Governor Babatunde Fashola
The Lagos State Government moves a step further in its determination to tackle the growing unemployment in the state, especially among the youths, by transforming the moribund Eko Engineering Ventures into an ultramodern automobile service and training centre through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. Olaolu Olusina reports
Last Tuesday was, no doubt, another happy day for the Lagos State governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola; and he made no attempt to hide his feelings as one of the cardinal objectives of his administration was just being realised. Apparently in one of his best forms that morning, he was full of smiles as he made his way to the seat specially reserved for him, exchanging pleasantries with the state’s top officials already waiting to receive him and observing the formal protocol before taking his seat.
Another PPP Initiative
The occasion was the official inauguration of the CG-EKO LLP Automobile Centre, a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement between the Coscharis Group, a leading player in the country’s automobile industry, and the Lagos State Government to provide training in automobile engineering for local artisans and the teeming unemployed youths in the state.
The 25-year joint venture deal consummated under the Lagos State Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) Law of 1999, which saw the transformation of the moribund Eko Engineering Ventures into an ultramodern automobile sales and training centre following the official handing over of the moribund factory at the Old Secretariat area of Ikeja to CG-EKO LLP in May 2010, would ensure the training of 160 auto mechanics annually for the next four years at no cost to the government and provide 66 permanent jobs initially and 200 jobs eventually.
Aside repairing and refurbishing vehicles in the fleet of the State’s Rapid Response Squad (RRS) free of charge, the ultramodern centre will also provide auto-mechanical training to different categories of automobile students to provide a platform for them to acquire practical hands-on training and also groom future entrepreneurs who are expected to open their workshops across the state, training and employing more youths in the process thus helping to further grow the economy of the state..
The governor could, therefore, not hide his feelings as the joy of completing another successful project was written all over his face. Paying glowing tributes to those who mooted the idea and the determination with which they saw the project through conception to maturity, Fashola said the concept and its successful execution underlined the philosophy of his administration that PPPs are very strategic tools for achieving the objectives of the state.
Land of Opportunities
Referring to the business acumen and credibility of the President/CEO, Coscharis Group, Dr. Cosmas Maduka, Fashola said, “This project represents all that our state represents – a land of opportunities, no matter where you come from – if you are able to respect our laws, the sky will not even be your limit.” And praising his Special Adviser/Director General, Office of Public-Private Partnerships, Mr. Ayo Gbeleyi, for his resilience and determination in seeing the project through despite being dragged very hard in the process, the governor said, “I drag my team very hard and that is why I picked them as I know that they can stand the heat. And this is the result.” He also praised the Managing Director, Coscharis Group, Mr. Josiah Samuel, describing him as a man of ideas and vision. Fashola said his greatest satisfaction about the project is the capacity-building component and the number of unskilled youths that would be trained at the centre.
A Dream Come True
And like a dream come true, President/CEO, Coscharis Group, Maduka, said in his remarks at the occasion, that the initiative which started as a dream, “envisioned the establishment of a world class automobile technical training, sales and after-sales institution; a company that would guide future automobile trends in Nigeria.” According to Maduka, “the anticipated trends are to develop local automobile specialists with international repute, establish local assembly plants –managed by locally trained hands and setting the motion for the first Nigerian locally made car.
”He said the dream was buttressed by the deliberate effort of the democratic government in 1999 to shift to a more public growth private driven sector, stressing that “this dream has been urgently accelerated by the desire of the incumbent governor of Lagos State to take the State to its economic Eldorado.”
According to the Coscharis chairman, “Governor Raji Fashola’s commitment to the actualisation of this project is second to none. His drive to incorporate private partisanship in public development is enormous and what we have here today is only one of such array of commitments.
Therefore, in alignment to its Corporate Social Responsibility drive and in identifying with the Lagos State’s Public Private Partnership initiative, Coscharis Motors officially took over the Eko Engineering project for Sales and After Sales Services of all auto brands as well as managing the vocational centre for technical skill acquisition specifically to provide after sales support for Rapid Response Squad (RRS) fleet of vehicles. “
“We decided to do this because we believe so much in this Government which has done so much for Lagos State and we want to assist in the good work by securing improvements in public services,” he continued.
THISDAY gathered that the transformation of the old facility at the centre to its present state was total as the project has gulped about N1billion. Originally set up by the State Government to repair and service all its automobiles, the hitherto Eko Engineering Ventures Limited having suffered from inadequate funding and obsolete equipment had to diversify into the fabrication of utensils such as wheel barrows, rakes, shovels and waste bins, among others.
