Rivers commends SMEDAN on empowerment, wants strict monitoring

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* National Skill Development Initiative ends in Rivers State on high enthusiasm

The Rivers State government says it is pleased with the Small Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) which completed a one-week empowerment and training scheme in the state.

Rivers was chosen as one of the 11 states where the scheme took place. The PH event seemed so well planned and enthusiasm seemed very high with the participants interacting well, according to the organizers.

The state government which shoed steady presence said they would deal ruthlessly with any beneficiary that would attempt to spoil the image of the state by selling the starter-packs.

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The Rivers State government has threatened to arrest youths that may sell their starter-packs in the just-concluded National Skill Development Initiative (NSDI) that ended in 11 states including Rivers State last weekend.

The Commissioner of Industry and Commerce, Ifeyinwa Nwankpa, who represented the state government at the scheme powered by the Small Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) at the conference hall of the Federal Secretariat on Aba Road in Port Harcourt for about one week said the state was tired of youths selling their seeds an coming back to beg again.

She was reacting to questions by newsmen on the preponderance of sale of starter-packs in the Niger Delta especially in Rivers State. The commissioner said: “We are happy that SMEDAN has committed to monitoring the programme so that people do not sell their starter-packs. That is why we are happy with this scheme and this group. They are going to monitor and I will be here to monitor. As long as I am commissioner, I will ensure they do not go to sell them. Oh God, I will arrest any person that does that and they will pay for it.”

She admonished the beneficiaries to go back and apply the bookkeeping and record keeping that they have been taught. We have a governor that is so passionate to help the people. You cannot go and jeopardize his work. We as a government have an SME programme and we empowered over 3,000 earlier in the year.”

Earlier, she described the scheme as amazing because, as she said, the government is looking for how to cushion the effect of Covid-19 on SMEs which are the engine of the economy, the wheel on which the economy moves. “Mitigating the effect of the pandemic is why SMEDAN is intervening in three areas. They will do monitoring to ensure they do not go home and relax.”

Nwankpa went on: “This is not business as usual and that is why we are emphasizing. That is why we told the Coordinator that if there is no monitoring mechanism, then there is no need. That is why cash is not good. That is why we have told them there must be effective monitoring and the beneficiaries must be followed bumper-to-bumper. I would not want to be part of a scheme where beneficiaries will sell the kits and come back to zero. That is what is killing us today.

“The government will help but we the people are not helping. Covid-19 has brought many to the lowest and this is a way of uplifting the people. If you do not want, go home and sleep and cry, nobody will listen to you. Heaven helps those who help themselves.

That is why the Rivers State government is fully participating in this. The report will come to us.

“I have told the participants that no knowledge is small. We hear about Dangote and M-Saleh. They are known worldwide. They started small. I told them not to take this training for granted because it may be your big break. You can start small and or from your bedroom. The important thing is that you are committed, devoted and not distracted. Your good craft will attract other people. They have been taught very well especially financial discipline.”

Reacting, the coordinator of the Port Harcourt programme who came from Abuja, Ime Etop Andy, who is an assistant director representing the Director-General of SMEDAN, Dikko Umaru Radda, said the monitoring is going to be result-based, which may mean that each beneficiary would be called upon to account for the fruit of the seed at a particular point in time.

She however said she saw enthusiasm in the 127 trainees that were empowered and that they asked probing questions that showed keenness to excel. She said they were groomed in six courses that could turn any entrepreneur to a world class business person.

Agreeing with this, a board member of SMEDAN and manufacturer in Port Harcourt, Ekama Emilia Akpan, said the training pack alone was of the standard of a 100 level course in the University.

She urged state governments to do more to empower the youth and the women, saying it was important to create awareness in the area of entrepreneurship in all of the Niger Delta.

Some of the beneficiaries such as Emmanuella Emmanuel (tailoring), Gift James Ihuoma (hairdressing), Blessing Neemana (hairdressing), and Naator Tina Nne (hairdressing) expressed appreciation to the federal government and SMEDAN for what they called a lifelong opportunity to start their careers. They pledged never to sell their starter-packs, saying those who sell such seeds were persons picked from dubious sources who actually were not real craftsmen and women.

Most of the beneficiaries have been giving testimonies in churches. Their parents told newsmen this was the first time they saw government promise come true. Many said they did not believe it at first.

John Udochukwu who lives on Station Road in Elelenwo commended SMEDAN and the FG for making this scheme a reality. They promised to supervise their ward to succeed.

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