As part of efforts aimed at restoring the livelihoods of internally displaced persons, the UNDP is building on initiatives that will make them economically active, Adedayo Akinwale writes
The Boko Haram crisis which has ravaged the North-east part of the country for more than eight years now and has already displaced more than two million people, as well as leading to thousands of deaths has left the federal government and the affected state governments with so much to grapple with. While the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have been forced to rely on the government for their survival, thousands of young people and households have been displaced from their means of livelihoods, no thanks to the crisis.
However, the humanitarian crisis in the region has also attracted the sympathy of international donors, local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the United Nations, Red Cross among others; whose timely intervention is helping to alleviate the situation to a large extent.
Nevertheless, the humanitarian crisis in the North-east has also become a golden goose that lays the golden eggs for some individuals who have seized the opportunity to make illicit money out of the present predicament of those affected. It is therefore not surprising that many-a-times, relief materials meant for the IDPs have been diverted even by government officials.
Often, diverted relief materials have ended up in the markets where they were sold. Heartless government officials and dubious NGOs continue to feed fat while the situation of the IDPs worsened.
It is equally true that prolonged development deficit in the region exposed millions of people to different kinds of vulnerabilities. Even before Boko Haram began its insurgency in the region more than eight years ago, communities were already vulnerable and struggling to survive. Nearly seven out of 10 people were living below the extreme poverty line, on less than $1 a day, and livelihood opportunities were severely limited.
The insurgency worsened the situation resulting in mass suffering among the people especially women and the youths. The United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) assessment revealed that about 1.9 million people in the region, representing over 250,000 households are in urgent need of early recovery support, including shelter, food, livelihood, social infrastructure, public security, among others. It is important to note that currently, over 80 per cent of households affected by the insurgency spend more than they earn, and 30 per cent of households are economically inactive.
Meanwhile, as part of this year’s commemoration of the International Day of Peace which falls on 21 September every year with the theme, ‘Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All’, with focus on the plight of IDPs, refugees and migrants throughout the world; the UNDP as part of its effort aimed at addressing one of the root causes of Boko Haram insurgency recently graduated 571 IDPs drawn from Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, all trained in automotive technology skills.
In its wisdom, the world body, rather than focusing on coordinating the delivery of relief materials which may be diverted by saboteurs masquerading as aid workers, has devised a holistic package aimed at meeting early recovery needs of population affected by the Boko Haram crisis in the North-east with skills and entrepreneurship training that would enable them to have sources of livelihoods and also help in transforming the country’s economy.
UNDP Country Director, Samuel Bwalya while speaking at the graduation ceremony in Kaduna State recently said; “today’s event demonstrates that hope and opportunity still exist when peace is given a chance – knowing very well the circumstances that led to mass displacement of communities from which some of these graduates came – Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States. Today, they may just be 79 that are graduating, but they represent a lot of hope for others and communities they come from.
“As UNDP, we are working towards ensuring that necessary early recovery needs are met through vocational skills training, livelihood support, rehabilitation of public infrastructure – these efforts are providing catalytic ingredients for communities to thrive again, for individuals to be able to fend for themselves again, and for development to return to the region.
“With support from the Government of Norway, we have focused our interventions on the root-causes of the crisis, the early recovery needs that will lay the foundation for long-term development to take place in the region. We are working in partnership with other UN agencies to meet the short and medium term needs of the displaced population. We have so far been able to support farmers and mostly female-headed households with agricultural inputs including agro-processing equipment. We are convinced that this support, catalytic in nature, will help communities to bounce back and thrive again,” Bwalya noted.
As a development agency, the Country Director stated that “the UNDP will still stay in the North-east for some time to coordinate the development interventions starting from early recovery to recovery built in resilience in those communities affected, while also ensuring that development occurs in those communities in a sustainable fashion is our responsibility.
“Out of the seven hundred IDPs who were shortlisted for the first phase, only 575 registered and successfully passed out.
Currently, 571 of the 575 were placed into three technical facilities in Kaduna, Maiduguri and Yola, 79 of whom are graduating today while 179 others will graduate in Yola Technical Centre by this time of next week. The last two batches from the Ramat Polytechnic, Maiduguri and this Centre will graduate in November 2017 and February 2018 respectively.
“It is our hope that after passing through this training process, the graduates, depending on the programme they were engaged in, are peace advocates, responsible citizens, better business managers and potential leaders in their communities,” Bwalya stressed.
Meanwhile, the Director General, PAN Learning Centre (PLC), Ms. Elizabeth Mordi, said the Centre was honoured to have been selected amongst the organisations to partner UNDP in its laudable youth development and economic empowerment programme for the IDPs.
