BY EMEKA EJERE
President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, indeed, understands the direct relationship between youth unemployment and crime rate in the society and has constantly said so through his actions. No less so is his mindfulness of the indispensability of productive youths in growing an economy.
Dangote is one of the pioneers of Coalition Against COVID (CA-COVID), an alliance created by the Bankers’ Committee, comprising of banks and major private sector players to address the funding challenges faced by federal and state governments in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the aftermath of the recent EndSARS protest has opened another window of responsibilities to the coalition, with the members now convinced that getting the youths economically engaged is a way of forestalling a repeat of the unrest.
CACOVID on Wednesday gave the nation something to cheer when it announced it has resolved to create four million jobs within the next five years, with the youths being the biggest beneficiaries of the job windfall for which the business leaders plan to invest N175 billion.
At a CACOVID accountability meeting in Lagos, Africa’s richest man noted that the CA-COVID team would be working on establishing a database for artisans that benefit from the new training, to show organisation and professionalism in their work.
Building the database, he said, would reduce the risk of engaging the wrong people, adding that artisans doing plumbing, electrical works, tiles and bricklayers would benefit from the scheme.
“We all have repairs and with that data, you can know who to call for repairs. What we are doing is that we are providing them with money to buy tools, Dangote said.
“So, as soon as they get the training which is free, which we are paying for, then, they have the guarantee that they get jobs.”
Certainly, such assurance coming from the richest black man in the world can be taken to the bank. It is even more so considering that his business conglomerate is the highest employer of labour in Nigeria, second only to the federal government.
In October, 2019, about 200 youths from the Ibeju-Lekki community of Lagos State graduated from various skills acquisition programme organized by Dangote Petroleum Refinery & Petrochemicals Company.
The company had in March 2019, inaugurated a vocational training scheme meant to instill necessary skills in young men and women from that area of its operation, as part of efforts aimed at making youths from its host communities employable.
The Executive Director, Capital Projects, Dangote Group, Mr. Devakumar Edwin, had described the initiative as a demonstration of Dangote Refinery’s commitment towards capacity building and youth empowerment in the country.
The programme, which was launched in collaboration with the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), was designed to cover plumbing, masonry, welding, iron bending, auto mechanics and electrical works.
Edwin said the scheme was geared towards instant value addition to the lives of the youths and their communities as they would be equipped with trade skills that would prepare them for better opportunities.
At the graduation ceremony, Lagos State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, applauded the Dangote Group for its effort to empower youths in the state through its skills acquisition programme.
Addressing the beneficiaries, Mr. Sanwo-Olu, represented by the Managing Director of Lekki Free Trade Zone Worldwide, Mr. Tunde Sodade, said the state government will employ the 200 graduates, but urged them to be good ambassadors to the state and their community.
“We will ensure that all of you that graduated today will be employed at the free zone because we believe that what you learnt will be useful for the development of the zone. I urge you all to be good examples to others and always demonstrate better character and integrity in what you do,” the Governor said.
He further urged the graduands to register their names with the Lekki Free Trade Zone management, so they could be employed by all companies within the zone.
The state coordinator of the NDE, Mrs. Serena Edward lauded Dangote Group for pioneering the skills vocational training for the youths in the community.
Mrs. Edward said the programme which started six months ago, had today recorded tremendous success among the 200 graduands.
“We encountered some challenges in the course of the programme, which the community elders intervened”, she recalled. The programme has transformed the students to do better and also improved their standards of creativity on the jobs leant.
“Today, the programme has facilitated the students to open an account with a bank as a sign of seriousness towards business. Dangote has given the community youths useful tools to work with and advised you use it diligently.”
On his part, Mr. Edwin advised the graduands to commit themselves to continuous learning and development as the business environment changes frequently, and promised to assist them to succeed.
According to him, as the petroleum refining & fertiliser complex comes on stream, it is expected that will be a population boom in the surrounding communities, who requires the services of the trainees.
He expressed optimism that the host communities will experience a turnaround in their fortunes very soon.
Also, in May 2019, Dangote Group stated that its rice project was targeted at empowering the youths at the grassroots with opportunities that abound in agribusiness.
Edwin, who doubles as the coordinator of Dangote Rice Project, said it was part of its social responsibility objective to create jobs for Nigerian youths.
Community leaders from Oyo State had come to show appreciation to the company over the choice of Iseyin town for the youth rice farm project being undertaken by the Africa’s foremost entrepreneur..
“The project was a deliberate business decision to empower the youths at the grassroots, bearing in mind that the youths who are more than half of Nigeria’s population are mostly unemployed,” Edwin stated.
He added that many of the ills in the nation could be traced to youth joblessness, adding that the youth rice farm was developed to address such issues now that the federal government is diversifying the economy by upgrading the agricultural sector to achieve food self-sufficiency and as a major foreign exchange earner.
“Dangote Rice Youth farm was modeled after the out-grower scheme, to launch the youths back to farm with assurance of assistance to make farming less cumbersome, less stressful and profitable,” he said.
The multi-million naira Youth Farming Initiative that targeted at engaging teeming unemployed Nigerian graduates in rice farming had earlier been launched by the Dangote Rice Limited in Kogi State.
The Dangote Youth Rice Farm project, mainly an out-grower scheme for youths only, was flagged off at the Lower Niger River Basin Authority, Kampe, Ejiba in Yagba West Local Government Area of the state where youths have embarked on rice cultivation on over 100 hectares of land.
Under the scheme, the Dangote Rice Company provides the seedling, anti-pest-chemicals, and fertilizers while the Basin Authority provides the land for the young farmers.