Afolabi Imoukhuede: The Job Creation Tsar Gets another Chance

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Afolabi Imoukhuede

The recent re-appointment of Afolabi Imoukhuede as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Job Creation is an indication of the confidence reposed in the presidential aide going by the modest strides recorded in the last couple of years. Raheem Akingbolu writes

Honouring a Late but Deserving Patriarch…

In April this year, Afolabi Imoukhuede, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Job Creation, joined his older and younger siblings to mark the 98th posthumous birthday of their father and patriarch, Joseph Enaifoghe Imoukhuede, and also the 30th anniversary of his death in 1989 at the age of 68.

The older Imoukhuede was the first non-Yoruba to become a Permanent Secretary in the Western Region civil service. And he was also the pioneer Head of Service as well as Secretary to the Government of the newly created Mid-West Region in 1967. Trained in Cambridge University and graduating in 1945, the late Imoukhuede could not have sired children would not make waves in the respective endeavours. And Afolabi is one of them. When he was appointed as the man to drive the job creation and youth empowerment programme of the Buhari/Osinbajo administration, many thought he might not be equal to the task. However, despite glaring inadequacies and policy summersaults of the regime, it surely deserves a pass-mark in the area of job creation; especially for the youths.

The n-Power programme has seen a sizeable number of young Nigerians taken out of employment and it is noteworthy that most of those recruited by the scheme are young graduates who were able to fill those gaps, especially in the area of primary education. Imoukhuede said it was part of the plans of the Buhari administration to tackle the nation’s economic malaise and they had identified unemployment as a critical aspect of that malaise. That was why the n-Power scheme was created and was specifically under the purview of the Office of the Vice-President.

A Re-appointment Merited…

Many within government circles have admitted that the scheme did very well during the period between 2016 and 2019. As far as Nigerian politics is concerned, performance does not necessarily mean that you will be rewarded with reappointment or even a higher responsibility, Imoukhuede had kept his counsel since after May 29 when the administration began its second and final term in office.

However, earlier in the week, the President re-appointed Imoukhuede to his position as Senior Special Assistant on Job Creation. Findings by THISDAY revealed that many of those who work directly with him were happy at his reappointment.

Young, vibrant and at times exuberant, Afolabi Imoukhuede is beaming with energy and a roaring spirit to perform and deliver. On his reappointment, he had this to say:

“One must be proud to serve his fatherland and I am deeply humbled that the President has deemed it fit to allow me continue the onerous responsibility of creating of creating jobs for our teeming young population. I am committed to the implementation of President Mohammadu Buhari’s programme of job creation and youth empowerment and I thank the President for this unique opportunity.”

An Aide’s Critical Assignment…

In an exclusive interview with THISDAY earlier in the year, Imoukhuede had this to say about his role:

“My role was created as a result of what we knew and campaigned for and how resolute we were to tackle them when we came in. The three things that President Buhari campaigned on were economy, security and corruption. We came and tried to sort out the root cause of insecurity. From economic point of view, unemployment is a structural challenge. One is population growth and our economic growth does not go with this. Graduate unemployment has to do with our educational system. The output of this system is not in tune with trends in the market. And this is what is causing ‘unemployability’. Nigeria is a youthful country because the greater number is under the age of 45. Compared to other countries, we are not doing badly. But if you unpack our 16% unemployment rate, then it has to do with youth. That is why the focus of my job is in that region. Upon resumption, at the last quarter of 2015 and early 2016, with DIFD and Ford Foundation, we went round geopolitical zones and interacted with different sectors. We looked at which sector could absorb our young people in the short term and also in the long term take them on. The priority sector that we identified was agricultural sector and agribusiness sector. The other sector is construction because it is multi-layered and could take as many people as possible. The third is ICT because we knew it could not take many people but was an enabler and also an employer. Another sector is retail area which is an area where Nigerians play. There was also renewable energy sector.”

A Project with Massive Capital Outlay…

The structure of the project makes it massive and this involves big capital outlay. The ICT expert explained that the budget was N500b every year but budget quickly added that budget was not the same as the actual amount released for job execution.

“I will speak of nPower. 500,000 graduates are now under the nPower programme and are deployed in the 774 local governments across the country. They are in schools, hospitals and farms. We could have done more than that but we were hit with recession. It started in June 2016 and closed August 2916 and we got 750,000 applications; 350,000 for graduates and 400,000 for non-graduates. From December 2016 to 2017, our payroll was N6b and it was being paid directly into the participants. No one sees cash. The money goes through the TSA to the inter-bank credit scheme. Before they pay, there are validations that have to be carried out. The moment we validate your record and identification, you are paid. Since August 2018, we got 2.5m applications and got 1.8m clean applicants and we took 300,000 more. Since August, our wage bill has been N15b. The non-graduate components have grown exponentially. Our focus area has been skills. In the nBuild cadre of nPower, we have 20,000 of them out there in the construction sector and they get N250,000 start-up tool-kit after the three-month training. In the nTech, they have devices like a tablet, and that with local content in this.”

Though he might have found himself running the Buhari government’s n-Power programme, Imoukhuede actually trained as Accountant but with experience in International Development and special focus on construction, real estate and small business development. He is also a certified Project Management and Human Capital consultant with particular emphasis on Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

Many might not know but he was the initiator and champion of Skill-Up initiative, an industry-backed Technical Skills Competency Development solution designed to mitigate current dearth of skilled and competent technicians in the various industries by developing competent enterprise builders and wealth creators.

Imoukhuede was at a time, the Deputy Team Leader/Intervention Lead with the UK Department for International Development DFlD/GEMSZ programme with sector focus on stimulating Growth and Employment in the Construction and Real Estate. At GEMSZ, Afolabi championed the delivery of affordable housing for the lower and lower-middle income earners in Lagos State through the Private Public Partnership (PPP) procurement methodology.

Now that he has been reappointed, Afolabi Imoukhuede would not doubt be roaring to go again. And no doubt, the late patriarch of the Imoukhuede family will no doubt be proud of his sons and daughters.

It will be gratifying if they have started planning for the late public servant extraordinaire 100th posthumous birthday in 2021.