By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
I am sure that many watchers of political events in Rivers State would not have imagined that the political crisis rocking that state could last this long, especially against the backdrop that members of the clergy, traditional rulers, civil society, opinion leaders to mention a few have made frantic efforts as they know how to see an end to the imbroglio.
More worrisome is the fact that while some sane and well-meaning Nigerians are seeking an end to the crisis, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP in the state led by Chief Felix Obuah is constantly maintaining a posture that darkens on-going reconciliation efforts, that is if any genuine one exist. The recent expulsion of eighteen loyalists, including Commissioners of the state governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is a case in point.
This development no doubt has cast a dark shadow on the efforts of concerned Nigerians who are eager to see the return of peace to the crude oil and gas rich state.
This sad development described in some quarters as been unprecedented in modern politics was aptly captured by the member representing the Andoni/Opobo-Nkoro Federal Constituency of Rivers State in the House of Representatives and Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Hon Dakuku Peterside when he said, “Rivers people are peace-loving, decorous and law-abiding. Therefore, Obuah and his co-travelers are a disgrace to Rivers State. I wondered why a respected party leader like the former National Deputy Chairman of PDP, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja should even be considered for such despicable action of been expelled from the party. To me, the alleged expulsion is one of the absurdities of modern day politics. This action of expelling Dr. Jaja and other leaders of the party in Rivers State is symptomatic of how caution is being thrown to the winds, while morality was on a steady decline. But like every responsible party member, I know this action is of no consequence as they do not have the power to do what they (Obuahled PDP) claimed to have done. Dr. Jaja will contest the PDP party elections for the office of the Deputy National Chairman. For those ignorant of PDP constitution, let me drew their attention to relevant sections of the PDP Constitution,, “According to Article 21.4 of the PDP Constitution, a member may be suspended by the Working Committee at any level but the member should not lose his or her right to contest any election. Furthermore, Article 21.6 states that “a decision taken against a member who has not been informed about the charges against him or her or has not been given any opportunity of defending him or herself shall be null and void”.
Funny enough, even after the Inspector General of Police, Abubakar Mohmamed recently swapped no fewer than 14 Commissioners of Police leaving that of Rivers State, even while the National Assembly and other bodies have called for either Mbu Joseph Mbu’s transfer or removal.. The only option left to those who still feel concern about this unfortunate situation in Rivers State is to continue to pray for the safety of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi the embattled Governor of Rivers State as with God all things are possible.
The Thrust of this Piece
There is no gainsaying the fact that this time around, the cancerous and menace of unemployment in Nigeria which if unchecked is capable of not only truncating our democracy, but has the potential of destroying our nation by critically examining the proactive and strategically steps that Governor Amaechi of Rivers State has adopted in addressing this menace with hope that other governments in Nigeria will sit up and take a clue before this menace consumes us all.
Before divulging into the main issue, let us listen to some authorities on what they feel about the sad state of unemployment. Explaining this menace better. The great WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE in one of his books, ‘The Merchant of Venice’ described the sorrow state of being unemployed thus “You take my life when you take the means whereby I live”. while to Thomas Carlyle in his own book Charisma captured this wicked scenario when he stated, “A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune’s inequality exhibits under the sun”
To MASON COOLEY in his City Aphorisms described the sorrow stated of unemployment thus, “Unemployment diminishes people. Leisure enlarges them” while to JANE ADDAMS in his Twenty Years at Hull-House, “Of all the aspects of social misery nothing is so heartbreaking as unemployment”.
Unemployment as a permanent phenomenon of considerable magnitude has become the foremost political problem of all democratic countries. That millions are permanently excluded from the productive process is a condition which cannot be tolerated for any length of time. The unemployed individual wants work. He wants to earn wages because he considers the opportunities which wages afford higher than the doubtful value of permanent leisure in poverty. He despairs because he is unable to find work. From among the unemployed, the adventurers and the aspiring dictators select their storm troopers.
A World Bank database compiled from households shows more than 300m 15- to 24-year-olds in developing economies are similarly “inactive”. The Economist calculates that, all told, almost 290m are neither working nor studying: almost a quarter of the planet’s youth
According to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, more than 41% of Nigerian graduates are without employment after the mandatory National Youth Service Corps, NYSC programme. The National Bureau of Statistics said over 50% of youths in Nigeria are jobless; while the World Bank puts the figure at 56%. Considering the country’s estimated population of about 167 million and 60 million jobless, these are grim figures portending danger to economic growth and development of a nation with the largest concentration of black people on earth.
