Economic Empowerment: Ebonyi state is now the leading Economic state in Nigeria, says Orji Uchennaya Orji,

    Many have been impacted. More to be touched. The Hon. Commissioner forEconomic Empowerment and Job Creation, Ebonyi

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Hon. Barr. Orji Uchennaya Orji, Honorable Commissioner for Economic Empowerment and Job Creation, Ebonyi State.

 

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Left: His Excellency Engr. Chief David Umahi The Executive Governor of Ebonyi State. Right: Hon. Barr. Orji Uchennaya Orji,

 

Many have been impacted.

More to be touched.

The Hon. Commissioner forEconomic Empowerment and Job Creation, Ebonyi State has reiterated determination to de-list Ebonyi State from the third world economy. He maintained that the State Government has empowered many and is ever ready to take the bull by the horn in making sure that the people’s economic conditions are alleviated and bettered. Speaking to The Starnews correspondents, Hon. Barr. Orji Uchennaya Orji, the Hon. Commissioner for Economic Empowerment and Job Creation revealed strategies of evaluation monitoring and further unfolded plans for more Ebonyians to be trained and empowered in the state.Excerpts.

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Hon. Barr. Orji Uchennaya Orji, the Hon. Commissioner for Economic Empowerment and Job Creation on Project empowerment.

 

Can we meet you, sir?

My name is Honorable Barrister Orji Uchennaya Orji, Honorable Commissioner for Economic Empowerment and Job Creation, Ebonyi State.

There has been a viral stride in empowerment within and outside the state since the assumption of this Administration especially, from last year. Have the Aims and Objectives of this ministry in regards to empowerment been achieved or actualized?

Yes, the very Aims and Objectives of the state government undertaken by this ministry to empower the people of Ebonyi State to ensure that they are self reliant and also to create job and wealth for us to have, ultimately, a robust economy and development as a state. It can be said that, as a state, our empowerment programs have been wonderful and the impact is being felt, for this year 2018, has been a year of divine manifestation. And what it means is that from this year, 2018, we are beginning to see the impact of the primary program of the administration of his Excellency Engr. Chief David Umahi. You can see that socially, the crime has been reduced to the barest minimum.Also, there is the emphasis “De-emphasis” on white color jobs.Opportunities and windows and such opportunities have been created for all classes and all manner of people in Ebonyi State. The Civil servants, Public servants, Business men, farmers, and even students, have all been impacted because we have the Bank of Industry Civil servant program, Bank of Industry Business men and women Empowerment program.

What it means is that, through the bank of industry empowerment, there would be industrialization and entrepreneurship development in Ebonyi State. You would also agree with me that thousands of the youths and women have been remembered within and outside the shores of Ebonyi State particularly,Lagos and Onitsha and many more cities in the country would still be remembered. The implication is that people should have something that they are doing and they have through that job, created wealth, and have also created more employment opportunities. That is what the government is to achieve.So, I can say that we are on the right track.

Do you think that it is enough in terms of the much that has been achieved or is there any further plan?

The administration of His Excellency, Engineer Chief David Nweze Umahi believes that through empowerment, the fortunes of the people of Ebonyi State would be turned around for good. So, throughout the tenure of his Excellency, which is till 2023, a lot of robust empowerment programs would be rolled out. We have so many, like the Governor David Umahi Mentorship Scheme that we are developing, that would soon be on board, we also have the EkubaraohaEmpowerment Hall of Fame, the Millionaire Club and so many other programs that we are already developing and, through this, we are very sure that unemployment would be reduced, we are very sure that everybody would have something doing, and again we are very sure that through all the programs, the State Government would migrate towards being an advanced state just like the United States and other advanced countries in the world. And I must tell you that what makes the difference between the economic growth and economic development is a fact that individual inhabitants of the state, or a nation and society have something doing so that they would fend for themselves, so that the total income would be at top. It’s only when you would have such a society you can say “yes, that place is economically developed”.

That is why, in the whole of Africa,despite the riches of some countries of Africa, the people are still hungry and they are said to be the third world country and the governor wants us to be de-listed from the list of the third world state of the federation and for us to be one of the leading economies of the federation and it is working. Through the ministry of economic empowerment and job creation we are set to do that

Those that were empowered, is there a way of assessing this people by knowing how far they have gone to justify the good works of the empowerment man?

