By Essien Ndueso
On Tuesday April 11,2017 some qualified unemployed youths leave for training abroad to equip themselves for the Electric Metering Factory billed to take off next month. The youths who were selected after a rigorous screening programme are the outcome of Governor Emmanuel’s insistence that his administration shall build and enhance capacity for youths in the state. When the Metering factory recruitment exercise commenced, several youths of the state gave the programme little or no attention, and after series of persuasion from the governor the reality has now dawn on the people of the state, and today those selected are travelling for specialized trainings in engineering and management courses outside the shores of the country.
To add pep to his agenda, the governor instituted a loan scheme of N2bn for traders in the state and several market women and men have accessed the loan in tune ranging from 100,000 -500,000 naira each. The fund which was made available through the micro and medium scale enterprises is to cater for 1000 beneficiaries who are mostly traders. The percentage of disbursement is 65 per cent for women while the men will access the remaining 35 per cent. In floating the scheme, Governor Udom Emmanuel who donated a bus to the traders, said that the loan which is revolving and interest-free, will boost working capital of the traders and enable them excel in their businesses.
Recently, Donald Antai Esio, an indigene of Udung Uko local government who was a barber at Ekpri Nsukara Street, Uyo metamorphosed into a 21st century computer programmer. Today, his former customers have had to adapt to the services of his apprentices because he hearkened to the clarion call on capacity building. “I was barbing when the announcement on the radio was made for those shortlisted to proceed on a training course in a computer application- Oracle. Although I had not applied, and I had no previous knowledge of computer operations, I had a firm belief that Governor Udom Emmanuel could be trusted as a man of his words,” he said. On the said day, he prayed in the morning and decided to also go to the Akwa Ibom State e-library, venue of the training exercise. On getting there, those earlier shortlisted were screened and ushered in, while eleven of them remained outside, discouraged but hopeful. Suddenly, one of the organisers came out and enquired of them their mission, and when they told him, he said they were working according to the approved list. However after a while someone came out took their names and took them inside. “Which church do you attend?” “Redeemed Christian Church Sir,” was the reply. God has answered your prayer, he told me. That is how I was miraculously enlisted in that seven months training programme that saw us given some money as transport and feeding allowance as well as a laptop computer which I can confirm is more than N200,000. See my brother, Governor Udom ‘awork’, and I thank God for making me a beneficiary” Donald mustered.
Donald and 199 others are among the first batch of 1000 Oracle application trained and empowered youths of the state. Explaining the concept of capacity development, Mr Charles Udoh, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy said, “The governor is bringing in a lot of industries into the state, and the industries need skilled manpower to take strategic management positions. That is why he wants to develop as many youths as possible in the state. He has earmarked a lot of training and empowerment programmes such as the Oracle training, the Micro Works training, and such other ones for the unemployed in the state.”
To this end, 1000 youths have been trained in Micro Works(an online marketplace) in collaboration with Rockyfeller foundation, with most of the beneficiaries now comfortably earning money in dollars. Still on the concept of putting people on cue for the emerging industrial boom in the state, the government is also considering other technical areas such Android and I-Phone Assembling training, training in 3d Printers that can equip people with the skills to make toys wrist watches, necklaces, customized bottles, bracelets, among others, there are also proposed trainings in Cisco programming as well as Project Management.
The government of Mr. Emmanuel is a believer in capacity building, and that is why several youths in the state are at various stages of training in specialized programmes in Computer Technology, engineering, agriculture, among others. When he assumed office on May 29, 205, the governor had promised that he is coming principally to build capacity and strengthen institutions.
The agriculture sub-sector appears the greatest beneficiary as many farmers and young people have been trained and encouraged into agro-industrial farming with the Government’s vision to transform the entire agricultural sector cutting across the crop, livestock and fish farmers.
The youths are now being given ‘nets’ because the governor expects the youths to earn a living by working and not by begging. And the best way is to create wealth and make Agriculture attractive. Instead of discouraging youths with hoes and matchets, the government is mechanizing Agriculture. The government is partnering with investors who are ready to bring in modern farm equipment. “We are going to set up tractor hiring services and maintenance centers in the three senatorial districts. Once we reduce the tediousness in preparing land for farming, people will be encouraged to go and farm,” Emmanuel had assured.