The Insensitivity of Governments
It is astonishing that a human resource company, Employment Clinic stated that the government spends N960 billion annually on artisans from abroad to work in the country an amount that can go a long way to create jobs for our teeming unemployed youths. The unemployment situation is worsening with every passing day more so as thousands of graduates are being churned out from tertiary institutions yearly to besiege those already hopelessly waiting for employment and roaming our streets searching for means of earning a living. For some years now, we have piled graduates upon graduates mortgaging the nation’s future and our children’s future for the greed, avarice and planlessness of our leaders through bad governance.
The enormity of unemployment challenge which has become a colossal, –a socio-economic affliction of great proportions can be illustrated most vividly when out of the 13,000 applications received by the Dangote Group of Companies for Graduate Executive Truck Drivers; there were six Doctorate Degree (Ph.D) holders, 704 with master’s degree and over 8,460 B;SC degree holders. Most astonishing was that the company only needed 100 drivers, but got 13,000 applications, most of who are from reputable universities. Doesn’t this speak volumes about the kind of leadership at all levels of government and the need to brace up to with a view to finding a lasting solution to this menace that creates a gloomy future for our dear country?
Today, Nigeria is confronted with the menace of kidnapping, oil thieves, ritualists, armed robbers, prostitution, assassination and other vices associated with the youths occasioned by the rising rate of unemployment. The most disturbing now is the wicked activities of Boko Haram, a sect people with teenagers and youths between the ages 14 to 24. They are ravaging Northern Nigeria with reckless neglect, killing, maiming and destroying her economy. Yet our leaders seems to be more concerned with acquiring wealth for their unborn grand children to the detriment of the future of our nation and our graduates roaming the streets without any help. Result! As they say an idle mind is the devils workshop.
Prominent lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), while reacting to the kidnap of one of his colleague and rights activist, Mike Ozekhome recently captured the plight of our youths when he said, “One will, however, like to challenge the government to address the socio-economic implication of unemployment in the country. In particular, young boys and girls who have flooded the unemployment market should be given jobs or unemployment benefits, pending when they will be gainfully employed. The Nigerian ruling class has to appreciate the fact that the youths cannot be kept in unemployment and in abject poverty for too long while they live in opulence.”
Another prominent Lagos lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, while condemning the kidnapping of Ozekhome has this to say; “It further draws local and international attention to the poor state of security in our country. It also highlights the state of joblessness among youths in our country, which is one reason why they turn to this dangerous trade for their livelihood,”
Unemployment in Rivers State And Amaechi’s Strategies
Despite all the distractions and wicked plots, Governor Amaechi has proven to be a focused and visionary leader that cannot be distracted by forces inimical to his good intentions for people of the state.
Amaechi to me must have been a good student of Bill Clinton, the former President of the United States of America, USA by the way he adopted the thinking of this great son of the world in the ways he conducts his government as captured in the following quotes, “The best social program is a good job” and “I do not believe we can repair the basic fabric of society until people who are willing to work have work. Work organizes life. It gives structure and discipline to life”. To understand the belief and thinking of Gov Amaechi on what governance is all about, the mission statement of his administration promulgated immediately he assumed office as the Governor of Rivers State on 26 October, 2007 says it all, “Our mission is to serve our people with humility and render transparent and accountable stewardship anchored on integrity and good governance. We shall use our God-given resources to improve the quality of life of our present and future generations, and empower our people in a peaceful, just and harmonious society under God”.
Though, I have done series on the revolutionary steps of Rt. Hon. Amaechi in the sectors of Education, Health, Security, Finance, his type of politics and position on good governance.
The Rivers State Chairman of Civil Service Commission, Sir Martins Ngo Yellowe, said recently that “with a workforce including civil and public civil servants of more than 65,000, I am afraid if not probably the Federal Government and maybe Lagos State Government the Rivers State Government has one of the largest work force in the country and most be paid and well catered for.”
The above notwithstanding, let us note the following strategies adopted by the government of Gov Amaechi to address the menace of unemployment in Rivers State.
The Rivers State Strategic Empowerment Committee (RSSEC)
Tackling the unemployment menace in the State received a major boost had the biggest boost with the setting up of the 13-Man Committee (RSSEC) under the Chairmanship of Dr Minaibi. Dagogo-Jack.
When I contacted Rev Jack-Dagogo, he confirmed to me that his Committee is expected to use the SURE-P Fund to engage about 75,000 Rivers State indigenes in the effort of Gov Amaechi to reduce poverty level of Rivers State people.
The Chief of Staff Government House, Hon. Chief Tony Okocha confirmed the above great news when he embarked upon the sensitization and inauguration of RIVLEAF Ogu/Bolo LGA chapter over the weekend stating that Rivers State indigenes will be paid monthly allowances by the state government under the subsidy reinvestment programme (SURE-P) as one of the programme of the present administration to improve on the condition of our people.
