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Empowering the future

Empowering the future

Let me start by saluting you for sustaining the traditions of meeting and working together for the common good of Oron Nation in particular and Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria in general.

Your passion for Akwa Ibom is infectious and once again, I am pleased to associate myself with your dreams and strive for a better Akwa Ibom State. You represent some of the best resources of our great state and your heartbeat at any moment must typify the cries and yearnings of our people back home in Nigeria which is why I am excited by the theme of this year’s convention: “Promoting Skills Acquisition Amongst Youths in Oron Nation”.

As you dissect this theme, it is my hope that you will produce a workable blueprint that can be applied across the state to deal with the growing unemployment and underemployment in our state.

After all, it is in the DNA of the Oron Nation to set the pace for others to follow. Your forebears did it in with the founding of Oron Development Union. You can do it too by deploying the best resources and technology available to upskill our young ones and prepare them for an exciting and rewarding life ahead.

At the moment, Akwa Ibom presents a very grim picture. Available statistics indicate that unless urgent actions are taken, the future will be bleak – indeed very bleak – for our children. Here are the facts:

According to the National Bureau of Statistics 2017 Demographic Statistics Bulletin, Akwa Ibom State has an estimated population of 5,442,177 with 60% of this number or 3.3m making up the economically active population.

In terms of the entrepreneurial spirit of the people, the NBS/SMEDAN 2013 Survey of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) identified 1,324,372 MSMEs in Akwa Ibom. Out of this, 1,319,607 or 99% were microenterprises which created 2,164,337 jobs.

In recent years, the trend has been negative. Akwa Ibom State now has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country according to the Q1-Q3 2017 Unemployment/Under-employment Survey Report of the NBS.

The report states that 1.8m of the 3.3m economically active (labour) population of the state is unemployed. And the major victims are our youths.

Which makes your quest for ways to empower our youths and make them productive members of our ecosystem quite laudable.

The starting point will be to have a comprehensive database of the youth and young people in Oro Nation and follow this up with a comprehensive skill training programmes for them.

At the Niger Delta Development Commission, we have invested heavily in training and capacity building for our people. By mid 2018, we had trained more than 22,000 Niger Delta youths in various skill acquisition programme and in most cases, helped to set them up with critical starter parks and mentorship programme.

As an intervention agency, these programmes have demonstrated our determination to step into the void and deliver impact. But we have also noted that we arrived at this point where there’s a dearth of competent workmen and artisans because of an educational system that eliminated technical training and education without any credible alternative.

I remember that while growing up, there were schools like St. Vincent, Government Technical College, Ikot Akata, and a host of others set up to groom technical skills for us.

We must take a second look at our educational system and deliver the kind of training and instructions for our young ones that will make them useful and vital members of our communities.

Over the past six or so years, the performance of our young ones in the West African School Certificate examination has either stagnated or declined. This year, we are at number 17 of 36, the second from the bottom for all nine Niger Delta States. Something drastic needs to happen to save our children and invariably our future.

Your association must organise a series of skill training and acquisition programmes across your nation for your young people. This must be followed up with a microcredit scheme that will provide products of those trainings with vital financing to start out and stand on their own. A deliberate mentorship programme is a great way to go. Let your trips to Nigeria and Oron be often and let them be an avenue for extending a hand to lift up our struggling youth.

You are the future they crave. Don’t deny them.

I thank you for this opportunity and wish you happy deliberations.

Long live Oro Nation

Long live Akwa Ibom State

Long live Nigeria

HE Nsima U. Ekere

Managing Director, NDDC

September 1, 2018

Being a speech delivered by Nsima Ekere, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC at the Oron Union Day in the United States.

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