By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, firstname.lastname@example.org, 08038199163
I arrived PortHarcourt the Rivers State, Nigeria capital city on the 22nd October, 2011 aftera two months hiatus away on a much needed vacation to recover from theexhaustion that was a result of the break neck schedule I had to contend withduring the last April Polls in Rivers State; to be flung headlong into anequally busy schedule as a result of the three major events held in the Stateto commemorate the historical and landmark judgement by the Supreme Court ofNigeria that brought Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi to power as the Governor ofthe State. The first stop was the thanksgiving service on 23rd October, wherethe Governor described the Supreme Court Judgement that brought him to power asan Act of God. The second event, a colloquium, featuring an esteemed panel oflegal luminaries in the country, washeld on 25th October, 2011 the exact date four years ago when the landmarkSupreme Court judgement, lauded as unprecedented in judicial rulings in thecountry, ruled in favour of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, endorsing him as theauthentic flag-bearer of PDP in the place of his kinsman Sir Celestine Omehia,who had with the support of party leadership in the state hijacked Amaechi’smandate and following PDP’s victory at the polls now held sway as Governor ofthe State albeit temporarily. The third event was an interactive session theGovernor held with the Rivers State Youths on 26th October, 2011.
In a soon to be released article titled‘25thOctober, 2007: Supreme Court, Obasanjo, Amaechi, Omehia and the k-leg episode –divine or devilish?’ I would be spotlighting thethanksgiving service and the colloquium on the landmark Supreme Court judgementof 25th October, 2007. However for the purpose of this discourse Iwould like to focus on the Youth Interactive Session ably anchored by anembodiment of the Youth struggle in the State and member representing the AsariToru/Degema/Akuku Toru Federal Constituency in the Federal House ofRepresentatives, Hon. Dr. Dawari George, who prior to his election into theHouse, served meritoriously as Honourable Commissioner of Energy in the State.
At the interactivesession, various suggestions on strategies to curb he malaise of unemploymentamongst youths where proffered. The Governor used the opportunity of the eventto reiterate Government’s commitment to capacity building and reassured theYouth of that their issues where at the front burner of his administration’s policies.
My interest in theevent piqued as the Governor took time to enlighten both supporters and criticsof his vision about the immediate needs and most importantly the future ofRivers State Youth. This interactive session was also unique because contraryto what Amaechi critics said when such sessions where held previously, callingit a show to canvass for votes for the election”, this event served to provethe genuine concern the Governor has for this demographic group often times thebrunt of any major lull in the economy.
In choosing tothoroughly handle the subject of unemployment at the event, the Governor whoalso serves as Chairman of the Governors Forum in the country was bringing topublic consciousness the need for immediate intervention by government and theprivate sector working together to ensure that Youth are gainfully employedespecially at a time when anti patriotic elements can prey on them to fermenttrouble in the polity. It is a known fact that the idle mind is the devil’sworkshop.
Recent studies haveshown that 90% of crimes being committed today in our nation are mastermindedby the youths, these in itself is considered a direct outcome of unemploymentamongst the youths who after several years of graduation from high institutionsstill find themselves in the job market. A publication of Punch Newspapers of28th October, 2011 titled “28 million Nigerian Youth unemployed –Minister” brings to fore the inherent danger facing the nation if efforts arenot made at Federal and State level to address this malaise. In the report, theMinister of Youths Development, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said that of the67million youths in the country, 28.14m (a 42 per cent ratio) where unemployedand 80 percent of this number had a maximum qualification of SSCE. He spokeduring the inauguration of the Youth Enterprise With Innovation in NigeriaCompetition for North Central Zone, in Ilorin on Thursday, where he is quotedas saying “The Federal Government alone cannot create jobs. No matter howwell-intentioned it is. There is the need for the private sector to supportgovernment in job creation and youth empowerment. If we do not find jobs forour youths, the devil will find jobs for them”.
Rt. Hon. ChibuikeRotimi Amaechi the Governor of Rivers State while interacting with the youthsacknowledged this fact of the enormous challenges in tackling youthsunemployment when he said, “youth empowerment is the most challenging and mostdifficult aspect of governance”.
THE STRATEGIES AND STEPS GOVERNOR CHIBUIKE ROTIMIAMAECHI INTENDS TO EMPLOY TO ADDRESS THE MALAISE OF UNEMPLOYMENT AMONGST THEYOUTHS IN RIVERS STATE:-
Below are some ofthe plans highlighted by Amaechi that will hopefully alleviate unemployment:
He stated that the Rivers State Government has signed a long lease contract with Siat Firm to revamp and manage the RISONPALM. According to him, when fully operational it would create about 4,000 job opportunities.
