Lifting Nigerian Youths Out Of Extreme Poverty

By Casmir Igbokwe

Inyeaka came to Lagos as a housemaid. After her secondary education, she joined an auto mechanic company, Automedics, as an apprentice mechanic. Today, this young lady, who is in her 20s, is not only paying her bills, she is also the pillar of her family. Even her elder male siblings run to her sometimes for financial help. Currently, she combines her work with a part-time programme at a higher institution in Lagos.

The spirit of Inyeaka is in many Nigerian youths. But because they lack direction and guidance, they remain unemployed and unemployable. They roam the streets every day looking for non-existent jobs. Some have gone into prostitution. Some are into different crimes. Those who don’t have the liver for crime migrate abroad in search of the elusive El Dorado.

Today, Dubai, Oman, South Korea, Canada and Kuwait are beautiful brides. The belief is that there are jobs for whoever cares to work. Our youths, even with no requisite skills, can do anything to be in those countries. They believe in them more than in Nigeria.

Most times, these youths are disappointed. A great number of them have died in the Mediterranean. Some get to their final destination to discover that they are in the middle of a sea: they can’t find a decent lucrative job as promised and they can’t easily come back home.

Earlier this year, there were heart-rending reports of how some Nigerian girls suffered sex slavery in foreign lands. One Lawal Zainab, for instance, was forced to sleep with at least 15 men a day in Cote d’Ivoire. Her trauma started when some agents lured her and some others with offers of juicy work abroad.

A group known as the Centre for African Renaissance, Reformation and Development (CEFARRD) feels concerned about the plight of Nigerian, nay, African youths. The president and founder of the group, Dr. Chidi Okpaluba, believes there are no worthless beings. All we have, he notes, are men and women who have no skills or training that will give them decent jobs and good quality life. Hence, the group intends to equip 10 million Africans in the next 10 years with skills and knowledge that will make them relevant in the 21st Century knowledge economy.

There are over 350 life skills that these youths can be trained in and they will become instantly useful to society. The life skills range from auto mechanic work to carpentry, plumbing, massage therapy, pedicure and manicure, building technology, roofing technology, and electrical works.

Okpaluba says this is not the same with the much-touted skills training all over the country. It is a total man approach to skills training, which starts from mind transformation, inner man change and then skills impartation.

So far, the group has done two to three very successful pilots. It just concluded another pilot in Anambra State with the training of 103 youths in about seven skill sets, namely: manicure, pedicure, make-up and facials, massage therapy, 3D flooring, confectioneries, cosmetology and photography. These trainees have already started making money for themselves.

Okpaluba enthused, “In fact, they started making money the first day they left the camp because we didn’t just teach them the skills, we also showed them where the opportunities are in the industry where they work. Imagine a youth that has no job before and suddenly the youth starts making N20,000 to N30,000 a day from her own creative work. You can be sure that it will reduce prostitution, you can be sure that it will reduce so many ills of society.”

In Anambra State, the trainees didn’t just get training, they also got start-up kits. A young lady who does manicure makes N15,000 in her worst day. She said the minimum number of bookings she gets in a day is five. One of the guys who did 3D flooring got a contract of about N4 million to make a compound for somebody. The massage therapists are also doing great.

Part of what has worked for the beneficiaries is the mind transformation and apprenticeship programme of CEFARRD. Many idle Nigerian youths have psychological challenges and beliefs that are not productive. So, part of the training starts with mind transformation, then skills impartation, then mentoring and guidance.

After training, CEFARRD helps them to do a business plan and make goals for themselves. They are also made to write a cheque of what they want to earn in the first one month. Most of these trainees can transit to become rich and even employ others.

This is what Nigeria needs at this critical stage of her existence. The country is the poverty capital of the world. Northern Nigeria harbours 87 per cent of the very poor in the country. With no requisite skills to market, most northern youths become willing tools in the hands of Boko Haram and sundry terrorist groups in the North. Abuja-Kaduna road is a death trap. Travellers are kidnapped for ransom. Some survive the ordeal, some don’t.

