By Ike Uchechukwu
Atleast 1,150 persons in Cross River state have benefited from the Federal Government’s empowerment programmes facilitated by Senator representing the State’s South Senatorial district, Chief Gershom Bassey.
In the interactive session with Journalists in Calabar, the Director General of Senator Gershom Bassey Campaign team, Barr. Asuquo Ekpo Ada said that the Legislator believes in real empowerment and not just giving people “fish” and never liked making noise about it too.
“The legislator is one who speaks for his people in other to attract infrastructure either from the Federal or the state government.
“The money people are receiving now are benefits from the Federal government. Every individual can access that money. However, for you to access the money, you need to pay some fees. You need to certify some conditions by way of filling forms as well as making some payments. What he does is that he pays them upfront to enable you access them free.
“He also goes ahead to train people and pay consultants, so as you get the money, it becomes useful to you. When I visited one of the training sessions I discovered that they were very serious minded people. For the two weeks, none of them missed their classes. There were 150 of them trained for the N10 million CBN loan. Presently they have got their business and certificate of participation. This is what Senator Gershom Baaaey stands for. He does not want the syndrome of our young men and women roaming the streets begging for alms. Some of them only wake up in the morning to move from house to another with different sympathetic stories to seek for help”.
According to Ekpo “Over 800 persons have benefitted from Senator Gershom Baaaey grants while the CBN over 150 have been trained and they have received their certificate of participation and will soon receive alerts. The training is in phases. We are entering into the second phase with 200 persons. It is a continuous training programme and for the grant, it is still on going .
“Gershom’s concern is to be able to attract those benefits from the Federal or state for his Constituents. That is why we don’t make noise about these monies that have been given to the people.
“We are giving street lights in so many areas in the state capital. We identify so many dark areas. Our real concept of empowerment is on what we are doing that goes to individual beneficiaries. Our core mandate is to attract government benefits and infrastructure to our people. The money people are receiving is actually their own money.
There loans, there are loans etc. The CBN 10 million is a loan which you are to repay in seven years. You have one year moratorium and you pay back within 6 years with a very low interest rate”.
“However ,what we do for you to access that money as an individual, there are certain amount of money you have to pay. What Gershom does is to facilitate it, by paying upfront and in addition pay the consultant who will carry out the training. There are others in form of grants of N475 000 as well. There are some people you give N475, 000, it will not drive their kind of business but there are certain categories of people that can drive theirs with this amount and it makes meaning to their lives.
“The percentage of youths coming to meet with their senator every year is as it concerns gaining employment is low, while those coming with one problem or the other are very high. Sadly, from our records less than 40 percent of those who have benefitted from this gesture have not made use of this opportunity. I am talking about our young people. A lot of people will get it and rather patronise hotels and women and before you know it the money is gone.
“We also patronise different support groups with tricycles. Individuals, we empower them with cash while support group get tricycle. It is a seed of unity. we are also trying to teach them how to build themselves as a group. If you are a group and you can take care of a bike, then it means you can take care of your business.
“This is the kind of thing we are teaching people. This was lacking in our people over the years. The concept of empowerment as clearly being conceived has been misconceived. We are keeping records. Any group that does not do well, of course will not benefit subsequently but to those who show seriousness, we shall add something to it.
“The significance is to show people that the only way to grow your business is to plan. So far, we have identified so many groups across the Seven LGAs in the south. Calabar South, Calabar municipality, Bakassi, Akpabuyo, Odukpani , Akamkpa and Biase. If they come together and learn how to do business as a group, then they can learn how to manage their lives. The value of the empowerment runs into millions of Naira. We have so many items including the mini buses, organising machine, tricycles, sowing machines etc”.