Under Agriculture, the Rivers State Government is doing much to arrest unemployment challenge in the State. The RSG has commenced paper work to establish and develop a N20bn Agric Scheme. According to the Governor, “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. 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. According to the Chairman of Asari Toru Local Government Area, Mr. Ojukaye Flag Amachree “the establishment of the Buguma Fish Farm by the Rivers State Government is a source of employment to youths of the Kalabari Kingdom and with the steady power supply in the LGA small scale business has improved in the area”.
The Rivers State Government has signed a long lease contract with Siat Firm to revamp and manage the RISONPALM and when fully operational it would create about 4,000 job opportunities.
In order to develop an employable workforce, the State has offered scholarships to over 2,000 students in Nigerian Higher Institutions and has spent about N5bn for her students in foreign Intuitions. Apart from this, the Rivers State Government is credited with setting up of the best educational infrastructure in Nigeria. The newly recruited 13,201 teachers in Rivers State went through one month induction course recently. Dr. Ofuru the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Education said that the induction was put in place to prepare the new Teachers for the noble profession, pointing out that the State Government will still organize another programme for the teachers in collaboration with the University of Port Harcourt and Ignatius Ajuru University of Education
So far, about 400 medical Doctors have been employed to man most of the Health Centres in the rural areas constructed by the administration of Governor Amaechi.
Security and Public Power Supply
Not minding those who are threatening brimstone, storm and fire on the State, the State intend has purchased two equipped and modern Helicopters for aerial surveillance to fight crime in the State. Considering that foreign investors can only operate in an enabling environment, the issue of tackling the state of security is of primary importance because it has a multiplier effect that includes employment generation. The Power Sector in the State is working tirelessly to ensure an end to epileptic power supply in the State by the year 2014 this would also serve to boost employment in the state and will also encourage entrepreneurship among the Youths.
Appointment of Dr Ipalibo Macdonald Harry as the Sixth Commissioner in the Ministry of Empowerment and Employment Generation
In demonstration of his seriousness about addressing the menace of unemployment amongst our people in Rivers State, the appointment of Dr Ipalibo Macdonald Harry a seasoned Administrator as the sixth Commissioner in the Ministry of Empowerment and Employment Generation speaks volume in this regard.
Dr. Harry a holder of a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Environmental Management from Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt was the best graduating student in both his master’s and doctorate programmes and became the first youngest indigene of Rivers State to be a Chartered Estate Valuer. He is an outstanding author and a seasoned publisher and a recipient of various awards that range from The Times News Magazine Award for Excellence (2005), The Nigerian Union of Journalists (Federal Chapel) PHC Award of Excellence in Innovation and Reform (2007) and the Royalty Award from the Amayanabo of Kalabari (2012) appointment on September, 2011 as the Commissioner for Employment Generation and Empowerment did not come to his close watchers by surprise.
Some of the most remarkable feats of the Ministry under Dr Harry include I.. Constant training of Rivers State indigenes through the Seamen and Motormen/Oilers Programme, ii. Establishment of AMET University offshore Campus in Isaka, Rivers State to offer all types of Maritime courses and training, iii. Execution of overseas Maritime capacity building at AMET University, iv. Chennai, India aimed at building needed capacity to fill the vacancies in the Maritime, Oil and Gas companies operating in Rivers State and the Niger Delta Region at large; v. Execution of Industrial attachment Training and Placement for Rivers State indigenes, vi. Rivers State Work Placement/Internship Programme designed to give opportunity to Rivers State indigenous graduates who have undergone the mandatory NYSC to have an additional year on-the-job training programme to gain some working experience during the period of placement with companies; vii. Mobilisation for Employment Generation –The Seefor Project through usage of the loan from the World Bank and European Union to provide jobs for the unemployed indigenes of Rivers State; viii. Partnership with Shell Petroleum Development Company Nig. Limited (SPDC) and Park’N’ Shop Nig. Ltd to train Rivers State indigenes at foreign Institutions, ix. Data Bank of the Ministry which provides a quick and comprehensive reference source/guide job seekers and employers of labour in Rivers State; x. Partnership with SPDC in the recycling of waste (Plastic) Programme, xi. OANDO Energy Employment Test, xii. Supply of Labour to Ministry of Power, xiii. Ven. Prof. T. N. Okujagu Foundation for Ethics and Learning, xiv. Empowerment Programme with Nigerian Bottling Company Ltd (NBC), xv. Partnership with Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd for the training and update of able Seamen, xvi. Partnership with Noreman pre-employment interview for the unemployed, xvii. Crane Operators/Light Vehicle Drivers Training Scheme, xviii. Fibre Glass Boat Building Training at Asakanana Marine & Fibre Glass Products Ltd! Xvii. The conclusion of the feat of Ministry of Employment under Dr Harry was for the first time in the history of Port Harcourt an unprecedented event called the job fair was put together. The Ministry organised a Job Fair where about 132 companies and 600 pre-qualified applicants both Rivers indigenes and non-indigenes participated in the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA) job fair 2013. The feats are so much that writing them all here will be like writing a book.
