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(Special Report) ESPWP: Before we unknowingly create fresh terrorists at LGAs

After several postponements, the Federal Government earlier this week flagged off its planned recruitment of 1,000 itinerant, unskilled workers in each of the 774 Local Government Areas (LGA), in the country from January 2021 to last only for three months just for mere collection of N20,000 each month for jobs like roads rehabilitation, construction, sanitation, among others. Mr Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, said during the inauguration of the States’ Selection Committees for the Extended Special Public Works Programme (ESPWP) in Abuja that the scheme is designed to lift the close to one million council youths out of poverty within the period of the scheme.

However, whereas many development experts see the scheme as good for keeping the prospective recruits out of crime and other social vices, leading security experts argue that giving hand-out to jobless for only three months and stopping poses serious national danger as they may metamorphose into terror gangs to disturb the society on the closure of the payment after three months.

On the other hand, a financial analyst, Mr. Fred Okonta, of the special public works programme recently inaugurated by the federal government said in an interview that “It is a good attempt to keep some of our youths very busy. To ensure that the county gets adequate value for this project, what the government should do is to put in place, an effective monitoring mechanism to ensure that the right people are engaged to do the job and not to see it as another jamboree. In other words, there must be adequate sanctions in place to that all those who are engaged are able to contribute their own quota to the objectives of this project.

On the chances of the scheme achieving the key objectives, Okonta averred that “To some extent, I think it is a good attempt to take care of the people I may regard as the low income or people that are not working. What I will say is that the net should be expanded to accommodate more people. Again, measures must be put in place also to ensure that it is not hijacked by the mighty to favour their own friends and relations who may not even be in the bracket of which government is trying to assist. What we lack in this country is database of various groups, so there would also be an attempt; government should us this opportunity to come up with a good data base. It is individuals that are expected to benefit from the social investment programme not it being that the individuals that are expected to benefit from this wonderful programme of the government may be side-lined while people who are not supposed to be there now have access to the same project. To me it is a good one, it is a starting point, we would continue to improve on it, it should be sustained but let there be improvement, looking at the data base, subjecting it to study, making sure that at the end of the day, wrong people will not have access to the benefits.

On his views on the N20,000 and three months of the scheme, the financial expert claimed that “Three months for the people of that category means a lot. Some of them, if they get it for a month, it means something to them, it would have an impact on them, looking at the calibre of people involved, they are at the very low part of the economic chain, so I think the three months should be extended. Although this is the first time this project is being executed, let us review the impact of the three months, if there is a need for it to be extended, I think it would be extended accordingly.”

Continuing, Okonta argued that “I have always been an advocate for agriculture, and this country is blessed with a lot of human resources, agricultural resources and arable lands. We have all it takes to be a very great nation in terms of agric business. For now, there are limitating factors which government must address and that is the problem of insecurity, government should look at it critically and address that area. And then, another area government should look at is creating an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive, these are the issue of roads, the issue of power and even accessing loans at single digits rate, if they are able to do this, government have succeeded in creating an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and once the private sector thrives, you are on the way to solving the unemployment issues. The main driver of employment in any economy is the private sector. The public sector is not the chief driver of employment; they are only there to provide the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive.”