Recently at Bende headquarters of Bende council area in Abia State, the state governor, Chief Theodore Orji in continuation of his government’s youth empowerment programme gave out 200 vehicles to unemployed youths, and N2 million each to 13 unemployed graduates.
Beneficiaries of this were mainly unemployed youths from Arochukwu, Ohafia and Bende council areas, all in Abia North district. Before now youths from Abia South and Abia Central have benefitted from the programme. Since coming into office in 2007, Governor Orji had never reneged on his government’s expressed commitment at empowering the teeming unemployed youths in the state and reducing crime in the process.
Gov. has always emphasised at several fora that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, stressing on the need for the youths to be meaningfully engaged, the scale notwithstanding. It is also noteworthy that since 2007, more than 4,000 youths have been selected across the council areas and placed on monthly stipend of N20,000 each under a social security scheme. The programme has enabled most of the beneficiaries to live without overburdening their parents after graduation.
Through Ochendo Scholarship Scheme, so many youths in the state whose parents are unable to train in school have been offered scholarship to study at home and abroad at graduate and post-graduate levels.
Those of them in primary and secondary schools have been enjoying free bus ride to schools since 2007. Bursary award of N50,000 each for the first time in the history of the state is being offered to indigenous undergraduates in tertiary institutions across the country by the state government. Also not left out in the bursary arrangement are indigenes of the state that are currently studying in the Nigerian Law schools across the country.
At a time many thought that it was impossible for state governments to give out free vehicles to youths, the present government in Abia State has since given out more than 500 vehicles free to the youths in the state.
Details of the beneficiaries of this and particular of the vehicles and models were always made public, confirming the authenticity of the scheme. Also given out free to the youths were more than 500 tricycles, sewing machines, computers, and others through the state youth empowerment programme.
Which is why I find rather baseless some sponsored articles in some newspapers criticising the state youth empowerment scheme, alleging that the government was giving out rickety vehicles to graduates and PDP members in the name of youth empowerment. But surprisingly, some of the published beneficiaries of the programme were from Anambra and Imo states who were born, brought up and are still residing in Abia State.
Some of the beneficiaries of the vehicles have added one or two cars to their fleets and have provided jobs for idle drivers and at same time put food on the table of their family members. Across the state today, commercial taxi business is booming and one can easily pick a cab to any part of the state or outside with ease.
Through Governor Orji’s aggressive and sustained agricultural revolution, his government was the first in the country to introduce Youth-In-Agriculture Initiative which was aimed at encouraging and supporting youths in practising commercial farming. Since then, so many unemployed youths in the state have been trained and supported by government to practise agriculture in the state. Some of them are already employers of labour today after being trained at the government established liberation farms in all the council areas of the state.
There is no doubt that the Abia Youth Empowerment Scheme is unique and a model worthy of emulation by present and successive governments across the country. Empower Nigeria partnership with the Abia State government is a right step towards sustained and successful youth empowerment in the state. It will also encourage other youth development partners to be partners in progress with the state government in keeping and setting the pace for youth empowerment.
It will be recalled that the collapse of major industries across the country did not begin today; rather, it is as a result of long years of neglect by successive governments. And it is clear that the industries cannot be fixed overnight because of the huge capital and technical knowhow required, having been neglected for decades.
So investing a huge chunk of public funds in their revitalisation will surely affect other critical sectors of the economy that also require urgent attention. In this regard, while the Abia State government is working on revitalising the ailing industries it inherited, her idea of doing something in the immediate to tackle youth unemployment through her youth empowerment scheme should be highly commended.
Waiting until the ailing industries are brought back to life before the unemployed youths could be empowered or employed will be a time bomb.
That is why states across the country should adopt the Abia Youth Empowerment Programme Scheme model to pre-empt possible youths restiveness. It is a more practical approach to youth empowerment. Also, the long-term approach, which has to do with the revitalisation and construction of industries should be worked on.
The Abia youth scheme is the surest way of taking the unemployed youths out of the streets to reduce crime rate. No wonder the crime rate in the State has reduced drastically since the commencement of the programme.
The success of the programme is predicated on the fact that it is being carried out in a most transparent manner which has made it difficult for politicians to hijack it for selfish political purposes. There are no middlemen between the beneficiaries and the state government, thus, avoiding exploitation and fraud.
Greg Okenwe, a beneficiary of the youth scheme, wrote from Umuahia, Abia State.