How job opportunities can solve Niger Delta unrest

The creation of job skills and opportunities can resolve the youth unrest in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, an official has said.

Dara Akala, the executive director of the Foundation for Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND), stated this at a close-out workshop for the Niger Delta Youth Employment Pathways (NDYEP) Project during the week.

Implemented in two phases between September 2017 and March 2021, the 2-year NDYEP project was piloted in three States in the Niger Delta region, namely Abia, Akwa Ibom, and Rivers.

PIND said the initiative was designed in emerging sectors of agriculture, construction, finished leather, ICT, and renewable energy that showed great potential for youth employment according to the labor market assessment conducted in the states.

Speaking at the event, Mr Akala said skill acquisition and job opportunities can help address the challenge of insecurity and unrest in the region.

He said: “Why are the youths restive? It is because of lack of economic opportunities. What provides the economic opportunity is the knowledge and the skills that you have. If you are able to gain skills, or go into employment or start a business, and you are comfortable living a fulfilled life, what else will anybody be agitating for?”

The PIND boss said the programme was designed to address unemployment in a very practical way .

“As we said, over 4,500 youths have been trained in the scheme, beside the training, they were equipped with practical skills in order to be able to get jobs,” he said.

“As we speak, those people that benefited from this programme have either got paid employment or they have created enterprises of their own. So, that is our own contribution. It is very small compared to the scale of unemployment problem but it is a very good start.”

The organisation in a statement said NDYEP is an innovative model designed not just to train but to prepare youth (including the young people living in rural areas, women, and persons living with disabilities) with market-relevant skills for securing sustainable jobs.

The project aimed to train 4,500 vulnerable Niger Delta youth on market-relevant, demand-driven skills as well as soft skills, preparing them for either formal employment, internship and apprenticeship, or entrepreneurship through business start-ups. Over the two phases of the pilot, 4817 participants were enrolled, 4,355 completed the training successfully and 1,933 of the successful trainees are currently linked to waged employment via apprenticeship, internship, or entrepreneurship, each now earning income.

“The lack of access to economic opportunities in the Niger Delta is one of the leading causes of unemployment which in turn is a driver of conflicts and youth restiveness in the region,” the statement said, adding that the region records some of the highest rates of unemployment in the country, higher than the national average.

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Limited opportunities

The group noted that the limited economic activities and other disruptions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the country’s unemployment rate previously at an average of 23 percent spiked to 27.1 percent as at the second quarter of 2020 and according to the recent National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) unemployment report, there has been a 6.2 per cent increase, raising the national unemployment rate to 33.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Some Niger Delta States are at the top of the list of states with the highest employment rates, it said.

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“So, addressing unemployment remains one of the most significant development challenges at this time for governments and actors at the national and sub-national levels, including the Niger Delta. And that is why celebrating the wins of the NDYEP project today is important while replicating such innovative approaches to skills development that will contribute to economic recovery and growth post-COVID-19 is of even more importance,” Mr Akala explained.

During the close-out workshop, implementing partners and project participants of the NDYEP project shared stories about their successes, key learnings, and experiences on the project.

“In my organisation, we offer different skills program but coming into the NDYEP projectand the strategy that was adopted; working with the university, the people actually in the construction industry that are masters of construction, it was quite a learning experience for us especially the aspect of building the participants’ soft skills,” said Chika Chinwah, one of the implementing partners of the project.

Ogbonna Mary, a project participant under the ICT sector, said that: “Before the NYEP project, I had a life but it was not the kind of life I dreamt of. I used to be one of those sales girls at the market in Aba to assist my aunty but then I have always wanted more for myself. Not until that fateful day when a friend of mine told me about the IGHub entrepreneurs and developers fellowship and I took that bold step to register and it has been the best decision of my life.” She has since the NDYEP training worked as a market research journalist for Google PPDC, Google digital skills trainer, and even co-founded a startup.

In his closing remarks, Tunji Idowu, the deputy executive director of PIND, called on stakeholders especially government to adopt the NDYEP model for youth job creation, noting that the government is at the centerpiece of addressing youth unemployment.

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