Additionally, the Rivers State Government has commenced paper work to establish and develop a N20bn Agric Scheme. According to him, “The scheme would encompass a settlement and cluster units in different areas of agriculture and is geared towards providing jobs for the teeming youths of our State”. He said the project is expected to have about 300 housing units, a processing industry and primary schools. This multi billion Naira Agricultural Scheme will be splintered into three areas of the State housing 100 families each in the 100 housing units to be constructed.
Construction is now ongoing to construct a multi-purpose Shopping Mall located at the Front gate axis of the Government House. On completion the mall will employ about 600 youths.
The state is embarking on establishing a Banana Farm at Ogoni where about 200 workers will be engaged.
The Rivers State Government has established a Fish farm at Buguma where many youths are today engaged.
He reiterated government’s commitment to revamp most of its ailing companies to create jobs for the youths based on Public/private partnership to avert the pitfalls of the old system. In this regard, both the SUPABOD and the Olympia Hotel will soon be leased out.
Apart from the areasmentioned above, the Governor stated that the Rivers State Government under hiswatch apart from retraining its Teachers has employed more Teachers to teach inthe new model schools. The State he said has offered scholarships to over 2,000students in Nigerian Higher Institutions and has spent about N5bn for herstudents in foreign Intuitions. The State is building a world Class Universitywhich when completed will turn out well equipped graduates that will hold theirown in any field and compete with the best in the world. In Rivers StateUniversity of Science and Technology the Rivers State Government is building ahostel that will accommodate about 6, 000 students and accommodation for allthe Lecturers of the university. The university according to him will be fullyICT compliant. He stated plans to buy acomputer for every student in the secondary schools to ensure that the state isICT compliant. It’s important to point out here that the Rivers StateGovernment is among the few States in Nigeria that offer free education andfree health delivery to its people but stands apart as the only State offeringfree education, free sandals, free books and free uniform in Nigeria. About 200primaries schools have been set up in 200 communities, a feat that no otherstate is yet to accomplish.
So far, about 100medical Doctors have been employed to staff most of the Health Centres in therural areas. The Rivers State Government has currently embarked upon theexercise to eradicate malaria vectors from the State. The Health Centre at theRivers State University of Science and Technology will soon be opened to thepublic. The State was lauded last year for its daily commissioning of a healthcentre over a 60 day period in 60 communities in its 60-60-60 initiative. TheDental Hospital located in the Garrison area of Port Harcourt will soon beopened. All of these will also generate employment amongst the youths in theState.
SECURITY AND PUBLIC POWER SUPPLY
The State intends topurchase two equipped and modern Helicopters for aerial surveillance to fightcrime in the State. Considering that foreign investors can only operate in anenabling environment, the issue of tackling the state of security is of primaryimportance because it has a multiplier effect that includes employmentgeneration. The Power Sector in the State is working tirelessly to ensure anend to epileptic power supply in the State by the year 2014 this would alsoserve to boost employment in the state and will also encourage entrepreneurshipamong the Youths.
In conclusion, RtHon. Chibuike Amaechi Rivers State Speaker of the State House of Assemble from1999-2007; Chairman, conference of speakers of State Houses of Assembly inNigeria. (1999 – 2000) Governor of Rivers State (2007 – date), Chairman of theGovernors Forum in Nigeria, a humanist, radical and a pragmatist added anotherfeather to his cap that day of the interactive session by enlighteningNigerians on what good governance is all about.. Going by the look of hope onthe faces of majority of the Youths in attendance at the end of the event, ithad become glaringly obvious that he had become a symbol of sheer tenacity andresolve to succeed against all odds. It became quite clear to me that Amaechihad finally shed whatever “Toga” that had plagued him during the course of hiscampaign for second tenure, when opponents where vocal about his complicity inall that ailed Rivers State giving that he held sway as Speaker for 8 years, 3of which were during the dark days that preceded the end of Sir Peter Odili’stenure. Suffice it to say, Amaechi has proven his mettle and shown in the lastfour years that the fateful decision of 25th October 2007 is onethat people of the state who thronged out enmasse to the streets of PortHarcourt on hearing the good news four years ago will never rue.
EzeChukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt