Ebonyi Struggles To Leave The nations Top First Ten Poorest States List


I woke up this morning to the cheering news headline in my WhatsApp that my State Government have decided to share a whopping sum of N2.6 Billion to 2, 600 youths across the 13 Local Government Areas of the State, thereby breaking it down to 200 lucky young persons per local government. This represents some Central Bank intervention program fund for young persons. However, when I read further, I was shocked beyond reckoning that the sum to be shared is actually some sort of monetary gift to these young persons in the name of economic empowerment.

The statement indicates that the Governor said “…We want the local government chairmen, the coordinators, let us identify these 200 people…” during a visit by a Deputy Inspector-General of Police on Wednesday in Abakaliki. This was the statement that got me worried that the said sum is simply going to be wasted as a jamboree of a sort for the “boys”.

N2.6 billion is for too much to be distributed among 2, 600 individuals in a state where poverty is literally visible everywhere. That amount of money, if properly disbursed, can directly have positive impact on the lives of more than 10, 000 young persons in the State and create an economy that will have direct impact on much more number of persons who are presently without any share in the economy of the State.

The said sum is presently to be given only on the recommendation of local government and coordinators, with a caveat that they should avoid recommending their family members of friends. I wonder who they’ll eventually recommend when N200m is at stake. The proper approach for such an endeavor should have been based on good planning with measurable parameters to ascertain the success of such an intervention. As it is now, that money will simply be used to empower beer parlours owners and goat head pepper-soup sellers across the state.
How then can such a money be properly deployed to have a positive and far-reaching impact on the targeted beneficiaries, the State and Nigeria in general? It is simple. Presently, there is no vision for the money that will be disbursed. Therefore, there is need to have a clear vision of what this intervention aims to achieve and a timeline to measure success. I will give a practical guide to assist the government before it embark on a wasteful venture.

The State must identify a sector that is presently open for young persons to take advantage of and create value. An example is FISH FARMING. Ebonyi State is blessed with vast land that are accessible to a majority of the young persons who will eventually benefit from the financial bazaar. What is to be done is simply to design an intervention program for young persons centered on fish farming and have all applicants approach the State government in a group of 5 person each (duly registered as a cooperative in their respective LGAs), showing that they have available land and are open to be trained on fish farming, management and marketing. The state ministry of agriculture can give the needed training, wherein the participants will be fully documented and also assisted to open a corporate bank account in their joint business name. Then, each group will be given a total sum of N1, 300, 000 (5 persons, instead of one) and assisted by the State ministry of agriculture in the actual setting up of a fish farm. A relatively small fish farm may take up to N500, 000 to fully set up, where land is already available.

By this singular step, 10, 000 young people will directly benefit from the available N2.6 billion. The State will also become a destination for fish buyers as Nigeria presently consume about 1.2 million tons of fish per year, with 60% of it imported. The State would have reduced the importation gap and also improve its economy and the lives of its people. The State will be wise to also create a value chain by having a marketing structure that will ensure that no fish goes to waste.
For me, this is a more practical way of empowering anyone, instead of just throwing out cash because the youth have protested. The protest is a call to action, not settlement. If N1million is given today, how much will be given tomorrow? What economic impact will the distribution of N1m have on the state, apart from making a news headline?

SILAS Joseph Onu, Esq. MCIArb (UK)
Writes from Abuja.

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