In addition to these, no fewer than 4,477 youths are currently at different levels of trainings in various skills across the 329 wards in the state. The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Skills Development Dr Majorie George Abasiodiong revealed 1,917 youths are benefiting in Eket Senatorial District, 780 in Ikot Ekpene and 1,780 in Uyo senatorial districts.
They are being trained at 530 different training centers closest to them across the 31 Local Government Areas of the State for proximity. The centers are spread as follows Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District -80, Eket Senatorial District -230 while Uyo Senatorial District has 220 centers. At the end of the training, trainees are expected to be provided with starter packs at the end of training for sustainability and self-reliance. Some of the skills being acquired are in ICT/ computer engineering, catering, pharmaceuticals, interior and exterior decoration, cosmetics, aluminium fittings, carpentry/furniture making, fashion and design, civil engineering, food processing, agro allied, pipeline welding, hat/bead making, song/sound production, videography/photography/editing, arts and painting
Other skills being obtained are in the areas of welding and fabrication, shoe making, designing/printing, bags designing, solar energy, hairdressing, music/film production, paint production, vulcanizing, electrical installation, phone repairs/maintenance, make-up artist, auto mechanic, poultry/fish farming, barbing, laundry, chalk production and many others.
Governor Emmanuel has fashioned out a road map for attainment of food sufficiency while farmers and stakeholders in the state across various Agricultural Value Chains have been grouped into value chains clusters and sensitized on Government determination to use agriculture as a key driver of the state’s industrialization policy.
Cocoa production has been revamped in the state with the flag- off of the Cocoa Maintenance Scheme to improve the yield of cocoa from the present 300kg/ha to 1,500kg/ha between 2016 to 2019. This comes with the training of 480 youths in the scheme and provision of support for 8,200 cocoa farmers to cultivate 30,000 hectares of Cocoa.
To boost cassava cultivation, the Governor has approved the establishment of three new cassava processing factories in the three senatorial districts in the state namely Nung Udoe in Ibesikpo Asutan (Nung Udoe, Eket LGA (Ikot Okudom) and Abak LGA (Ikot Ekang). This will reduce the cost of processing cassava into other derivatives such as fofo, garrison, and pallets as well as their prices significantly.
He has secured 10billion naira for small scale rice growers through the Anchor borrowers program of the Central Bank of Nigeria in collaboration with the Bank of Agriculture, a total of 63,715 hectares of swamp land is targeted for cultivation by 48,920 rice farmers in the state.
He is partnering with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development under the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) on the provision of farm inputs for a total of 3,600,000 farmers in Akwa Ibom state between 2016 and 2019. A breakdown shows that 600,000 farmers benefited from the scheme in 2016 while 800,000, 1,000,000 and 1,200,000 farmers are earmarked for 2017, 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Farmers in crops, livestock and fisheries sub-sectors are expected to benefit from the scheme
After completing and putting life to the Akwa Prime Hatchery and Poultry Ltd at Mbiaya Uruan, the governor designed a free training/empowerment programme for several hundreds of poultry out-growers at Akwa Prime Hatchery and provision of 1000 day old chicks start up pack to each of the qualified participants at the end of the training. Recently, Governor Emmanuel in his usual characteristics led several eminent indigenes and stakeholders in the Akwa Ibom project to initiate a N100 million empowerment programme in his church, for the empowerment and welfare of the needy in line with the Divine charge on all lovers of God.
At a special church service to mark Palm Sunday at United Evangelical (Qua Iboe)Church in Surulere, his home church, the governor harped on the need for everyone to always prioritize the welfare of members of the church who are hit by certain challenges in life. It was interesting to notice that several friends of the governor, captains of industry, business associates and prominent sons of the state donated freely to the fund he initiated, thereby bringing succour to the hitherto hopeless in the society.
With the concerted efforts in empowering everyone, it is now becoming clearer to everyone that Mr Emmanuel is one governor who is averse to playing politics with governance, and all his promises of job creation, wealth creation, poverty alleviation, economic and political inclusion as well as infrastructural consolidation and expansion have been pursued vigorously.