By Udeme Utip
The Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Empowerment Scheme (AKEES) has created not less than 1,766 sustainable jobs for unemployed graduate in the state within it first one year in operation.
The initiator of the scheme and Senior Special Assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Technical Matters and due process, Engr. Ufot Ebong disclosed this during an interactive session with members of Bureau of Investigative and Balanced Reportage (BI-BR) in his Shelter Afrique residence at the weekend.
According to him, the scheme which is targeted at creating 150,000 jobs before the end of the present administration, at inception had research into the economy of other countries on unemployment reduction strategies, especially the third world countries and came out with some functional models.
He said some workable models adopted included: franchise model, common facility centers and business incubators, hinting that five tailoring common facilities in collaboration with Sunick and Netima Threadworks are ready and engaging tailors in Uyo, Eket, Oron, Ikot Abasi and Ikot Ekpene.
“All what users need is to pay their monthly fee to use the assortment of the equipment to produce their designs and can easily sell through the store point platform”
Ebong reasoned that with such facility centers, craft trainees in the state would competitively start and grow their businesses without the cost of individually owning and running the needed facilities which may be unaffordable.
He mentioned other activities of AKEES beneficiaries; Agro Produce Processing –with Tomato in Mkpat Enin, Oil Palm In Oruk Anam, Fish in Mbo, cassava and cocoa in Obot Akara and Poultry meat at Ikot Abasi.
Others include; toothpick factory in Uyo and bamboo plantations across the state for such raw materials.
The Governor’s aid maintained that the scheme is aimed at generating more sustainable job opportunities for unemployed youths by empowering local businesses which can in turn engage youths to earn wages even while undergoing entrepreneurial skill training.
The scheme has been designed to develop youth with character, innovation and competence; infusing in them dignity of labour even as mechanism has been set on motion for monitoring, evaluation and quality control on all the products, as well as provide business support services, guidance and counseling to ensure quality.
Engr. Ebong, who had risen to the post of a senior manager in Shell Nig. before his early retirement on personal grounds to join private oil companies used the opportunity to clear the air on the allegations that he had embezzled N500m meant for AKEES project.
According to him, when the Governor made the pronouncement that he was going to create 10, 000 jobs for the unemployed youths many people thought it was going to be direct employment and as such mounted pressure on the Governor to let it go round on a quota system.
“After careful study and brain storming with my team, I came up with a bill of N3b for AKEES programme and the first phase which was going to involve launching, setting up of office, cars etc was about N280m.
Immediately the money was released; the Governor told me that the pressure was too much and asked me to go and work with stakeholders.
“The stakeholders called me for a meeting and accused me of personalizing the employment opportunity created by the Governor for 10, 000 people. I explained to them that those employments were non existence but were going to be created and that it took creative minds to create such number of employments.
“The stakeholders told me that we were going to invite 50,000 people from the three senatorial districts of the state, to the stadium, pay N2, 000 transports to each of them, give a pack of food of N1, 500 to each of them, then organize a raffle draw to determine those that would be employed.
“At the end of all what they suggested, the money approved by the Governor was not enough and they suggested we go back to the Governor for more money. I knew that their interest was on how to share the money and just go but that was not what I wanted. I said no; and I used that money to run the pilot project of AKEES which has paid off.
“Even my boss, the Governor knows that He did not give me N500 million and AKEES has created a total of 1766 jobs so far for Akwa Ibom people and is still creating,” Ebong explained though he did not mention names.