By Obinna Amaobi, Abuja
During his campaigns and since his election for a second term as President and Commander in Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari has made no pretense about what and where his focus and priorities will be as the next level agenda unfolds.
Between May 29th when he was sworn into office and now, the President has consistently maintained that jobs creation, the elimination of poverty from amongst Nigerians and the industrialization of the nation’s economy will occupy top spots in his policies going forward.
It is in this regards that the recent presentation of Skills Intervention Programmes of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF); one of agencies of government responsible for making this agenda of the president succeeds comes into focus.
Since coming on board, the current leadership of ITF has gone to great length to ensure that not only the mandate of the agency is implemented to the letter, but also the mission of the president, enormous parts of which is the determination to create jobs in abundance and sustainable opportunities for all Nigerians.
According to those with insider’s knowledge, The ITF has in the past few years has made tremendous efforts to equip as many Nigerians as possible with skills for employability and entrepreneurship in order to create jobs and reduce poverty.
This commendable determination, according to the Director General/Chief Executive, Sir Joseph Ari (KSM), is in line with the mandate of the agency, and the policy objectives of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The ITF between 2016 and 2018, it could be recalled, trained over 450,000 Nigerians, 90 percent of whom are today in productive endeavors either as paid employees or as entrepreneurs that are employing others.
According to the director general, the commitment of the ITF in ensuring that jobs are created and millions lifted out of poverty is reflected in the recent initiative of the agency in introducing new trade and skills development opportunities in its 2019 training programmes.
The ITF director general said the introduction of those new skills development opportunities areas, just like other previously implemented programmes, remains the most viable and sustainable solution to rising unemployment and poverty that have continued to defy the best efforts of Governmental and non-Governmental approaches.
Pointing out however there were reasons to worry because of the poverty and unemployment challenges in the country, the ITF boss noted there were also reasons to be hopeful, as the current government and its institutions vested with the task of equipping Nigerians with life skills for employability and entrepreneurship are equal to the task.
“There is no doubt that unemployment has wrought a terrible damage on all facets of our national life. No reasonable analysis will divorce unemployment from the needless incidences of violence that have claimed thousands of lives across the nation’, the director general explained, adding the recently released figures by the National Bureau of Statistics lend credence to that reality.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), it would be recalled, said in its report of the last quarter of 2018, that the number of Nigerians without jobs between the 4th Quarter of 2017 to the 3rd Quarter of 2018, increased from 17.6 million in the 4th Quarter of 2017 to 20.9 million in the 3rd Quarter of 2018.
Nonetheless, this statistics, it should be noted, is despite the fact that the number of people in employment increased from 68.4 million in the 3rd Quarter of 2015 to 68.72 million in the 3rd Quarter of 2016 to 69.09 million in the 3rd Quarter of 2017 and 69.53 million in the 3rd Quarter of 2018.
According to the director general, it will be difficult to separate rising criminality and harmful social vices that are being perpetrated by Nigerians because of unemployment and the attendant poverty, noting consequently that the population of Nigeria that ordinarily should be a resource has become an albatross because we cannot provide a greater proportion of our population with a source of livelihood.
“The statistics are scary and staggering, and should not only be a source of worry for any administration that is as committed to the welfare of Nigerians as the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, but, indeed, all patriotic Nigerians.
“ It must, however, be noted that President Buhari’s administration has made tremendous efforts to create jobs as could be seen in the increases in the number of people employed as cited by the NBS report.
“Today, across the length and breadth of the country are visible evidences of the Federal Government’s efforts to get Nigerians engaged in meaningful economic ventures through various social investment programmes and the numerous skills acquisition programmes being implemented by the ITF.
Ari explained it was against this backdrop and the need to fully key into and support the president job creation agenda that the ITF unveiled its Skills Intervention Programmes as part of the agency’s determined and continuing effort to contain the unemployment malaise.
A list of eleven implementable programmes for year 2019, it was gathered, will be implemented, some of which includes The National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP); Women Skills Empowerment Programme (WOSEP); Air-conditioning and Refrigeration (Training on Wheels); Design and Garment Making (Training on Wheels) for Nigerian youths under the Passion to Profession Programme (P2PP);
Other programmes that will be implemented to tackle unemployment and poverty in 2019, the director general said, are Skills Training and Empowerment Programme for the Physically Challenged (STEPP-C); Construction Skills Empowerment Programme (CONSEP); Aqua-Culture (Fish Farming);Manure Production; Crop Production (Green House Technology); Poultry Farming; and Training Programme Development on International Marketing and Test Running.
Taken together, the programmes will train about 18,000 Nigerians between the 3 to 6 months period they will last, while the number of beneficiaries for each of the programmes is as follows will also be in their thousands.
“The NISDP will be implemented in all States of the Federation including the FCT, while the rest of the programmes will be implemented on rotational basis among the States. Preliminary activities for the implementation of the programmes including procurement of crested T-Shirts and Face Caps, screening of participants and selection of training centers have commenced, preparatory for the take-off”, the director general added.
Recognizing the need for partnership and collaboration in order to achieve its skills development mandates, the director general said it was important for Nigerians to support the government’s efforts to create jobs and reduce poverty through skills acquisition rather than view it as the responsibility of the ITF and other Agencies of the Federal Government alone.
“The co-operation and collaboration of all State Governments, the Organized Private Sector (OPS), politicians and other stakeholders will be critical for a multiplier effect. Our doors are therefore wide open for collaboration in any aspect of human capacity development and vocational and technical skills training’, he said.
Reacting to these developments, the President General of Global Peace Movement International International, a United Kingdom based good governance monitoring group, Dr Mike Uyi, said It was vital to emphasize that the Federal Government and its agencies cannot provide jobs for all Nigerians.
“No country whether developed or developing has ever achieved that. Instead, the resort has been to Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET), which is today described as the currency of the 21st Century. It is the only sure way to gainfully engage as many Nigerians as possible’, the UK based Expert said.