: “My wish is for Abia State to advance in all sectors of the economy, advancement of people, advancement of self and advancement in everything. The present administration is sincere and cares for the people, consequently, it would continually carry all stakeholders along, so that they would have a sense of belonging and give out their best to the development of the state”.
The establishment of the youth empowerment scheme is another milestone by the present administration in the state to uplift the standard of living of the people, especially the youths. It is unique, because the leaders of tomorrow and strength of the society are benefiting from the government.
Frank Ibe, the former, transition committee chairman, Umuahia North Local Government Area, buttressed that the beneficiaries were youths in various wards in the state, but without jobs. To get the target group, Ibe said his team consulted with traditional rulers in the various localities, party leaders, youth leaders in the various localities as well as market women. In fact, all stakeholders were involved to ensure that we distribute this largesse from our governor equitably, he stated. “We ensured that we averted the problem of empowering somebody that has already been empowered, so we made sure that we gave it to those people, who would appreciate it and put it into good use.”
Also the Abia Youth Council, championed by Chinedu Orji, is supporting the efforts of the Abia State government to empower the Abia youth, by soliciting help from well to do Abians to reach out to the unemployed youths in the area.
The scheme, which is being replicated in all the 17 council areas of Abia State, also offers skill acquisition and scholarships to youths in the state. Orji, chairman, Abia Youth Council, the initiator of the scheme, affirmed that the move is aimed at engaging the youths in productive activities that would take them off crime.
In his words, “Youths engage in crime due to lack of livelihood and that is why political office holders should invest in the youths and women, especially widows. Empowering our youths in productive ventures will not only reduce crime in the society, but would also engender economic development.”
He went on: “Consequently, youths should stay out of trouble and utilise the opportunity provided by the programme to better their lives as well as contribute to the economic development of the state and country. We started from Aba because of its importance as the economic base of the state and that is also why Governor Orji is trying to restore infrastructure in the area.”
It is expected that the scheme would transform the grassroots sector of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) to give the Abia economy a boost from the grassroots and also suck away the supply base of unemployment and reduce supply source to crime. And until the youth and the poor find job and food on the table, the rich would never know peace. This is the core value of the innovative initiative of His Excellency, the Ochendo.
•Emezue is the chief press secretary to Abia State governor.