Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU,) with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and a private sector organisation for the establishment of Nigeria’s first and grandest enterprise innovation and growth hub.
The tripartite agreement, which kick-starts the investment hub project, was signed yesterday during a meeting at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt between the NDDC, SMEDAN and Builders Hub Impact Investment Programme (BHIIP).
The NDDC Managing Director, Mr. Nsima Ekere, said the meeting was a follow up to a previous engagement with Director-General of SMEDAN, Dr. Dikko Radda, at his office in Abuja.
Ekere said the partnership with SMEDAN was one way of proving to Nigerians that inter-agency collaboration and synergy could work. He said: “We have different kinds of agencies and initiatives in this country with different and specified core mandates and I believe that if all of them can come together, it would be for the good of all. I believe that NDDC and SMEDAN are setting an example for Nigeria.”
The NDDC boss added: “I am in a hurry. We can’t wait to create more jobs for the people of the Niger Delta. We want to fight unemployment, we want to fight poverty, we want to fight restiveness and this is one way we can use to ensure that militancy is eradicated in the Niger Delta.
“I believe that we can create new jobs for our people, we can build the economy of the Niger Delta, but more importantly, we want to ensure that the youths are engaged. If the youths are engaged on a daily basis, there won’t be time for them to be planning mischief.”
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer said the enterprise hub would help the youths in so many different ways. He stressed; “We must get this running in the shortest possible time. We have made provisions in our budget and I think that in the next one or two months, we will have sufficient budgetary provision for the take-off.”
“The idea is that we will start with one of the IDC’s owned by SMEDAN in the Niger Delta but ultimately, our intention is to see that all the IDC’s owned by SMEDAN in the Niger Delta region are revamped and revitalised. And we must pay particular attention to our women and youths.”
The SMEDAN boss, Dr. Radda, said the agency was well positioned to create jobs and alleviate poverty in the country and always ready to work with the NDDC in the implementation of its work plan for the development of the Niger Delta region. He also said SMEDAN had 23 Industrial Development Centres (IDC) nationwide and four of the centres were located in the Niger Delta.
Radda lamented that facilities in the IDCs were dilapidated with most of the equipment obsolete, coupled with the problem of land encroachment.
According to him, SMEDAN was planning to convert the IDCs into enterprise clusters where enterprises involved in similar products and activities will be located in the same place with all necessary machines, equipment and trainings provided for them.
The DG stated that SMEDAN was set up to facilitate the development and promotion of MSMEs in Nigeria by stimulating, monitoring and coordinating the development the sector. He commended the Managing Director for identifying and acknowledging the importance of the agency in helping to actualise the mandate of the Commission.
Making a presentation, the Chief Executive Officer of BHIIP, Mr. Natasha Akpote, emphasised the need to stimulate indigenous innovations. She said Nigeria would be better served having more entrepreneurs than academics, noting that the future lay with entrepreneurship.
Akpote said: “We will focus on areas where training expertise can create more jobs.”
Earlier, the NDDC Director, Commercial and Industrial Development, Mr. Anietie Usen, said the concept of growth pole was captured in the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan. According to him “the concept has become more academic than real. It has just been paper work. So, we are here to change paper work into hard work.”