Our Programs do not end in what I call conceptualization, planning and implementation, for it goes beyond that and it enters into what we call monitoring evaluation and by also ensuring the objectives are achieved. And the objective of the ministry or state government is not just to give empowerment programs but to ensure that, through these programs,the people are self-reliant and it is only when we achieve that aim that we can say “yes, the program is working well”. We have a lot of those robust plans towards monitoring our evaluation and we have a feedback mechanism and structure in each of the 171 wards through those people that have already been empowered.

We constituted them into an organization called Governor UmuhiEmpowerment Beneficiaries Association which is having its outfit in the 171 wards and 13 Local Government Areas in the State. This is also aimed at helping the ministry to move round and ensure that beneficiaries make effective use of the money giving to them. Of course, a very cardinal principle requirement or condition precedent for you to access the empowerment programs within the state is that you don’t have to invest the money outside the state, so that all the supplies, all the distributorship would be within the state.That would create jobs and employments for the people. Monitoring and Evaluation are keys in our programs.

Quite a lot of persons still think that a lot have not been touched by this empowerment scheme. Does this inference hold or do you think something went wrong somewhere in the field?

A house is not built in a day, so it must be noted that the Ministry of Empowerment and Job Creation was created under this administration before it now became a department.What I am trying to say is that we have done a lot to render the very vision of the governor in areas of empowerment and again I can say that much has been done for 1. A total of 3000 number of Ebonyians have benefited in N250,000 each empowerment. If you sum it, that is a total N750,000,000 and theseare grants not to be paid back. If you go to Lagos, a total of 520 Ebonyians have benefited in the N250,000 money grants from 40 persons per Local Government thereby making it about N130,000,000 in total. These are Ebonyians While, if you go to Onitsha, a total of 140 persons have benefited from our Tricycle Empowerment Program,not less than N650,000 each which is a huge sum.While, in Ebonyi State again, a total of 260 Ebonyians have benefited from the Tricycle Empowerment Program and if you multiply by 650,000 whichis the cost, then you know what it is and this are all grantsgiven to our people.

We also have the program that is called AkubaraohaEmpowerment Hall of Fame where we want to, for a start, empower not less than 10,000 people through private sector partnership with the ministry that has already commenced and we are already collating names of participant whereby we train them and after training them we give them money to go into careers that they have chosen to be in. I can also tell you that the governor, of recent, declared that in no distant time, we shall role out empowerment programs for 30,000 Ebonyians via 1,000 per Local Government and they would receive money valued at N200000 per person which would be about two point something million and are grants not to be paid back and by the time you add up all the numbers you would know that the impacts are been felt. And I am not talking Women/Widow Empowerment Program which,though, we don’t directly handle, but it is through this ministry that the money is being giving out to them because it is under empowerment and over 4,000 widows have been empowered and if you multiply by 100,000 per person, that is 400million and these are also grants that are not to be returned back and no other administration has ever done that except in Ebonyi State under his Excellency, Chief David Uweze Umahi. I can also say the impact is being felt, that is why a commissioner can freely drive and freely move, even in the night and there would be no problem and no molestation by hoodlums, by robbers or criminals because they are actually gainfully employed in the state.

If you go to the various construction sites in the state, you would see a number of Ebonyians who are working, our people and the beautiful things they are doing and the ideas of the governor is that we need to fend for ourselves and need not to reply on the government but rely on what our hands can make and the next destination is the industrialization of Ebonyi state which would come and that would be by the administration of the Excellency, Chief David Umahi and that is the much I can tell you about that.

Finally, Sir, Information they say is power; people at the grass root level don’t have much information of these empowerment schemes. Do you think that those in the field who are executing these empowerment schemes are actually doing the job or that they are manufacturing some ghost beneficiaries?

