By Ebenezer Ishola
In view of the harsh reality of the havoc that poverty, if allowed to flourish, could unleash on the world, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, has made poverty eradication a foremost goal of his administration’s ‘Greater Lagos’ blueprint.
Lagos, being the country’s economic, industrial and commercial hub, could experience untoward social-economic consequences if Nigeria’s poverty and unemployment situation is not frontally addressed.
Since Lagos State is home to about 21million Nigerians, it is safe to affirm that the state, which is the fifth largest economy in Africa, feels the brunt of the menace of youth employment the most. That Lagos alone accounts for over 70% of national industrial investments makes it attractive to job seekers from all across the country.
It is in realisation of this that the Sanwo-Olu administration made ‘Making Lagos a 21st Century Economy’ a leading part of its T.H.E.M.E.S (acronyms for Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, Making Lagos a 21ST Economy, Entertainment and Tourism and Governance and Security) Developmental Agenda.
An integral part of this is the evolution of several initiatives aimed at empowering the residents. The various initiatives are conceived, coordinated and implemented by agencies such as the Ministries of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation (WAPA), Wealth Creation and Employment, Education, Agriculture, Youth and Social Development, Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, Office of Civic Engagement, Office of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) among others.
In the last two years, about 48,000 households have been rescued from poverty through WAPA’s various social intervention programmes under which women got cash transfers and acquired skills. Some 1,050 rural women received intensive training in boosting outputs in agricultural production and giving the beneficiaries equal access to markets. Largely, the government has prioritised intervention programmes that support women in achieving gender equality, self-reliance, skill balance, inclusion in social security systems and stable means of livelihood.
The government supported 2,704 Lagos residents whose means of livelihood had been disrupted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Some 500 women were also assisted with N20,000 each through the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs’ Rural Women Grants from.
Series of programmes and activities aimed at improving the status of women in Lagos and making them economically independent were also organised by the government. Also, in order to increase the total GDP for income generation, financial growth and stability, the government embarked on supporting women through direct cash intervention and capacity building.
Over 48,000 women, from different households, have directly benefited from the government’s mega empowerment project. Over 1,050 women have also profited from the state’s agricultural training for rural women on cultivation of vegetables, cassava planting and cultivation, garri processing and other arable crops. Similarly, 250 women were empowered through an empowerment workshop on intercrop of maize and cassava with demonstration plots for practical knowledge.
The state’s empowerment strategy also has a skill acquisition dimension for those who want to acquire vocations such as textile design, hair dressing, barbing, cosmetology, photography, shoe and leatherworks, fashion design, tiling, interior decoration, and Ankara craft, among others.
This is done in the state’s over 28 skill acquisition centres, where over 25,000 Lagosians have acquired diverse skills. In 2019, Mr. Governor supported 18 outstanding students with N100,000 each to boost their morale. In the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, students across the skill acquisition centres produced 500,000 face masks for public use.
Efforts are constantly made to develop the skills of graduates of the Centres. Recently, 2,000 tradesmen and artisans were reskilled through the re-skilling programme developed to equip them towards becoming 21st-century compliant.
In order to sustain the momentum, eight vocational centres are at their completion stages, including skill acquisition, gari processing, cold room, market stall and community hall in Ibeshe Town, Amuwo Odofin, and a home for survivors of domestic violence.
Widows and other vulnerable women are equally not left out in the state’s empowerment scheme, as they have been empowered with working tools such as sewing machines, hairdryers and clippers, pepper grinding machines, generators and popcorn making machines. Similarly, 200 household heads for orphans and vulnerable children were empowered with 76 grinding machines, 69 sewing machines, 10 tools, 10 deep freezers, 15 hair-drying machines, 10 braving equipment and 7 ovens among others.
Lagos, unemployed youths fall into various categories viz employable and unemployable degree holders, medium level education certificate holders, school certificate holders and drop outs and those who never made it beyond primary schools.
Cheerfully, the various interventions of the government take cognisance of this categorization. For instance, to prepare graduates for life after school, the Ready-Set-Work was launched. It is an entrepreneurial and employability training programme aimed at ensuring that every student who graduates from any tertiary institution in Lagos has knowledge, skills, and attitude required to gain employment upon graduation. Thousands of graduates have been empowered from the scheme.