Business leaders to empower 4 million youths with N175b

Business leaders under the auspices of Coalition Against COVID (CA-COVID) are to create four million jobs within the next five years.

The private sector coalition said youths would be the biggest beneficiaries of the job windfall for which the businessmen plan to invest N175 billion.

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele told reporters at a CA-COVID accountability meeting in Lagos on Wednesday that preliminary analysis showed unemployment, particularly among the youths, was a critical factor behind the #EndSARS protests.

With him at the conference were: Dangote Group Chairman Aliko Dangote; UBA Group Chairman Tony Elumelu and Access Bank Plc Group Managing Director Herbert Wigwe.

CA-COVID was created by the Bankers’ Committee, comprising of banks and major private sector players to address the funding challenges faced by federal and state governments fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emefiele, who chairs the Bankers’ Committee, said CA-COVID has committed to creating a high impact youth development program that will provide technical and vocational education to over four million youths over the next five years.

He said: “Students will be trained on craftwork, plumbing, masonry, carpentry, and other artisanal related skills for which sufficient demand exists in Nigeria.

“Over N150 billion is expected to be deployed towards the setup and implementation of the youth development program, which will be available at select training centers across the country.”

Continuing, Esetupe, a key driver of CA-COVID, said selected students on the conclusion of the program will get loans to support their entrepreneurial pursuits.

“So far, over N25 billion will be domiciled in a fund to support these entrepreneurial pursuits, which would also include acquisition of related equipment to conduct business activities,” he said.

The CBN boss identified the provision of employable skills as the ultimate objective of the intervention.

He said: “We believe this initiative can lead to the creation of over four million jobs over the next five years.

“For the out of school graduates that possess certain Entrepreneurial skills, CA-COVID will be working with Bankers Committee to complete the Creative center at National Arts Theater area of Lagos in four select areas namely: ICT and software design/development, fashion, music, and movies. This project is expected to cost the Bankers Committee over N40billion.”

Explained that security should not be left for the government alone to shoulder, Emefiele said others, including the private sector, have roles to play.

Emefiele said not addressing insecurity could undermine confidence in the economy and derail the efforts of the government in enabling faster recovery of the economy, following the impact of COVID-19.

The coalition has, therefore, committed N100 billion to fully rehabilitate all 44 damaged and destroyed police stations nationwide.

“The fund will be used to procure equipment and gadgets for the Nigerian Police Force over the next two years as CACOVID contribution to fully modernize the Nigerian Police,” Emefiele said.

To achieve its objective, he said the coalition requested and received N39.64 billion and donations from over 200 Nigerians and corporate organizations, who provided in-kind donations in support of the fight against COVID-19.

The CA-COVID team engaged KPMG Professional Services as bookkeepers and Messrs Ernst and Young as Auditors in line with its promise for transparency and accountability in its operations.

The CBN governor said CA-COVID has spent N43.27 billion on the acquisition of, not only medical equipment and supplies but food palliatives for the vulnerable.

He added that 39 fully equipped isolation centers across the 36 States of the country including the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT) have been built.

Details of the expenditure showed that N4.19 billion was spent on building isolation centers; PCR test kits and other medical items gulped N9.01 billion.

Also, with the food relief programs, CA-COVID provided palliatives in the form of essential food items to 1.7 million households, estimated at eight million Nigerians at N28.76 billion.

He said: “Indeed, owners of business premises desire a secure environment to conduct their legitimate businesses. We, therefore, seize this opportunity to once again, appeal to members of the private sector, who we will be calling on again, to rally around CA-COVID to secure not only our businesses but also our country.

“We also request the private sector to work with to operate under this platform which has been approved by Mr. President.”

Dangote said the CA-COVID team will be working on establishing a database for artisans that benefit from the new training, to show organization and professionalism in their work. He said building the database will reduce the risk of engaging the wrong people.

He said artisans doing plumbing, electrical works, tilers, and bricklayers will benefit from the scheme.

“We all have repairs and with that data, you can know who to call for repairs. What we are doing is that we are providing them with money to buy tools.

“So, as soon as they get the training which is free, which we are paying for, then they have the guarantee that they get jobs,” Dangote said.

Continuing, he said Dangote Group has about 30,000 workers on its Lekki site. The target is to raise the workforce to 50,000.

According to him, between 25 to 28 percent would-be expatriates.

Wigwe noted that every transformation comes with its pain and hitches and that CA-COVID was created to intervene and protect the livelihood of people.

The Access Bank boss said: “The most important thing has to do with issues of employment. The pandemic and the lockdown created several problems.”

According to him, security is very important for the country because people outside the country always want to know how secured the country is before investing or visiting.

“All of us have a responsibility to make Nigeria succeed,” he said, adding that the CA-COVID initiative has brought enormous success to the people and helped in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elumelu said everyone has a role to play to move the country forward, adding that the COVID-19 and #EndSARS protests offer opportunities for all.

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