Michael Olugbode writes that the Yobe State government has created a social security scheme to support jobless youths as a strategy to checkmate growing violence in the state, especially the Boko Haram insurgency
An idle hand is the devil's workshop, says an age-old adage. In Yobe State and some other North-eastern states, that adage is true. But to mix idleness with poverty is more deadly. The mixture of the two, hunger and idleness experts say is the root cause of violence, especially if it is laced with religious extremism.
This is what the nation has been witnessing in most of its Northeastern sub-region and a few places in the other Northern region. The North-eastern Nigeria is part of the zone that has been classified as the poorest whenever Nigeria poverty index is shown.
Indeed, the poverty had had its impact on the state. For instance, many improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have been manufactured in the kitchens and bedrooms of people whose brains have find it difficult to handle the admixture of idleness, hunger and religious extremism in the last two years.
But quietly, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam is applying strategy that seems effective. For instance, he believes that perhaps by making jobs available the problem of Boko Haram would become history. At least those that have never join the sect but considering joining would have a rethink with a job that will take idleness away from them and put food on their tables, and for those that already have the misadventure of joining, perhaps with less risky and life perceiving job that could bring meals unto their tables too, they may surrender their arms, ammunitions and bombs.
This perhaps informed the decision of the government to formally engaged 6, 570 youths that hold diploma certificates into its special empowerment scheme as part of its effort to reduce poverty and the effects of unemployment.
The youths who lined up to collect letters of employment for the first time in their lives were happy that they have been given the teeth to crush hunger and starvation and to stand tall among their contemporaries within the state and elsewhere.
One of the beneficiaries of the programme, Ahmad M. Goni said that the scheme will change his life positively and has given him confidence that the State Government is a "caring one".
At the colourful occasion of presentation of the letters of engagement to the enlisted youths in the empowerment scheme recently, Governor Gaidam said the initiative is part of his administration's effort to reduce poverty and ensure that youth are engaged in productive socio-economic activity. He said: "Joblessness breeds idleness and related vices including tendency to commit robbery, drug abuse and others. It is for this reason that we decided to set up a committee to look at how we could engage our numerous diploma holders. I am glad to announce that the committee's recommendation that we pay them N15, 000 monthly is granted. They will start receiving their allowances from the end of November."
The Governor said the monthly payment for the diploma holders will continue until they are able to find a permanent and pensionable job in the public service or private sector job or they become self-employed. He revealed that the state government had earlier recruited over 3, 600 holders of Bachelor degrees, National Certificate in Education and Higher National Diploma certificates into the state civil service for a full-time position.
"We have now engaged over 10, 000 youths in less than one year and this is all part of our effort to fulfill the promises we made to our people during our electioneering campaigns," he said.
Th Chairman of the Government's youth empowerment committee, Abubakar Lawan Yunusari said the committee has recommended that the diploma holders engaged by the government must provide such services as environmental sanitation, crowd control during public activities or be attached to a public sector organisation. He said the committee had also recommended that those among them who want to proceed to universities or other institutions of higher learning to obtain higher certificates be provided scholarships to do so.
The Yobe state government in order to have a foothold on the process of disarmament and handling of the Boko Haram crisis has apart from the aforementioned jobs supported many initiatives that will engender peace in the state.
The governor also knows that not everybody in the state has the educational qualification to take advantage of his mass employment scheme. Illiterate or barely educated people who live on the fringes of the mainstream society often are the pool from which Boko Haram and other violent groups recruit their members. This explains why the Yobe State government sent thousands of youths to the Sani Abatcha Youth Development Centre in Kano to train in such skills as GSM handset and generator set repairs, knitting, hair plaiting, and carpentry amongst others.
Not only did the governor opened this training opportunity, he also ensured that all participants in the programme were fully resettled with the tools they need to practice what they have learnt free of charge.
The governor has also provided up to 500 Keke Napep tricycles to uneducated and unemployed youngsters in Damaturu, Potiskum, Gashu'a and Gaidam towns, especially in the light of the ban on the use of Okada motorcycles because Boko Haram used Okada motorcycles to launch surprise attacks on innocent people. 'Had the governor not stepped up to find alternative means of livelihood for many of these former Okada riders, we could have had an explosion in the crisis as they would have increase the Boko Haram numbers," said Fatima Mohammed, a student.
In order to create more job opportunities for the youths, the governor at one time also directed that officers who have reached the mandatory age of retirement be accordingly retired in Yobe State.
That, he said would open up space for young graduates. In Yobe, it is a tradition to find many people who have put in the maximum 35 years of service or who have reached 60 years of age but have remained unwilling to take the honourable path of retirement. And as Gaidam intensify effort to reduce the Boko Haram menace in the state, it is clear that he will require amongst other things the support coming from Abuja too.