Bringing Smiles Back on Their Faces

29 Jul 2013

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Though the challenges facing the residents of Yobe State under the emergency rule is yet to disappear, the state government has continued to make effort to support them, writes Michael Olugbode

When in 1970 John Pepper Clark wrote his famous poem, The Casualties, he had the residents of Yobe State in mind. To Clark, casualties are not only those who are dead, though they are well out of it. The casualties are not those who started a fire and now cannot put it out in which thousands are burning that had no say in the matter. They are not only those who are escaping the shattered shell who have become prisoners in a fortress of falling walls.  According to Clark, “the casualties are many, and a good number of them outside the scene of ravage and wreck.

So when the Yobe State Governor, Ibrahim Gaidam turned around to make poverty alleviation and youth empowerment the cardinal point of his administration in recent time, he was surely responding to Clark.

No doubt the Boko Haram crisis has inflicted many residents of this once peaceful state with great pains.  And with that in mind, the governor had in the past few months taken the issue of poverty alleviation and youth empowerment as a priority, dedicating a lot of government resources to it.

A few weeks ago, the government distributed 50 mass transit buses which he puts in the hands of the youths to boost local transportation.

The buses were given to beneficiaries at a 50 per cent discount and repayment of the loan spread to two and a half years.

Last month, the governor's poverty alleviation train moved to the farmers in the state as they were made to smile with the commencement of the sale of fertilisers at subsidised rates. The government is making fertilisers available to the farmers at 70 per cent discount.

And on July 16, 2013, the women who had gathered in Damaturu to welcome Governor Gaidam were not disappointed. They got loads of goodies that can help them to look forward to the future with optimism, regardless of the negative circumstance that Boko Haram crisis has foisted on them.

It was a day when thousands of women were empowered in order to be able to support themselves and their families.

The governor explained to the gathering that it was borne out of the fact that many women in the state live in rural areas and have to support many children or large families at a time.

He said: “We believe that when women are empowered, the standard of living of the entire family will be improved and enhanced."

The importance of the women in the scheme of things under the Gaidam's administration is underscored by earlier intervention of the government in that direction.  For instance, between 2011 and 2012, more than 176,000 women drawn from the state’s 176 electoral wards were given cash to set up small businesses in their communities. Between 2012 to date, more women were trained not only on how to operate knitting machines, spaghetti-making machines, they were also given the machines so as to build their resources to support their children and be self-reliant.

“An enduring poverty eradication programme,” the governor explained, “must be anchored on making the people less dependent on the privileged few and the government for their basic needs. Our resolve and focus is to teach our people how to fish rather than make them depend on fish handouts.  This has been and will continue to be the guiding philosophy of our administration.  In this way, we are confident to kick poverty out of Yobe State.”

Gaidam praised the women in the face of turbulent period the state is undergoing, saying “here in Yobe State, we are blessed with an enterprising women population which, in spite of socio-cultural inhibitions and the limitations of poverty, has made a lot of contributions to the economic and political development of our society.”

He  listed some of the steps taken by his administration to ensure the well being of the residents to include the distribution of training materials to 17 women development centres across the state, renovation and construction of a new medical ward at the Maryam Sani Abacha Women’s Clinic in Damaturu, distribution of food items to widows and women living with HIV/AIDS, free provision of skills training for women on soap and pomade making and support provided to over 500 orphaned children that include school materials, food and cash to give them a sense of belonging in the society.

The governor urged the beneficiaries of the empowerment scheme to “effectively utilise what was given to them to attain self-reliance and economic empowerment.”

He also called on them “to be faithful to the repayment schedule so that the funds will continue to be available for other people to benefit.”

The Commissioner for Women Affairs, Hajja Asma'u Kabir Kolo said the intervention was planned to better the lives of 2,710 women, widows and other vulnerable groups across the 17 local government areas of the state and will equally touch the lives of  widows from Yobe Police Command, 241 Recce Battalion Nguru and women living with HIV/AIDS.

She said the beneficiaries were identified from 178 wards of the state and will be provided with income generating materials, equipment and disbursement of seed fund on loan.

Kolo disclosed that the materials distributed to the beneficiaries were categorised into three groups, the first being skilled acquisition and assistance on equipment, the second being women in agricultural activities with the women assisted with soft loans and the third being support to widows and other vulnerable groups with 850 widows and other vulnerable groups assisted with cash rewards.

Also at the occasion, the governor commenced the sale of grains, previously stored in the government’s strategic grains reserves, to people at a 60 per cent discount.

He said: “Considering the high cost of grains a bag of which is now sold at over N8,000 per bag in the open market, I have approved that a bag be sold at the sum of N3,000 each for millet, sorghum and maize which amounts to 60 per cent less than the cost price per bag.  Currently, out of the over 12,000 bags (to be offered for sale), we have 8,530 bags in stock, while the remaining 3, 500 bags will be delivered soon.”

The governor also said the 12,030 total bags of grains to be sold to people are parts of poverty alleviation and food security for the state. He said the item were procured by the state government at the cost of N100 million.

The governor also directed that each of the state’s 17 local government areas should be allocated with 300 bags, government’s MDAs 1, 800 bags while the less privileged across the state should be given 500 bags for free.

Indeed, the Yobe State government is making frantic efforts to help residents move forward in the face of Boko Haram crisis that has held the state by the jugular for some time. Perhaps those who have lost their breadwinners can now heave a sigh of relief.

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