Southern Nigeria is not isolated from the problem. Armed robbery, kidnapping and variegated crimes also hold sway. Last Tuesday, some gunmen invaded the country home of the managing director of The Niche newspapers, Ikechukwu Amaechi, and abducted his 79-year-old mother. They made an initial demand for N20 million ransom.

Unfortunately, we have a government that doesn’t seem to realise the enormity of the security challenges facing us as a nation. It fails to realise that, without security, there can be no economic growth. It fails to realise that, without developing human capital, poverty will continue to torment Nigeria.

The President said our youths were lazy but failed to give them direction on what to do. Instead of utilising the little resources we have to create avenues where youths can be employed, government prefers wasting the resources on frivolous things and for ignoble causes. Can you imagine the impact it would make if the huge money given to our politicians as constituency projects were used to sponsor skills training for our youths?

Granted that government floated such schemes as Tradermoni to reduce poverty, what impact are they making in the country? Sometimes, such schemes become an avenue for people to corruptly enrich themselves.

Government should partner with the private sector and genuine groups, if it is serious about fighting poverty. Anambra State government partnered with CEFARRD on skills training and it is yielding positive results. What of other states, especially in the North, where poverty is endemic?

By and large, those who have skills may never be poor because, no matter what, their skills will always come handy. Henry Ford was said to be an ordinary mechanic. Thomas Edison was a technician. The Wright brothers were ordinary bicycle repairers. These are the type of blue collar workers who built the American economy. Nigeria also needs their type to help lift it out of extreme poverty.


Re: Taming the ‘Coronavirus’ in Nigerian lawmakers

Dear Casy, Nigerian lawmakers are so corrupt now that their art of lawmaking has become an albatross to our political, economic and social development. Our lawmakers have become mere house boys to their governors. Check their current bills pending at National Assembly: the hate speech, the immunity from criminal prosecution, the $22 million loan that was approved for Buhari are all anti-people laws. I don’t blame them; most of them came into the National Assembly through the abracadabra election of 2019. The man who was implicated in the Senate crises over the theft of the mace is one of the big ogas. They churn out laws that are not good for wild animals to obey. The paradox of Nigeria is evil leadership and idiotic followership. God bless Nigeria.

– Eze Chima C. Lagos, +2347036225495

DearCasmir, corruption is a weevil in the cob of our economy. The problem with Nigeria will continue until there are selfless leaders. Leadership is not a carry-go activity.

– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

Mr C, the coronavirus in our lawmakers is pure truth, but it pains that all the isolation centres in Kuje, Kirikiri, and others are not keeping them to avoid spreading it to others.

– Iyke Okigwe, +2349011930799

Cas, our lawmakers are the most corrupt set of people I have seen in the world. They are greedy, self-centred. Now they want to buy N4.7 billion cars without considering the fate of the ordinary masses. There is insecurity everywhere. In terms of bills, they sponsor bad bills. If not hate speech, it will be compensating Boko Haram. What kind of blood runs in their veins? May God forbid their type! What then happens to those they killed/displaced? Sen. Geidam should be investigated properly. Now that coronavirus has entered our shores, no more overseas medication. They should face the ruin.

– Smart, Abakaliki, 08134774884

I don’t see why our lawmakers will reject lnnoson Motors as their official cars but they are campaigning that Nigerians should patronise made-in-Nigeria products. Who is fooling whom? How can Nigeria grow its economy when we refuse to buy made-in-Nigeria products?

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Casmir, that our legislators are on a self-serving mission is an understatement, with the majority of them only serving their pockets at the expense of Nigerians. They used to chop and clean mouth, but now it is chop and let them see and know that we are callously chopping, who cares. God dey sha; 2020 Toyota Camry for looterslators. Nigeria is poor indeed.

– Mike, Mushin, Lagos, +2348161114572

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, March 9, 2020

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