4Billion Naira Youth Empowerment In Imo: The Truth, The Gains And The Concerns

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ONWUASOANYA FCC JONES

On Saturday, 27th June, the Imo State governor, His Excellency Distinguished Senator Hope Uzodimma flagged off what have been described as a mother of all youth empowerments by mostly members of my Party and key supporters of the Hope Uzodimma administration. By tomorrow, I am sure that there will be hundreds of advertorials commending the governor for this significant youth empowerment initiative. I commend any program designed for the benefit of the citizenry, especially, the youths.

As laudable as this initiative is, there are still people who have questioned both its methodology and terminology. These skeptics could be subdivided into two; the first and most caustic in their inquiries are the PDP sponsored media handlers and the second group are the very few non-aligned but genuinely concerned Imolites, who are either concerned that this is another political jamboree meant to score political points or are worried that this money is too little and would most likely be squandered by the beneficiaries. I will attempt to, as briefly as possible, weigh in with my thought on those reservations.

A very important point raised by the PDP media and its subsidiaries is that the youth empowerment program is a federal government funded grant for youths, hence, their argument that the governor’s design to take the credit for the program is deceptive.

Yes, the money for this scheme most probably came from the Federal Government, as part of her Covid-19 stimulus packages, specially targeted at cushioning the negative economic impact of the covid-19 pandemic. Billions of Naira have been earmarked for this and many other economic stimulants by the APC led Federal Government. While very few youths can directly access these funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria and its microfinance subsidiary, NIRSAL, national lawmakers, federal politicians and governors have cashed in on this to empower their constituents, as they present nominees who benefit from these grants. It is therefore on the back of this that the Imo State governor accessed this fund for the benefit of Imo youths.

The governor is justified in his decision to own up the scheme and to flag it off in an elaborate and widely publicized ceremony. As an APC governor in a PDP dominant region, the governor is both playing the good Party man and a good leader by giving the Party’s national program the attention it deserves (Not many people are aware that there is such a federal government program going on). Also, given the security challenges which the State is gradually coming out from, a program like this one that involves youths, is necessary to bolster confidence in the State as well as motivate these thousands of youths on the need to become good ambassadors of development and peace for the State.

The PDP’s protestations against this noble and youth friendly initiative is in bad faith and further confirms the Party’s false idea of opposition politics as opposition to development. Had PDP being in power today, and the same package is received by government, they are likely to have made a bigger show of it.

I will align myself with the reservations expressed by some people on methods adopted in shortlisting the beneficiaries of this scheme. 250,000 Naira could be a huge and very useful amount of money depending on how it is deployed. A youth with the requisite skills and trainings could convert this 250,000 Naira to multiple millions of Naira in a few years time, while another youth without skills would be broke few weeks after receiving the same amount of money, as he or she would know nothing else but to squander the money in merrymaking.

The Federal Government deliberately tagged this funding a loan, because it would want that idea to sink into people’s consciousness and enable them make the best use possible of the funds. As this could be part of the Federal Government’s stated intention to lift 10 Million people out of poverty, every effort should be made by all participating stakeholders and institutions towards ensuring that this aim is met.

Another area of concern in this noble scheme is on the methodologies adopted in selecting the beneficiaries. Before the list of the beneficiaries became public, some people were suspicious that this was going to be another political showpiece without genuine beneficiaries, but having seen the names of people I know in the list, that actually contains 15,000 verifiable names, this suspicion is effectively dispelled. It also appeared that political loyalty was not a paramount consideration in making these nominations.

While we look forward to seeing these 15,000 youths finally “bid farewell to poverty”, the government is encouraged to ensure that it plays its own part conclusively by ensuring that this money gets to the beneficiaries. Also, the beneficiaries should be protected from government hawks who might want to compel them to part with some part of that small money, as settlement for helping to put their names on the list.

IMO MUST WIN!

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