But with the current partnership and efforts made so far, the facility which previously had three dilapidated bay warehouses, in-built administrative offices, generator house and security house now parades an ultramodern automobile centre with integrated sales/after sales support/maintenance workshop and an auto-mechanical skill acquisition institution as well as a driving school. In addition to the renovation and upgrade, the new facility now has a showroom, a lecture theatre, library, staff clinic and a staff canteen. Similarly, in order to complement electricity supply, a new high capacity transformer has been installed while two heavy duty generators are also in place.
Overarching Goal is Job Creation
Maduka nonetheless stated the overarching motive of the partnership and the huge investment it has attracted is job creation. “This partnership is meant to put our state and nation on the path of job creation and skills acquisition. That is, to develop future technical entrepreneurs and employees. Right now, most of the auto mechanics in Nigeria are road -side trained. These are highly limited given their parochial knowledge especially with radical technological advancements in car manufacturing and engine designs,” he said.
Observers of the development are however unanimous in their views that the latest development is another step forward in tackling the youth unemployment problem in the state as the state government appeared unrelenting in its efforts. It will be recalled that last April, the state government inaugurated fresh strategies to reduce unemployment rate among school leavers and graduates, who according to the state data, constitute 70 percent of its total population. Executive Secretary of the State Technical and Vocational Education Board (LASTVEB), Mr. Olawumi Jasper, who unveiled the School Leavers Modern Apprenticeship (SL-MATP) and Graduate Vocational Employability Skills (GV-ESTP) Training Programmes, in a statement made available to THISDAY, said 70 per cent of the state 18 million population is below 35 years and in danger of being misdirected as they are unskilled and misdirected.
Vocational programmes to be undertaken under the programme, according to the government, include welding, carpentry and joinery, automotive mechatronics, refrigeration and industrial air-conditioning, domestic and industrial plumbing, care giving & house-keeping, hair dressing and beauty therapy. Others are clothing & dress making, block-laying, concreting & tiling, software applications design and development, computer animation and modelling, electronics and appliances repairs, electrical maintenance repairs and services, and industrial instrumentation & automation.
Shedding more light on the programme, Jasper said SL-MATP “is designed to provide both work-based on the job training in industries and accredited workshops and college-based instructions in the state technical colleges so that the Lagos youths can have the full range of skills and knowledge for a highly skilled occupation.
“It is also designed to place a premium on business and enterprise skills spiced with competence-based vocational training and are proposed to offer a direct and specific re-training and re-orientation interventions required to assist our current generation of graduates after completing their formal education to compete globally in today’s world of work.”
A Global Phenomenon
Without any iota of doubt, youth unemployment is a global phenomenon as the population of homeless, unemployed, and underemployed youths eking out livelihoods in the shadows of “slum cities” around the world keeps growing. The situation in Nigeria is quite worrisome and Lagos, as one of the fastest growing cities in the world, with an estimated population of 18 million, has its own share of the challenge. It will be recalled that in May, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) put the global youth unemployment, including Nigerians between aged 15 and 24 at over 75 million.
In its Global Employment Trends for Youth 2012 report, ILO said the global youth unemployment rate for 2012 remained stuck at crisis peak levels and was not expected to come down until at least 2016. ILO Senior Communication and Public Information Officer, Regional Office for Africa Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Guebray Berhane, said in a statement that there had been four million more jobless youth since 2007. “Projections show 12.7 per cent of the global youth labour force will be unemployed this year, unchanged from the peak of the crisis in 2009, and slightly up from last year’s 12.6 per cent,” the report further noted.
No Respite for Nigeria
THISDAY gathered that there appears to be no respite for the country as a whole as the unemployment rate bites harder. Lamenting the dilemma in Nigeria despite the much-touted growth in the economy, the African Economic Outlook 2012 (AEO 2012) inaugurated at the annual meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Arusha, Tanzania, in May, put the unemployment rate among Nigerian youths at 37.7 per cent, saying it was one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. The report also noted that despite the country’s robust economic growth, it has ‘failed’ to generate ‘decent’ employment for its people just as poverty has remained high and persistent. Chief Economist and Vice-President of AfDB, Professor Mthuli Ncube, said “The continent is experiencing jobless growth. That is an unacceptable reality on a continent with such an impressive pool of youth, talent and creativity,” as the report noted that “Creating productive employment for Africa’s rapidly growing young population is an immense challenge but also the key to future prosperity.”
Youth unemployment in Nigeria is, indeed, soaring as it is standing currently at over 50 percent even as the general unemployment rate keeps spiralling by 16 percent per year. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in a report released last November actually put the unemployment rate in Nigeria at 23.9 percent in 2011 though THISDAY gathered that from 2006 to 2011, the country’s unemployment rate averaged 14.6 per cent reaching an all-time high of 23.9 percent in December 2011 and a record low of 5.3 percent in December 2006. A breakdown of the results indicated that the South-West has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, with Lagos boasting the lowest figure of 7.6 per cent.