She said through UNDP livelihoods support project, 79 IDPs drawn from Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States were enrolled at the centre mid-2016 and successfully trained in automotive technology skills-Auto Mechanic, Auto Mechatronics, Auto Panel beating and welding and Auto Spray Painting. She added that the trainees also benefited from the centre’s ICT courses to Diploma Level and defensive driving skills from FRSC accredited PAN driving school.
“The first batch of UNDP trainees who started their training in July 2016, are already transformed men and women. There is a total difference in their present levels of skills, knowledge and attitude.
“The great news is that UNDP has not just trained the graduates but has gone further to provide them quite necessary tools and equipment required to start up their private practice in their various trades,” Mordi added.
The representative of Yobe State governor and the Director, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mr. Musaidi Jidawa, said it may not be an understatement to say Yobe State out of all the North-eastern states was the one that is most ready for early recovery. He said this was informed by the fact that as it is now there is no form of Boko Haram activities in the state, aside attacks being carried out by the insurgents across the borders.
He added that, “all the land of Yobe State now is secured minus tiny villages bordering key neighbours. We can categorically say that Yobe State is now ready and safe for any person willing to come and assist us in the task of early recovery.”
He revealed that the state has established a committee headed by the deputy governor, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu. This committee is made up of all the key stakeholders in the state and it is charged with the responsibility of coordinating all aspects of interventions that are geared towards the recovery of the entire state.
“Based on this, this particular occasion of today, the graduation of middle level manpower is timely and squarely fits into the scheme of things in the state. We are looking at high hope on the graduands to serve as the key drivers of economic recovery in the state. The training and whatever process that are going to come out of that are not going to stop on them as single individuals because as would-be entrepreneurs and as employers of labours they would be able to support not only themselves or immediate families but also all the members of the community,” he noted.
On his part, the Special Adviser to the governor of Borno State, Hon. Nuhu Kulak, said due to the wanton of destruction caused by the Boko Haram crisis in the state, the Ministry of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement was created two years ago to build from the scratch the towns, villages and communities that were totally destroyed by the insurgents.
“The state government is trying its best with the help of donors to build most of the houses destroyed. Bama is completely destroyed, the government is now building Bama from scratch. Almost all the local governments in Borno were affected by the insurgency,” he said.
One of the graduands, 20 years old Fatima Muhammed said she just finished her secondary school education when the Boko Haram crisis started. She said prior to her training as a mechanic that she has never held a spanner in her life before.
Her words: “I’m from Gaidam Local Government Area of Yobe State. I was trained as a mechanic. Before I started the training I have never held a spanner in my life. I feel happy doing the job. When I go back, I will open my own garage. I will like to establish in Kaduna.”
Also, another graduand, Mr. Lackison Listakis, who specialised in Mechanic- Mechatronics said he would like to open his own workshop in Adamawa State.
Janet Ibrahim, trained in paint and panel beating from Banki, Borno State, said she was a stylist before the crisis begun. She added that she has no means to start over again and she decided to join the programme.
“I was trained in paint and panel beating. I feel it is interesting for a woman to be trained in this profession that was why I chose it. I really enjoyed the training. Some of my friends said we should go and established in Maiduguri.
“I’m ready to train others and I’m sure they will be interested. Before the Boko Haram insurgen I was a hair dresser but I don’t have anything to start all over again that was why I joined the programme. We were staying in Banki, a border town.”
Asked how she felt being one of the ladies in the midst of men during the training, she said: “When we started the training I was the only lady in the midst of the guys before the other lady came to join. I knew that I will make it and I was interested in the way the work is being done.”
Also, Mr. Adegbe Michael, a Mechanic-Mechatronics Instructor at the centre said vocational training was different from the knowledge being acquired in the higher institutions of learning in the country, adding that with vocational training you don’t need to look for any job rather jobs will be looking for you because you have solution to the problems being faced by the people.
According to him, “What we do in Pan Learning Centre is Automotive Vocational Skills Acquisition. On the part of UNDP, they were able to look at the plight of the people who have been ravaged by insurgency, a lot of them are widow, young men have lost their means of livelihoods and so UNDP saw a need to support them in restoring them back to their source of livelihoods.”
He added that, “they went to Borno, Yobe and Adamawa to bring these people to this centre and supported them, they paid their training fees. The centre has also been able to turn the mere men that came 12 months ago into certified technicians today.”
Michael said that the trainees were paid monthly allowances of N26,000 by UNDP, while they were also provided free accommodation and an enhanced lunch.
He explained that it was difficult teaching them but due to the techniques applied in the training, the centre was able to get it right.
“We do practical section and class section. In the practical sections we use learning programme like power point where drawings and graphical representation are shown. We do one week class session and two weeks practical session such that all that has been thought in theory is demonstrated physically and is well assimilated.
“We also do industrial attachment so that our trainings will be able to experience live problems and how customers come with their challenges and how problems are being sorted out. They do that like six months and then the class and practical session like six months,” he added.