Dr. Harry, who listed some effort by the present administration to create jobs for the people, said that so far, not less than 35,000 persons have been engaged by the administration through the process.
Gov Amaechi and His Vision for the Unemployed in Rivers State
The Rivers State Governor Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi says the state government will encourage creative youths as he asked job seekers on the need to explore their talents instead of waiting for government. Speaking at the flag-off ceremony of the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA) Job Fair 2013 in conjunction with the Ministry of Employment Generation and Empowerment in Port Harcourt, Amaechi advised prospective job seekers to be more entrepreneurial in their pursuits as a way of checking unemployment. Amaechi said, “You hear about militancy, Boko Haram, it is about poverty and unemployment, and until government deals with the twin issues of unemployment and poverty, we will continue to have insecurity. When we came to power in 2007, the monthly wage bill was N2.5 billion, and as we are talking now, the wage bill has increased to 8.9 billion. When we came, the state government had only 200 doctors to give treatment to over 5.1 million people. We went ahead to improve the employment of additional 200 doctors, and few months ago, I also called for the employment of another 200 doctors totally 600 doctors.
“We lack surveyors and technicians, and other professionals in the Ministry of Land and Housing. I have equally approved the need for government to hire some principal officer to fill the vacuum. We also took over the payment of teachers at the local government level in primary education which is supposed to be the responsibility of the local government councils.
“Now, we have approved the employment of 13,000 teachers. The consultant handling the ICT part of the primary education is employing one ICT teacher per school, and if you multiply it by 100, that is 200, and if you multiply it by 500 schools that we are completing, that will be 1000 ICT teachers.
“So, you look at doctors, engineers and all that, and they have been training them. Two weeks ago, 32 trained doctors returned from Russia, and I hope they have been engaged at the Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital. I have partnered to create this opportunity, government cannot employ all of you, it is impossible. Government can only create conducive environment and favourable business atmosphere that would create employment”, he said.
Amaechi also promised to release 5 billion to provide financial support to people who are ready to be self-reliant and innovative to borrow at subsidized low cost to set up their own business.
“This year, we will open the vocational training centre, and only those with the West Africa Certificate will be admitted in that school to train our youths on different skills, so they can set up their own business. This will make you to be self-employed. The government is willing to support you”, Amaechi said.
Amaechi said, his administration has created employment opportunities through the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in the state.
“When we came in 2007, Risonpalm was dead, completely dead. We have to lease Risonpalm out, and as am talking to you now, Risonpalm has hired 5,000 workers. We want to revive Delta Rubber Company, and lease to private company I don’t know how many workers they would hire if we conclude discussions. We are currently engaged in working out modalities to set up a new hotel where you have the former Hotel Olympia. They too will engage persons when they finish the construction of the new hotel.
And if you also go to the front of Government House, you used to have SUPABOD there. Before I became governor, they never planned to rebuild that place, a private company is rebuilding it into a mall and will employ minimum work force of 600 persons at the beginning. We are doing so much to see how we can create employment opportunities for the youths so that you can be engaged, and I hope you are employable or go in for any training to get yourself engaged”, Amaechi said.
Other Areas of Intervention
Thousands of Rivers people are employed through the following Agencies established by the Rivers State Government; the Sanitation Environment Authority, Greater Port Harcourt Authority, Sports; jobs are created through turning Rivers State into a massive construction site involving construction of roads too many to mention, health and educational facilities
According to the Gospel of Saint John, chapter 2 verse 17, Jesus said the zeal of my father’s house hath eaten me up but to Gov Amaechi a devout Christian, “the zeal and commitment to alleviate the suffering of my people in Rivers State is eaten me up on daily basis”. I can now understand why the great Prof Tam David-West said, “orchestrated travails of Gov Amaechi though unfortunate is “Nigerian paradox “where excellence is relegated and mediocrity is elevated”.
Therefore “If governance is provision of dividends of democracy and caring for her citizenry then we must give it to Gov Amaechi for demonstrating and exhibiting what true leadership is all about as we plead with those fighting an unwarranted fight against the Governor to stop distracting the Governor in his zeal to provide for the people of Rivers State that elected him.
Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt and can be reached through either firstname.lastname@example.org, or 08038199163