Delta Governor, Sen. (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, on Tuesday said unemployment was a national emergency, and urged the Federal Government and stakeholders to provide skills and empowerment opportunities for youths as a solution.
The governor made the call in Asaba while inaugurating the Delta State Rural Youth Skill Acquisition (RYSA) Programme for 810 rural youths.
He insisted that unemployment should be declared a national emergency and made top priority in governance at all levels.
He said that his administration’s strategic thrust for job creation had been entrepreneurship development programmes anchored on skills training, engaging youths in productive enterprises, nurturing entrepreneurs, leaders and promoting communal peace and security.
The governor noted that no nation could prosper without building the youths, saying “if you don’t build them today they cannot lead tomorrow.
“Today, we opened a new vista in our Job and Wealth Creation Scheme. The Rural Youth Skills Acquisition Programme (RYSA) is another milestone in our continuing efforts to build a critical mass of small business owners through training and empowerment.
“This has been the overarching goal of our Job and Wealth Creation Scheme, under which we created the flagship Skills Training and Entrepreneurship programme (STEP) and Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP).
“Recently, we added the Girls Entrepreneurship and Skills Training (GEST) programme.
“Subsequent to the events of the past few weeks, the need for this approach is more compelling now than it was five years ago when we introduced the schemes.
“It is my firm belief that productively engaging our youths and giving them hope for a better future should, as a matter of national emergency, be top priority in all our public policies.
“This administration has always worked from the premise that the way out of the present unemployment quagmire and attendant poverty is for us to equip the youth with the technical know-how, vocational skills, values and resources to become self-employed or employable.’’
He commended the Ministry of Youths Development for the hard work it put in ensuring the commencement of the programme and charged the personnel to stay focused on the goal.
He urged the beneficiaries of the programme to demonstrate willingness to learn and imbibe the virtues of diligence and honesty, saying that it would help them to realise their dreams.
“As youths, you have been called to make a difference and it is my prayer that all of you will make a difference for good. You haven’t just come here to acquire skills, it is my prayer that in the next three years we shall see great men and women springing forth out of you,” the governor said.
He reiterated that the job creation programmes of his administration were done through re-orientation, re-tooling and internship for programme beneficiaries, who are supported with starter stocks/cash to start their businesses.
He listed the business focus of the programmes as agriculture, agri-business, agro-based industries, agricultural value chain services, vocational skills-based microenterprises, cottage enterprises, small and medium enterprises as well as public works such as environmental sanitation, housing and road construction.
Okowa said that RYSA was targeted specifically at the young men and women in rural areas.
“In our selection process, we have applied the principle of geographical spread by ensuring that three youths were selected from each electoral ward, making a total of 810.
“We have also ensured that in line with the underlying philosophy of RYSA, only unemployed youths with basic knowledge in their chosen areas of skill are chosen for training. Going forward, we are mobilizing funds to ensure we scale up the number of participants,” he said.
He appealed to the beneficiaries to reciprocate the government’s commitment to their progress and welfare through focus and diligence.
He advised them to demonstrate willingness to learn and to grow in the knowledge of their chosen areas of skill.
The Commissioner for Youths Development, Comrade Ifeanyi Egwunyenga, in his welcome remarks, said RYSA was established in line with the Stronger Delta mantra of growing the local economy through entrepreneurship development.
He stated that the programme was designed to imbue the youths in rural communities with the necessary life and business skills to become self-employed and self-sufficient and be able to contribute meaningfully to the growth of the local economy.
“Beyond the ultimate need to invest in the youths through entrepreneurship development, RYSA is aimed at bringing about Mindset Change and Value Re-orientation and also ensure that Delta youths are meaningfully engaged as skilled workers/employers of labour.
“Having been selected, it is expected of you to take advantage of the programme to acquire cutting-edge skills and develop your potential to manage and reposition your trades/businesses for greater performance.
“I challenge the trainees to maximize the opportunities for learning new things and acquiring business skills which this training programme offers,” the commissioner said.
In a goodwill message, Chief Economic Adviser to the Governor, Dr Kingsley Emu, lauded the state government for the significant organic growth in the state’s economy and in human capital development.
He stated that what EndSARS stood for, Governor Okowa saw it long ago and was prompted by it to establish youth empowerment programmes when he assumed office in 2015.