Mr. Muhammad Umar, DG, SMEDAN
The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with two Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
These are the Odekhoa Akhume Okaisabor Memorial Foundation and the Centre for Community Development (C4CD) of Akwa Ibom State, and were established to cater for orphans, widows and disadvantaged youths in the country through vocational and entrepreneurial skills acquisition.
At the MoU signing ceremony, the Director-General of the Agency, Mr. Muhammad Umar, called for more dedication on the part of government, well-meaning organisations and citizens to emulate the laudable objectives of the two bodies which seek to empower the needy groups of the society through job creation and skill acquisition, saying that the move was a “crusade that must be won against poverty in Nigeria”.
Describing the event as “timely”, the DG assured the organisations of SMEDAN’s continued support, and added that vocational and entrepreneurial training formed a large aspect of the Agency’s mandate for the simple reason that it was the only way that the country could bail itself out of the present quagmire of unemployment, poverty, and helplessness that has crippled it.
“This is what we need in Nigeria to bring us out of our history of incessant crises. It is a challenge to all of us, and I urge us all to count our results in terms of the capacity-building and/or the number of jobs we have created for the poverty-stricken among us in the shortest time possible,” he said.
In her remarks, the Founder/Chairman Board of Trustees of the Odekhoa Akhume Okaisabor Memorial Foundation, Mrs. Ngozika Okaisabor, a current Judge of the Customary Court of Appeal in the FCT Judiciary and a widow herself, commended SMEDAN for its unrelenting support for her Foundation saying that the MoU signing made the day “an extremely memorable one”.
She said the Foundation was established out of her sympathy for the plight of widows who were forced to face harsh realities due to circumstances beyond their control.
“To alleviate the suffering of widows, we offer scholarships to indigent orphans, conduct entrepreneurial sensitisation for widows, facilitate vocational, entrepreneurial training, working capital and other resources needed for them to run profitable and sustainable businesses, facilitate free eye tests for them, assist in meeting their medical needs and fashion out necessary legal instruments through MoUs with various partners,” she said.
She noted that the organisation was named after her late husband, Mr. Odekhoa Akhume Okaisabor, who died on board the Bellview aircraft, which crashed in Lisa Village in Ogun State on October 22, 2005 shortly after take-off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
She particularly lauded SMEDAN for their support during the Memorial Lecture held in 2009 and 2010, where over a hundred widows benefitted from the entrepreneurial sensitisation and awareness creation organised by the agency.
“The first five women who graduated from their training on cake-making have received their start-off equipment from the Foundation. In 2011, SMEDAN, in collaboration with the Foundation, organised entrepreneurship training for thirty-six widows, while over 200 widows benefitted from the official flag-off of the South-East Zonal Economic Empowerment Program in Ebonyi state.
“As part of its programme this year, the Foundation sponsored twenty widows in various vocational training in Kogi state while over 200 widows benefitted from SMEDAN’s Needs Assessment there. Additionally, the Foundation is sponsoring vocational training courses for five widows in cake-making in Gwagwalada. The Foundation plans to run more programmes in the coming years. Plans are already underway to reach out to the six geo-political zones” she concluded.
The MoU states the roles of SMEDAN to include provision of entrepreneurial training in accordance with its training curriculum and other Business Support Services (BDS) such as counseling, mentoring and linkages, while the Foundation shall furnish the agency with prospective beneficiaries for training and other interventions in addition to providing them with start-up capital and/or machines to enable them commence their businesses.
Also present at the event to consolidate SMEDAN’s support for his NGO, C4CD through the signing of an MoU, was President of the Centre, Dr. Abasubong Samson Diong.
He expressed delight that the partnership between his NGO and SMEDAN would help the Centre meet its objective of providing infrastructural and structural support to disadvantaged young people to fulfill their potentials.
Diong, who obtained a Doctorate degree from studying overseas through a federal government scholarship, said he was passionate about developing disadvantage youths starting with his state because due to the level of unemployment in the country, “young men and women need more sustained means of livelihood through agricultural and entrepreneurial development”.
He expressed optimism that with SMEDAN’s antecedents as a major contributor to the development of small and medium enterprises in the country through some of its strategies such as cluster development and ICT training for youths, beneficiaries of a partnership between the two bodies would have a brighter future to look forward to.
“It is my fervent hope” he said, “that through the MOU, a standard youth hostel would be committed as an Industrial Development Centre (IDC) in Uyo, which would facilitate enterprise and community development for beneficiaries”.