Yes, we have achieved the fit of actually getting the list of the real beneficiaries,instead of any political patronage, for we deal directly with the people and what we do is to look out for those that need it and also those that would make effective use of it. Now, what we do is to get people shortlisted there, train them on management, how to do business and make profit and how to take advantage of the value chain of their business by emphasizing on Agro-based business and other entrepreneurship businesses. So, we are monitoring to ensure they play by the rules.Before they get the money/fund, they would have to bring their business plan to us, we look at the business plan, okay it and also ensure by monitoring that they perform in line with the business plan. So I can tell you that they have the knowledge, and training is one of the keys of our monitoring and evaluation in ensuring that we achieve the objectives of the program and can tell you it is having direct impact on the people. Now on the area of information on whether people are aware of what we are doing, even if the beneficiaries are having our contact, it is clear that we have a structure through which we let the people know what we are doing for we have the empowerment radio program that we call Empower Your World. This is a radio program that happens once in a week where we talk to the people in English and pidgin to let the people know what we are doing and also have a practical explanation on how to do business and that has made an impact in the lives of our people. Again, of course, I have told you we have the Governor Umahi Empowerment Beneficiaries Association Program. We also have what we call the peer review mechanism and every month they meet and review what they have done in terms of business, where they have losses or if any of them have a particular and disastrous issue or problem that would be communicated to the ministry and we find a way of resolving it and even if there are cases of business dispute, we always find a way to resolve it so that the beneficiaries would have something doing. We also have the incentive based program which is called the Akubaraoha Millionaire Club and what it means is that we would now encourage you to do your best and when you do your best and you are the number one in your local government, maybe first five in your local government, then Governor David Umahi would give you another 1million naira to expand your business and 1 person so far have benefited 1 million after N250,000 and she made good use of it so the Governor gave her another 1million. So, she is the number one Millionaire Club member and others are coming, very soon that program would be developed in other to encourage a lot of people.

Please sir I want to know if there are difficulties encountered in your office that might also have effect to the people or to Ebonyians?

You are talking about challenges and certainly every institution or organization would have what I call impairment immanent and eminent challenges, which inherent in the institutional organization. And as a ministry, we are saying that we have what it takes in terms of funding because Ebonyi State has one of the least federal allocations in Nigeria. So, funding of the very robust empowerment programs and funding them to the fullest is one of our challenges and that is why we have really deployed or taken into other programs that are privatesector based just like the Akubaraoha Hall of fame to make up for what government is doing. And I can also say that one of the challenges we have is the ability of the beneficiaries to really cope and progress with the various conditions we have in the empowerment program. So it is a matter of time and we would get there and some who refuse to follow our condition and fail to comply or play by the rules, we always blacklist them and they would not be part of our subsequent empowerment program. So one of our problems is to make them actually appreciate that this money is not just for waste but for you to make profit, and when you make profit it would all be for the good of this state. So out challenges is to have them to appreciate the grant for when somebody is giving you a grant you should be able to say thank you for this little you gave to me and look at what I have been able to do. And we also have challenges of staff for we need to have more staff to drive the department and ministry further.

As the man who is assisting the Able Governor in his empowerment program, what do you have to say to the people of Ebonyi State both within and in Diaspora?

Our eyes have never seen and our ears have not heard the kind of Governor we have now, because he is a gift to our land.Everybody should go and vote and support and show solidarity to him. I would tell you a story that Governor of Ebonyi State Eng. Chief David Umahi is God’s gift to Ebonyi State and God carefully prepared and groomed him for Ebonyians. In 2007 he was the Party (PDP) chairman and became the best party chairman ever in Nigeria and built the best party complex that till now that has never been beaten in the whole of Africa which was built by an Ebonyi man and that happened to be in Ebonyi State.He also became the first party chairman to become a deputy governor within the same time and the chain was not broken, consecutively he moved towards being the governor. While that was happening, the Deputy Governor, then which is the Governor now moved down into the nooks and crannies of the State and saw where we had our problems and where we needed the attentions of the government. That is why in 2015 he contested and when people said no Deputy Governor has ever become a governor in the world excerpt those that were actually supported by their bosses, which in that case, the boss said, no my Deputy would not be a Governor. But in his case, God said,“this is my own candidate” and in 2015, he contested and won and was sworn in on May/ 29/ 2015 as the first Deputy Governor that was elected as Governor in the history of the whole world when the master said “No”. If you look at the track record, you would see that there is something more to him that is an extraordinary leader, a leader of excellence and a man to one of a kind in the generation and one in a century that we must appreciate honour and also honour the womb that gave him to us. I can tell you something that 20 years ago or more than 20 years ago, Ebonyi was created and called “salt of the nation”, and you and I know that before now we were having inferiority complex and were known as “dust to the nation” for we were criminally neglected and leaving in shame and was treated as the most backward State. But today, truly Ebonyi state is now the leading state in Nigeria and what it means is that the hand of God is upon Eng. Chief David Umahi and he would finish his two tenures and God would grant him another opportunity in Abuja where he would demonstrate that Nigeria can become a great nation after all.

 

Okon Michael & Ekeh Stanley

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