By Meletus EZE
The U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington on Friday advised Nigerians to look inward and explore great opportunities that exist in the country.
The ambassador gave the advice while addressing the 48 Niger Delta Youths who had completed their six weeks training under the Presidential Amnesty Programme at Afritropic and Agro Services Limited, Utagba-UNO, Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta
The Afritropic and Agro Services Limited in partnership with American-West African Agro (AWAA) Limited has so far trained 64 Niger Delta youths in various agriculture programmes under the Amnesty Programme.
The ambassador said the Federal Government investment in the Amnesty Programme through agriculture would positively impact the future of the country if the trainee would apply it positively.
He charged the trainees to take up the challenge and become responsible to themselves and the society.
He said with the training, they could seek employment elsewhere or create one, if nobody hired their services.
According to Symington, the challenges in Nigeria today are growing too fast but the solutions are not growing just too fast.
“I challenge you not to think about what matters next but what matters now. I want you to look for solutions, one person at a time, ask people what they are doing today, how they are doing that and what the next step is.
“We have all along talked about sustainable development but I want Nigerians to think about profitable development, we talked about developing countries but Nigerians should think about opportunities in developing countries.’’
Symington challenged the youths to utilise the opportunity of the training to pursue future life and to make Nigeria the best and peaceful nation and to explore all the opportunities there were in the country.
The Delta Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, represented by the state Commissioner for Economic Planning, Dr Kingsley Emu, said agriculture, technical and vocational education remained the way to grow the Nigerian economy.
He said the Amnesty programme showed that Niger Delta youths were not lazy but hard working. Okowa said in line with its agenda, his administration would support and partner in programme.
“This is because if you do not arrest youth restiveness, you can never have peace. So, with our five-point agenda, called “SMART”, we have started integration of the youths into agriculture.
“Today, we have in excess of 3, 500 people as graduate entrepreneurs who own their businesses and run them across the state.
“Niger Delta youths are not lazy, the Amnesty Programme confirms this.
“If they can be pilots, tractor drivers and could do other forms of agriculture and venture into other trades in the midst of oil, it means that if you provide them an alternative, they will choose a better alternative than restiveness,” he said.
On his part, Mr Jerry Cunningham, Managing Director, AWAA, said he had partnered Afritropic and Agro Services Limited for five years and trained Nigerians in agro-business.
According to him, agriculture remains the way for Nigeria, all that is required is train them to do it and empower them so that they can become useful to the society.
The Chief Executive Officer, Afritropic and Agro Services Limited, Ebimoboere Eniyekpeo, said his organisation with AWAA limited had trained 64 youths under the Amnesty Programme.
She said the graduating set was the second batch which had 48 youths trained on tractor driving, crop planting, among others.
“We have done the training but we are urging the sponsors of the programme to empower the trainees immediately to keep them busy”.
Mr Amamuzou Bereprebofa, Head, Vocational Training Unit, Presidential Amnesty Programme, said the trainees need not be apprehensive as modalities for empowering them after the training had been worked out.
He said the government had enlisted youths from the region for training and empowerment, adding that 15,000 of them had been trained in line with the programme mandate.
“There is nothing to worry about, it’s all about funds, we have about 15,000 people we are working on and to remit funds, it will take a process.
“The assurance is that the trainees will be empowered because it is not about training and abandoning them.
“Again while waiting between the time of training and empowerment, we urge the trainees to remain calm, there is nothing to be agitated about because the office is serious about their empowerment.
“As we know this is a six weeks training and six weeks empowerment and as funds become available they will be empowered.
Bereprebofa, however, said modalities were being worked out for the next batch of youths to be trained for three months, six months or nine months depending on the programme instead of the current six weeks training.
“With this new arrangement, the people will be fully trained and then empowered, not the former arrangement where they were trained for only six weeks.
“But for this batch of trainees, who have completed their six weeks course in line with the former contract, we shall do refresher courses for them while they wait for their empowerment.
Responding on behalf of the trainees, Augustin Biasebor, said the six weeks training was not enough for them to acquire the requisite skills to function,
He also called on government at all levels to engage the amnesty trainees to keep them busy after the programme.
The best graduating trainee in tractor driving, Mrs Ayebaesin Isaiah, said she participated in the programme to enable her meet her family challenges.
According to her, the training will help her to achieve better future for her family.
“I need government to empower us to enable us take care of our families. My advice to other youths is that they should apply wisdom and not rascality to get what they want.”