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Posted: Thursday, August 06, 2009

Wamakko�s war against poverty

By Bashir  Rabe |

The UN says about 70 per cent of Nigerians are poor and live below Poverty level. It is therefore little wonder that all tiers of government are up in arms against the menace.

Analysts say that the leaders, in doing so, are only emulating previous administrations in the fight against poverty.

At the Federal level, government has set up various programmes, including the National Poverty Alleviation Programme (NAPEP), as well as rural development, gender and youth empowerment schemes.

Such programmes, analysts say, are similar to previous ones like the Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) and the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).

These programmes are usually domesticated in the states and local governments as they strive to improve the standard of living of the people.

A central component of this is usually the need to create jobs, empower the poor, and provide facilities that would make life better for the poor, especially the rural dwellers.

In Sokoto State, Gov. Aliyu Wamakko has taken the war against poverty to greater heights by striving to create jobs for the unemployed, while working toward creating a conducive atmosphere for those seeking to go into business.

�We are a richly blessed people and have no cause to suffer from squalor, hunger, unemployment and starvation,� Wamakko told the launch of the State Poverty Reduction Agency (SPORA), in 2007.

He said that the agency would evolve interventionist programmes toward a strong and diversified economy.

A key aspect SPORA is the youth skills acquisition programme. Among the 20,000 youths registered under the scheme, 1,200 have graduated.

They are now masters in various skills including Solar-powered electricity, solar-powered boreholes, paint production and metal works.

Others were trained in the production of buckets, pots and stoves, perfumes, candles, mattresses, beauty creams, chalk, shoes and bags.

According to Alhaji Bala Bashir, the Coordinator of the programme, the trainees receive about 400  Naira daily, as transport and feeding allowance for the training that usually lasts between 60 and 90 days.

He says that about 140 million Naira has also been sunk into purchasing the machinery used for the training.

The state government is also encouraging the youths to put in their best. In this direction, the government has announced that 500 of the youths, who graduated in Solar-powered borehole technology, will be engaged by the state.

They are to be used in installing hundreds of Solar-powered boreholes in the 23 Local Government Areas of the state.

�By engaging them, their expertise is being perfected, while they are being prepared for becoming self reliant�, Bashir says.

�After sometime on government job, the youths can either decide to become independent or continue in government employment�.

Sources indicate that the state government intends to set up mini industries for the trained youths. It will also provide the enabling environment for those of them asking for soft loans to enable them attain self-reliance.

One of such trainees, Miss Zainab Usman, a 25-years-old school leaver from Shagari Local Government Area, specialised in making female shoes and bags. She says she prefers to open her shop rather than seeking a job with any company.

While commending Wamakko for the gesture, Usman advises youths to utilize the opportunity offered by the programme to develop themselves and be �freed from agonising poverty��.

Another trainee, Murjanatu Abdullahi, 25, from Gwiwa area of Sokoto metropolis, also says that she will use the skills acquired in Vaseline production to �start a new life�.

�With my skills, all I need is the capital to become an employer of labour,� she says, adding that the skills acquisition programme has reduced poverty by creating employment for many.

Similarly, Buba Auditor, 45, from Dundaye in Wamakko Local Government Area, who trained in chalk production, is optimistic that the state would stop importing chalk once his company comes on stream.

According to him, Wamako has invested greatly by training the youths and the state, and indeed the entire nation, will soon reap the reward of such effort.

On his part, Umar Yakubu, another trainee, who is specialising in shoes and bags production, has called on other governors in the North to emulate Wamakko and train their youths.

�When I started this training, I vowed to produce 20 bags each for men and women before the end of my training. I have achieved that by 80 per cent now and will even surpass it,� he says.

Alhaji Yusuf Sani, a member of the PDP in the state, says he is particularly happy that the skills acquisition programme has taken many youths off the streets.

�Many of our youths are now fully engaged and you can see that they are no longer restive and area boy-like�, Says Sani.

But despite its gains, critics say that the training can only yield the desired results if the graduates are given funds with which to start their own businesses.

�If you train the youths and do not give them any means to start and stand on their own, you would have done nothing,� says Alhaji Balarabe Danladi, a teacher in Sokoto.

He says that most of the trainees are too poor to raise any capital for a meaningful business and therefore need urgent assistance from government to attain the dream of bidding farewell to poverty and employing other people.

Another critic of the government�s efforts, Malam Abdu Lawani, says that more would have been done if the state had partnered with private firms or rich individuals to help its poverty reduction efforts.

�Clearly, the state government alone cannot meaningfully reduce poverty. It has many competing needs. So, the banks, the industries and rich individuals should also be involved in the effort to reduce poverty as they will also gain from a peaceful and fruitful state,�� he says.

While lauding the efforts of the Sokoto State government, analysts agree that much more needs be done to assist those trained to meet government�s goal of reducing poverty in the state.

These, they say, should include the creation of an enabling environment for industries to grow anywhere in the entire state.

This, according to them, will mean stable electricity supply, water supply and good roads, in even the remotest villages.

(NAN Feature)


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�2005 New Nigerian Newspapers Limited.