‘We’ve Empowered Many Ekiti Indigenes’

Folorunsho Aluko, Director-General, Ekiti State Job Creation and Employment Agency, in this interview with Adejuwon Soyinka, deputy general editor; Anthony Akaeze, senior assistant editor; Abiola Odutola, staff writer; and Sunday Adedeji, senior photo editor, reveals how the agency has fared in the last three and half years and the number of people that have benefited from the agency’s programmes. Excerpts.

In this day of high unemployment in the country, entrepreneurship is seen as one of the panacea for reducing it. To what extent has this been under Kayode Fayemi’s administration?

Folorunso-Aluko,-DG,-Ekiti-State-Job-Creation-&-Employment-Agency-(5)Entrepreneurship is the fulcrum driving whatever kind of unemployment programme that any government can run and make result out of. Everywhere across the globe, we have realised that people who stand on their own, who do not wait for white-collar jobs, are the ones who actually get things to do and drive the economy. So in Ekiti State, what we have done aside the quick win solution to the huge unemployment crisis the John Kayode Fayemi, JKF, administration met on ground is to create a programme through which we employed graduates and non graduates in batches of 5,000 each and pay them N10,000 per month as a temporary employment arrangement, and post them out for mentoring under public service and private sector for two years during which we made them undergo skills acquisition entrepreneurship training and skills that will change their orientation and perspective to life and also equip them to be self reliant. We have done two batches of these volunteering scheme now, the first 5,000 started June 2011 and we graduated them May 2013.

The second batch got on board October/November 2013 and they are still on it. So on the programme, this government has successfully taken care of 10,000 youths under the Ekiti project volunteer programme. We have also taken up 7,500 youths and young women for our skill acquisition and entrepreneurship training which addresses the question you just raised. When we wanted to start, we piloted it. Early 2011, we took 500 youths and divided them among three key private sector trainers in Ekiti: Odua Investment has a training school now in Ado Ekiti, which the governor facilitated. We took the first batch of 200 out of the 500 and trained them on skills. After the training, the governor approved N100,000 empowerment for each of them.  The same thing we did for the rest 300 that two other institutes trained for us. We also used the facilities of National Directorate of Employment, NDE, a federal parastatal, because they have a training institute here on agriculture. We also piloted with them [with] the first 240 youths that we trained and after the training in different agric areas, they were also empowered to be on their own. So, put together in the last three years plus, the JKF administration has trained on skills, vocation and entrepreneurship, 7,500 youths and young women and most of them are still in Ekiti, we follow them up and monitor them.

Aside from this, there has also been direct engagement into the public service; for instance, we have 1,500 facility managers and street cleaners. If you come to Ado Ekiti very early in the morning before 10 am, you will see them in almost all the streets; they clean the streets and maintain public facilities. Most of them are women but we have few men among them to help them with the masculine aspect of their assignment. For our agric trainings also, we have a separate one called the Youths in Commercial Agriculture driven by the Ministry of Agric. I am part of the selection process to make sure that those who come on board are those who are resident in Ekiti and also the selection process gives opportunity for every segment of the Ekiti people. On the programme, we already have 2,000 youths who benefited and they are fully into agric at different levels. Besides this, we collaborated with Globacom to train and empower youths in public call centre. One thousand youths benefited from the programme early 2012.

Also, there’s Ekiti State Transport Management Agency that was just put in place two years ago. My agency also helped them in the process of recruitment and on the whole, you had 500 of them posted across different parts of Ekiti land. They are like the LASTMA [Lagos State Traffic Management Agency] of Lagos and they’ve been working closely with the Road Safety Corps. They helped us during the training and also in making sure that they got equipped. This government has also set up a paramedic and emergency management team. We have 165 of them and got a few firefighting officers to join the state firefighting group. We have 160 something of them also directly employed by my agency. Those who have this direct employment, what we have done before their regulation into the public service is to pay graduate among them N40,000, NCE and National diploma N30,000, and school certificate N20,000. This is to make sure none of them falls below the minimum wage.

So on the whole, through this agency directly, we have been able to either train or directly engage or empower 22,660 youths in the last three and half years. This figure excludes what the Civil Service Commission employed. It also does not include what the Assembly Service Commission, Local Government Service Commission, TESCOM [Teaching Service Commission], and all the rest have done in the state. If we have to bring all these together, it means in the last three years plus, the JKF administration has been able to employ or provide jobs for about 30,000 youths in Ekiti. Let me say that before we started this entire programme, we called a meeting of unemployed youths in Ekiti with the governor where we had over 60,000 youths attending the meeting. On seeing the crowd, it was agreed with the youths that what we would do is first create a database of all unemployed youths in Ekiti, those who are willing and are sure they want to have a relationship with our agency. By the end of the day, we rolled out 50,000 forms and 47,000 subscribers collected and submitted back the forms. The forms were serialised in a way that couldn’t allow for duplication and then by the time we were going to do the database to make sure that all necessary purification took place, the governor approved that within one month, he wanted the first 5,000 to be taken, so that when they are temporarily engaged, it will reduce the unemployment problem.

Obviously there is still a gap between those engaged by your agency and those left behind. Do you still have plans for others?

Certainly we still have plans. Like I said, using the youth volunteer programme as example, we did them in batches of 5,000 because of the cost of keeping them. The first batch, like I said, collected money for two years, N10,000 each per month. We also had to empower them after the two years because during the period of the two years they were trained in specific skills so that they can be on their own. So it means after these two years, we are going to bring on board another 5,000. Let me add also that these are the ones the state has directly taken care of. We have an agreement with the World Bank, but because the state government cannot go directly to get funds from the World Bank, it became World Bank, federal government and seven other states in Nigeria arrangement. We call it the Youths Employment Support Operation, YESO. From our agreement with the World Bank, we are also going to bring another 5,000 people within the next two months on the YESO scheme, meaning we continually will have programmes running for the youths and making sure that we, as much as possible, reduce unemployment. The skill acquisition programme is also continuing. We’ve only given figures of what we have achieved, there are programmes going on.  We collaborate with different agencies on the programme, like in the area of training.

How will you describe the percentage of beneficiaries on a ratio of male and female?

We are very, very gender sensitive. Let me say, on our EPP programme, women most times are like 51, 52 per cent, men are like 48, 49 per cent and the reason for this is that NCE holders are many in Ekiti maybe because of the College of Education, Ikere, and women are more in that qualification area. But in skills acquisition, we have a percentage of about 55 men and 45 women.  But we make sure that women are part of everything we are doing. We also provide for the physically challenged, like the blind, the deaf and organise for them in ways that will make their physical disability not to affect their ability.

You said you do monitor the activities of these youths engaged by the state government. If you were, in one word, to describe the progress made so far, what will it be?

In terms of promise, the Governor promised at least 20,000 jobs. From my agency alone, we have been able to deliver 22,660 jobs aside the real full employment made by different commissions into the public service. So this is total victory. What he promised, he has been able to deliver and even added to it.

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Adejuwon Soyinka

Adejuwon Soyinka was former Deputy General Editor, TELL Magazine and Editor, www.tell.ng, the online publication of TELL Communications Limited

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