2 December 2012

Nigeria: Controversy Trails Patience Jonathan's Cab Project

The Lady Chauffeur Training Scheme (LCTS) initiated by the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan under her pet project, Women for Change Development Initiative in partnership with the National Directorate for Employment (NDE) for 200 women in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), has gone awry.

And six months after, the project is far from realising its set objectives, especially to economically empower the beneficiaries, no thanks to the proverbial "Nigerian factor."

The 200 ladies, who undertook the training, had been left in the dark until recently when the NDE informed them of the next stage of the programme.

LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gleaned some documents, which contained stringent conditions for releasing the promised cars to the lady drivers. Of the 200 ladies trained by Aso Driving School for the scheme, only 72 were secretly informed by the NDE through text messages of their selection for the vehicle lease facility provided by the Abuja Leasing Company.

Also, the initial plan to buy customised pink cabs under the Pink Cab Scheme for the women was changed by the coordinating agencies and their officials, who opted for refurbished 307 Peugeot cars (2006 model) at the cost of N1.3 million each.

For the Abuja Leasing Company to supply the trainees with refurbished cars, each person must make an upfront payment of N295, 000 and submit 36 post-dated cheques of the sum of N31, 944.44, representing monthly rental for the 36 months lease facility. Each trainee will also present four post-dated cheques of N32, 500 for second and third year insurance and another two post-dated cheques of N20, 000 to cover the cost of the second and third year GPS tracker renewal.

Furthermore, the potential lady driver must bring a guarantor, who must be a civil servant of grade level 12 and above; a banker of the rank of a manager and above; a member of any arm of the Nigerian Armed Forces of a rank equivalent of a Major in the Army and above.

The LCTS was launched to create a pool of professional female drivers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and its environs with a mandate to train 200 female drivers by June 2012.

It was learnt that these conditions were introduced because no bank is funding the scheme. The federal government, especially the Office of the First Lady, which NGO is co-initiators, is also not committing any resources into it.

Some of the trainees, who got text messages from the NDE, queried the sincerity of the initiators of the scheme to empower them.

The trainees told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that "this is not the kind of empowerment the first lady promised us at the launch of the scheme on May 4 2012 at the Banquet Hall of the State House, Abuja." One of the trainees (name withheld) said the essence of the scheme had been defeated with the stringent conditions unveiled by the authorities.

She said: "How do they expect us to get such amount of money to pay for the car. If I have N300,000, I won't look for a job. That is enough to start a business for me. They should stop deceiving us, this is not empowerment but impoverishment."

Another trainee said it was disheartening that after spending their time and resources for the two-month training, "all that we got is disappointment. I felt so disappointed that all the assurances they made to us were mere promises. Most of us are graduates; it is lack of job that brought us into it. They cannot use and dump us. This is not the kind of women empowerment the First lady assured us."

When contacted, the managing director, Abuja Leasing Company, Mr. Tunji Tolani, said the company does not want to take chances, adding that the measures were put in place to secure the company and its assets.

"I think the payment condition is not stringent. Going by history, Abuja Leasing Company has been in this business for eight years. We don't want to make the mistakes again. In fact, it is because of the initiative we are having with office of the first lady and NDE, that is why the cost as low as this. Normally, you will First pay nothing less than 40% of the cost of the assets before we give you the vehicle. This is even a special scheme."

On the use of refurbished Peugeot 307 cars, Tolani said: "The programme is coming with two variant of cars. The brand new cars and the refurbished 307. The new cars are subject to our getting a facility. We are working with Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to procure a single digit interest facility to buy that one. But the 307 refurbished cars are the ones we have on ground at the moment."

The assistant director, Information and Public Relations, NDE, Mr. Edmund Onwuliri, said the organisation is at the point of giving out the vehicles to the beneficiaries, but added that he could not ascertain the brand of cars and the actual number of trainees.

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