The Dream Factories

22 Apr 2013

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Adeola Akinremi reports that after months of disarmament, demobilisation and training the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) for the Niger Delta militants showcased its pilot scheme on entrepreneurship for ex-militants

Three years after, he finds it a tall order to forget the battles of the creeks as an ex-militant. Egodibie Endurance, who accepted the federal government amnesty and participated in its disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration programme, said he now looks forward to becoming an employer of labour in a country swamped with unemployed youths.

Endurance, one of the 300 youths empowered with equipment and seed grants targeting would-be entrepreneurs among the ex-militants recently by the Presidential Amnesty Programme  (PAP) received training in pipe welding and fabrication.

He said: “If this had come first, I wouldn’t have been a militant and no one will be able to describe me as an ex-militant. I believe I would have had my name everywhere across the length and breadth of this country as an employer of labour with a strong brand name in pipe welding. It is hard to forget that I was once hiding from one creek to another in the army of militants, but with this empowerment I want to do all I can to change the statusquo in unemployment rate in the Niger Delta and of course in Nigeria.”

That was exactly what preoccupied the mind of Kingsley Kuku, Chairman of PAP and the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta when he accepted his appointment.

In January 2011, Kuku said: “We will do all we can to bring out the best from the ex-militants; make them fit to live normal lives again and become major contributors to the economy of our nation.”

Though, Kuku couldn’t make it to Harbour Point on Victoria Island where the 300 ex-militants received equipment for their start-ups, his voice reverberated through the hall as represented by a Technical Adviser in the amnesty office, Mr. Larry Pepple.

Pepple, who spoke on behalf of Kuku, said the support would lay a solid foundation and break the cyclic nature of poverty, contribute to economic growth and move the country closer to the attainment of one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eradication of poverty and hunger by 2015.

He said: “It is a common knowledge with proven cases that expansion and growth of the small and medium scale enterprise sector of any economy contributes to greater utilisation of local raw materials, encouragement of rural development, mobilisation of local savings, generation of employment and linkages with bigger industry. That in itself strengthened our resolve to support the ex-militants to achieve their dreams and contribute to the collective dream of our nation as bigger economy where data on unemployment would become insignificant.”

With soothing words of reassurance, he told the ex-militants, “We are looking forward to assisting you in collaboration with our service providers; hold your hands during the coaching and mentoring phase of your businesses to assist in surmounting the teething stage of any business, either big or small. That way you will help in contributing to the President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda, because you will not only be gainfully and productively engaged, but you will also be employers of labour that will be contributing in no small measure to the development and sustainable growth of the nation as well as deepening the peace in the Niger Delta.”

Kuku disclosed that following the disarmament and demobilisation of the ex-militants, his office had grappled with the challenge of reintegration of the ex-militants into the society to enable them return to contribute meaningfully. According to him huge successes have been recorded in the nearly 5-year-old programme.  For instance, over 13,000 ex-militants have been deployed to local and foreign training centres for various skills acquisition programmes and formal education. Also, over 2500 among the ex-militants have been placed in higher institution of learning in Nigeria and abroad where they are studying courses such as law, political science, medicine, building and construction, public administration, accountancy, mass communication and engineering, among several other technical and vocational courses.

He added that over 4,608 ex-militants will be graduating as specialist in marine services, heavy duty operations, welding, diving, agriculture, boat building, oil and gas services, automobile technology and aviation services respectively.

Over 960 ex-militants who are women he confirmed have been placed and are currently in specialised skills centres, where some of them have graduated as professionals in such fields as fashion design, cosmetology, hair dressing and catering. Also, 174 ex-militants have been offered direct employment in various governmental and private establishments within and outside the country.

To ensure the pilot scheme in the empowerment series becomes a success with new factories established all over the country, Kuku cautioned the beneficiaries when he said, “I want to caution you that you commit yourself to the agreements and commitments you will be making today by making sure these equipment and wares you are receiving are used to grow your business. We like to warn that you do not sell the equipment and do not waste the money you will make from your businesses; We encourage you to make a difference in your life and your community by growing your businesses so that when history will be written about the amnesty programme you will be on the side of the success story.”

Kuku explained that the reintegration stage means the militants are now on their own to cater for their needs and help support community development through self-reliance whereby the small scale businesses they are setting up would begin to generate income for them as the stipend hitherto received from the amnesty programme would automatically stop after three months from now.

A legal adviser for the amesty programme Mrs. Winfred Okulaye, who explained that names of the businesses have registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to enable them qualify as legal entities, reinforced what Kuku said by encouraging the youths to see their empowerment as opportunity.

“If you breach the contract, you will be sued. You cannot sell the equipment or give out the shops. There is no joint partnership between your business and the amnesty office, so you cannot go to the bank and borrow money using the name of amnesty programme. The office is monitoring you because you as individuals signed an agreement with the federal government before you are given the tools following your disarmament and demobilisation and the training offered you in various institutions and we will ensure we follow the agreement to the letter,” she stated.

Paul Belaye, an ex-militant from Bayelsa agreed with Okulaye’s statement. He said: “We have come a long way to arrive at this stage and I believe everyone knows we cannot afford to fail. If anyone fails, it would be his shame. I am determined to make a living out of this and I have high hope that someday the world will hear about me not as an ex-militant, but as an entrepreneur of great achievement.”

For Ekioba Vincent, who said he had paid for a shop in Warri, Delta State to start his welding business, one thing was clear, the PAP has provided him the path to fulfill his dream.

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