Concerted effort to reduce poverty and unemployment, especially among the youths in the Niger Delta, is given pep in Akwa Ibom State.
Recall that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its report on Labour Force Statistics published early this year, stated that unemployment and under-employment in the country rose from 37.2 per cent to 40 per cent in the Second Quarter of 2017. For the youths, especially in the age bracket of between 15 and 35 it stood at an alarming rate of 52.65 per cent.
In the Niger Delta, a region that is richly endowed with resources, the degree of unemployment among the young people stands at an all-time high rate. The vulnerable nature of the socio-economic structure in the region has over the years contributed to the upsurge in crimes.
But in a bid to quell this looming disaster, the United Niger Delta Youth for Peace and Development (UNDYPD) supported by the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Obong Nsima Ekere, is taking youths across the nine states of the region off the streets through skills acquisition programmes.
Mr. Godspower Nta, National President, UNDYPD, who spoke to this reporter during a five-week skills acquisition and empowerment programme ongoing at St. Patrick Primary School, Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, said the organisation has trained over 12,000 youths across the 9 states of the Niger Delta within four years.
Nta said that the inspiration behind the skills acquisition programme was borne out of the need to correct the impression that the average Niger Delta youth is lazy and violent.
“You can remember that there was this terrible narrative that the average Niger Delta youth is lazy and wants free gifts from government. We came on board to show the other side that the Niger Delta youth can be industrious given the right platform. That is just the drive of what we are doing,” Nta noted.
At the moment, over 1,000 persons are receiving free trainings in Akwa Ibom and Abia states in different vocations to include catering, interior/outdoor decoration, production of soap/toiletries, paints production, beads and hat making, fashion and designing, saloon services and hair cuts.
Others are installation and maintenance of satellite television, shoes and bag making, plumbing, photography and videography, movie making and video editing, computer appreciation, floor and wall tiling, electrical installation, solar energy installation and maintenance, as well as music.
While reaffirming that the training is absolutely free for participants, the UNDYPD president expressed his gratitude to the NDDC boss, Obong Nsima Ekere, for his massive support which has made the programme successful.
He, however, stated that the NDDC boss, who is also the APC governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom state, promised to donate starter packs to participants of the training upon graduation, maintaining that Ekere is doing this in his personal capacity.
“We will continue to thank Obong Nsima Ekere for what he is doing because he has solely given us support in the last four years. As we have told this particular set of participants, he is going to come in and empower them. What the government is supposed to be doing, Obong Nsima Ekere is single handedly doing it in his personal capacity.
“The training is absolutely free except for the N500 they pay to obtain the form. This is to ensure that they are committed. Anything you get free, you may not take it seriously. This set of instructors came in from Abia state. The 19 of them are camped and provided for by Obong Nsima Ekere. We lack words to thank him for what he has done,” he stated.
Nta charged participants of the skills training programme to ensure that they take advantage of the knowledge they have gained to better their lots and that of the people around them.
Comrade Akpemerong Honesty, National Publicity Secretary, UNDYPD, who also spoke to this reporter, said that the training programme was necessary given the need to reduce crime in the hitherto restive region.
Honesty, who doubles as the organisation’s director of Skills Acquisition Programmes, explained that the body is focused on changing the orientation of the Niger Delta youth from resorting to violence as a means of electoral resolution.
“Our focus is to change their orientation; make them know that they can actually use their hands to develop this region and make it a better place for us to live in.
“What we are doing here is totally out of love. It is our Cooperation Social Responsibility, trying to help the environment we find ourselves so that people can benefit from what we are doing. We have the interest if the youths at heart,” he said.
Pastor Success Okorie, Director of Gift Care Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation that trains youths on vocational skills, also spoke with this reporter. The foundation brought in the resource persons at the ongoing trainings.
“In GCF, we believe that no man is a nonentity. If you have a focus and are guided, you can become useful to yourself. Since what we are doing here is self help, we are appealing to well meaning Nigerians to come in and assist us,” he maintained.
Okorie berated politicians who have the wherewithal to sponsor empowerment programmes but are not doing so, saying that if they investing in the youths is one way to battle crime.
“If you do not train any youth on the street and act like it is none of your business, one day he might pick up a gun and stay on the road to rob. You or any member of your family can become a victim,” he stated.
One of the participants of the skills acquisition programme, Patience Udoka, who is learning fashion and designing, said that she had learnt all she needed to know about the vocation in barely four weeks.
Patience, a native of Onna local government area of Akwa Ibom state, thanked UNDYPD and Obong Nsima Ekere for the training programme, pledging to use the knowledge she had garnered from it to better her lots.
Godwin Etim Jackson, another participant, who spoke with this reporter, said that his life had been impacted positively because of the training.
Jackson, a native of Urueffong/Oruko local government area of the state, is learning satellite TV installation and maintenance, pleading with well-meaning Nigerians to help him with starter pack after his graduation.
The United Niger Delta Youth for Peace and Development (UNDYPD) which birthed over 15 years ago was founded to handle issues bordering on the economic and political negligence of the Niger Delta people.