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Our focus is on youth, women and it is embraced under human capital development – Abiru

Our focus is on youth, women and it is embraced under human capital development – Abiru

Mukhail Tokunbo Abiru, senator representing Lagos East senatorial district, spoke with editors on his scorecard in the 14-month period he has been at the National Assembly. He spoke about the projects he has so far facilitated in his district; his focus on youth and women, centering mainly on human capital development. ZEBULON AGOMUO, brings the excerpt:

You have already attracted a lot of projects and you are doing more for your constituents. The major problem in Nigeria has always been maintenance. How do you hope to maintain the things you are establishing in your district?

Let me tell you, part of the things that I have learnt in leadership is that, when you are taking decisions of this type of projects and all of that, you must also be thinking about maintenance, sustainability and all of that.

So, part of what I have seen in this my little experience is that I cannot maintain them. The best thing I can do is to facilitate. But from the word go, you’ve got to get the collaboration of the local government chairmen. It is very important.

So, once you get their collaboration and the buy-in (for them to own the projects), you have achieved the first leg. For all the projects that you see, they are the ones that will pick from the list of the projects that we have identified according to their priority.

When it comes to commissioning also, I always tell them to lead it; to lead the celebration that is where ownership starts. The school we built in Ikorodu, it was the chairman that picked it.

The stadium we built in Epe, it was the former chairman that identified that that was what they want. For me, as long as that ownership exists, they know that they also have a scheme; but if I just go to their territory and say I will do it; and the day of commissioning you now invite them, or not, you have started wahala?

Even on the day of commissioning I would remind them that it is a joint project and that they must pledge to the people that they will maintain the project. That is the only way to sustain it; I can only facilitate. That is the way it works.

You have started very well. Starting is not really a problem, consistency is of essence. Any hope of sustaining the good work?

I don’t know exactly what you mean about consistency but if what you mean is this- trust me, we will not stretch beyond our own limit. We have identified the key projects of the Foundation; for now that is what we are going to face; we are not going to on-board any new one because the ones we are currently dealing with is not a child’s play.

If you want that value to be maintained, your focus must be clear. So, our focus is clear that those key ones we have identified, we believe they can make an impact if we pursue them properly.

So, we are not going to unduly fragment them. Focus is on the youth, women and it is embraced under human capital development because we believe if we focus on that, people on their own can continue to develop and take up.

You mentioned revolving loan in your address. In this part of the world, many people are not faithful when it comes to paying back loans. What are the measures put in place to ensure that people return the loan for others to access too?

That is why we have brought in experts and I’m sure a lot of you know about Lagos State Employment Trust Fund; they have been at the forefront of this; they understand this model.

It already exists in all the local governments. So, the access to the loan is not by coming here (his office); you won’t meet anybody here; they will be the one to push it out there; we will only just be advertising it; you go there they have their criteria. If you meet their criteria then you get it.

Well, even banks, they also have some element of default but we are hoping and believing that people around that bracket, if you actually identify them properly and you screen them properly, they rarely default; it is only the ‘big guys’ that default. It is going to be different from grant.

When we shall be opening the Epe market in another one month or thereabout, we shall be giving out grants to market women and all of that. But this is different from the revolving loan we are talking about.

You have already talked about sustainability of the projects, but I am just wondering; there are 109 senators at the National Assembly, if all of them are doing what you are doing now many Nigerians would have been positively impacted.

Look at the high cost of fuel and general inflation, you have generators running for long hours to power the facilities where the students are being trained and all that; how do you sustain the projects at this rate?

Again, that is why I have put all of these on the back of the foundation and because of the way and lots of Foundations have been run over time in this country, people are always willing to let you run your whatever, let’s see the outcome before they can support you.

There’s a limit to what I can do without people’s support. I can start it as I have done and take it to a level; but it is not cheap; that is why people should come in to assist for the good of others.

To sustain it needs assistance from others. What I can tell you is that even the level we have reached; some people who understand what it takes, on their own they are showing willingness to support.

That is what is called goodwill. For example, the Fibre Optic that has brought internet into the facility (where the STEM training goes on) was done free of charge by somebody who believes that this is what we should be doing for the youth.

He did not stop at that; he has also run a cable to the new location as well and also working on it; so if you know how innovation and technology space is also evolving; as long as you don’t compromise on value, you will eventually attract big companies to come looking for talents.

Read also: Kidnappings: Youths block Kuje-Gwagwalada road in protest

You talked about employment generation and all that you are doing in your district is about creating job opportunities. You chair the Senate Committee on Industries; does it bother the Senators that the industries are dying as a result of inclement economic weather. Manufacturing is dying; no power, and the general operating environment is harsh. Yet, you senators have oversight functions over that sector; how can employment be generated by such dead and dying manufacturing firms?

It is a major issue that criss-crosses all the sectors of the economy. To a very large extent I will say that government has tried. I will explain to the extent that they have tried and I will also try to explain to you what the major challenge is.

On the major challenge we are still an import-dependent nation; even to protect ourselves from the vagaries of what happens internationally it becomes difficult.

A very simple example- look at what has happened in Ukraine and you are seeing the backlash. We are not fighting any war with them; we are not part of it but it is affecting some of the import-depending things that we rely on; such as wheat. You hear that price of Wheat bread is going up, Ukraine produces about 20 percent of world’s wheat.

See what is happening to diesel because diesel is deregulated; and we see the struggle with petrol. Between Ukraine and Russia they are also major producers of oil. Taking them out of the world’s oil production, you now have a limitation which of course, in economics- demand and supply- when there is a shortage, price will go up.

So, those are the things that are affecting what happens even to our country. So, the issues around the industry sector we must continuously look for a way, at least, to survive. Addressing it is something that is continuous. Addressing it is not something that is limited to that sector alone; it also has the issue of dependency that we need to face.