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*Nigeria: Training New CEOs in Niger Delta
By Ifeatu Agbu
Almost on a regular basis now, Nigerians are being assailed with scary economic indicators that are consistently pointing to the negative pole. If it is not inflation index that is sitting pretty in the double digit column, it is the value of the naira that has continued to nose-dive. All these, of course, have serious implications for the labour market and the biting unemployment situation in the country. It is sad that in spite of Nigeria’s oil wealth, our economy has been stuck deep in the woods and no one is sure when we can find the right compass to take us out of the economic labyrinth. While the search for an elixir for our financial system continues, scores of our young graduates continue to pound the streets in search of scarce jobs. For these desperate job seekers, it is now illusory to hinge their hopes on white collar jobs.
All over the world, self employment through small and medium scale enterprises is replacing government and the multinational corporations in providing employment. This is because the big companies can only employ thousands but providing jobs for teeming millions of youths lies in the hands of small scale entrepreneurs.
It gives some measure of comfort that the Federal Government is working along this line and is placing emphasis on economic reforms anchored on poverty alleviation and self-employment. One can see the efforts being made to create jobs for fresh graduates and other school leavers through skills acquisition for the development and management of new Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises.
Even the National Youths Service Corps [NYSC] is being re-engineered to add value to the certificates already acquired by graduates from tertiary institutions. The NYSC Director General , Brigadier General Mahrazu Tsiga said that plans are underway by the scheme to introduce a skills acquisition programme to empower corps members after their service year.
Brigadier Tsiga said the directorate has already asked corps members to carry out feasibility studies on businesses of their choice and that those committed to the programme would be given N250, 000 as take up grant. This initiative was more or less endorsed recently by the Minister of Youth Development, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi during the media briefing to mark the 100 Days of the Administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria showing some major cities, including the Federal capital (Abuja or FCT)
The minister said that time was ripe for the overhaul of the NYSC, from that of national integration to an NYSC of national transformation. According to him, the NYSC should address the concerns and challenges of today. He said the scheme would henceforth emphasise the S (service) in the NYSC. “The central idea is that corps members should serve where the nation has critical needs such as Education, Health, Infrastructure and Agriculture. For instance, young graduates could learn and participate in large scale mechanised farming during their service year and later, can be encouraged to become agro-entrepreneurs.”
Perhaps, the idea is to use the NYSC as a finishing school, where corps members would spend considerable time of the service year learning valuable life and enterprise skills. This would bridge whatever educational gap they might have and provide them with market-ready skills.
It would appear that the battle against unemployment is being waged at different fronts. The Federal Government, for one, is using agencies such as the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, the Central bank of Nigeria, CBN, among others to fight the scourge. The CBN, for instance, introduced Entrepreneurship Development Centres as a means of equipping people with entrepreneurial skills so that they can be self employed and consequently be employers of labour. This pragmatic approach is being run in conjunction with some universities in the country.
The University of Nigeria, Nsukka is one of such higher institutions collaborating with the CBN in setting up training programmes in entrepreneurial studies for graduates and secondary school leavers, aimed at reducing unemployment among youths and checking rural poverty in the country.
The university is currently running the programme under the auspices of its Entrepreneurship Development and Research Centre, CEDR. According to the Executive Director, Prof. Alex Ikeme, the objective of the training was to change the mindset of graduates, school leavers and retired personnel that without government jobs, they could not attain great heights in life.
The NDDC, as an interventionist agency, has also weighed-in to assist in giving practical training to youths in the Niger Delta to ensure that they are gainfully employed. Clearly, this is a very critical intervention aimed at stemming the tide of restiveness in Nigeria’s oil-producing region. One major programme introduced by the commission is the NDDC Technical Aid Corps [NTAC], which is designed to meaningfully engage graduates from the region and serve as an unemployment stop-gap for them. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria's Niger Delta Region showing Port Harcourt
Since the programme took off last year, thousands of unemployed graduates have been enlisted by the commission and sent to various companies, including the SMEs to work for two years. During the period the commission will pay each of the beneficiaries N30,000 a month which will be augmented by the employer with N15,000. Like the National Youth Service Corps [NYSC], the scheme is expected to help the young graduates gain the necessary experience, which would enhance their chances of securing gainful employment or to become self-employed at the end of their tutelage in the industries. The NDDC scheme has the potential of reinvigorating the SMEs which are among the most potent forces responsible for the fast-tracking of the economic transformation of any country. Most of them lack the resources to hire graduates to boost their productivity. They can therefore take advantage of the availability of this relatively cheap labour to optimise their productivity and profitability.
The programme is designed in such a way that the young graduates would be given the opportunity to improve their skills in their areas of specialisation, so that at the end of the day they would be empowered to set up their own businesses and stand on their own. The NDDC is also running a wealth-creation programme designed to train entrepreneurs on ways to achieve success in their businesses, thus creating jobs in the region. According to the Acting Managing Director of the commission, Mrs. Osato Arenyeka, the empowerment programme would support entrepreneurs in the micro, small and medium enterprises across the Niger Delta and go a long way in tackling the problem of unemployment in the region. She said the commission had concluded plans to train 1,000 entrepreneurs drawn from the nine states of the region as a way of creating employment and rejuvenating the economy of the states in the Niger Delta.
The NDDC boss said that the programme would enable entrepreneurs to gain access to business development services, increase access to finance and move them from micro to small enterprises. She said: “I believe that the Niger Delta region is gifted with millions of creative, productive and constructive individuals, I am looking forward to seeing made-in-Niger Delta goods all over the world,” she said.
The NDDC has been involved in other training programmes like the elaborate agricultural programme in conjunction with Songhai Delta, a reputable capacity building and youth empowerment centre based in Amupke, Delta State. The scheme was designed to train 3,400 youths in Niger Delta in various aspects of agriculture. In the first phase, 1,700 participants selected from Bayelsa and Delta states were exposed to modern techniques of aquaculture, poultry production, bee keeping, grass cutter production, piggery, agro-processing, among others. No doubt, the various initiatives to empower new entrepreneurs hold out hope for the future. There is a lot to gain by developing the intellect of our youths and showing them the way to prosperity and ensuring that they are engaged in productive ventures that would chart a new course for the nation’s technological and industrial growth.
Mr. Ifeatu Agbu ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) writes from Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
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