By ROMANUS UGWU
History was made in Abuja recently when the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) management assembled over 100 corps members drawn from the 36 states of the federation and the FCT for the maiden edition of the NYSC Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) festival.
It was planned to harvest the entrepreneurial acumen of the corps members, equip and empower them towards a self-reliance future. Evidences abound that since the inception of the SAED programme, its impact has been phenomenal with corps members radiating entrepreneurial confidence through exposure to various vocational and skill acquisition processes to make them job and wealth creators.
Full of appreciative smiles, the excited corps members did not disappoint in showing their readiness to be self-reliant and employers of labour with the products on display within the weeklong vocational training.
The festival was an astonishing display of promising entrepreneurial skills ranging from beads, fashions, catering services to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
From the opening ceremony to the closing, which was assemblage of dignitaries like the wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari, Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Barr Solomon Dalung, Representative of the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Military personnel, captains of industries and other stakeholders, the corps members displayed high aptitude in their chosen vocations at the festival.
The climax of the skill acquisition festival was the presentation of the price money and awards to appreciate and encourage some of the distinguishing corps members.
Speaking on the festival, the Director-General of the scheme, Brig-Gen Zakari Kazaure, said that the SAED programme has been laced with success stories, adding that it has recorded geometric increase in the number of successive self-employed corps members across the country.
The NYSC DG further revealed that the programme, introduced in 2012, to empower corps members with skills for self-empowerment and wealth generation, is full of testimonies of how it has impacted on many corps members from general entrepreneurial skills to specific vocational training.
“I am happy to note that since the introduction of the programme, there is geometric increase in the number of our successive corps members who have recognized the importance of self-employment instead of relying on white collar jobs that are not always easy to come by.
“From the general entrepreneurial skills to specific vocational training, a good number of our corps members have shown high aptitude in their chosen businesses and are doing very well,” he said.
The management of the scheme also used the opportunity to announce that no fewer than 971,272 corps members have benefitted from the skill acquisition programme through sensitisation, trainings and other empowerments.
While cataloguing the journey so far, the NYSC management announced that the total number of beneficiaries is now 971,272, adding that it is in the ratio of 546,254 males to 425,018 females.
“As at the end of 2017 Batch ‘A’ Orientation Course, over 971,272 corps members have been sensitised under the programme, while over 7000 of them have gone ahead to establish their preferred business and are doing very well,” he said.
“We are delighted to inform you that part of the success story of the SAED programme is this SAED Festival that would be witnessed in the next few days to showcase the abundant talents, ingenuity and innovations of corps members.
“The festival has as its theme; ‘Inculcating the entrepreneurial mind-set in our youths for self-reliance, national development and skill competition, exhibition of products and fashion parade among others. The festival featured activities in fashion design, food processing, leather works, shoe and bead making and ICT?” he said.
“The empowerment was made possible largely through collaboration with the CBN, Bank of Industry (BoI), Chinese Embassy and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and host of others. They helped to provide start-up capital through loans,” he said.
In her keynote address, Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, said that NYSC has the capacity to solve the national development challenges currently facing the country.
Represented by the former Deputy Governor of Plateau state, Mrs Pauline Kedem Tellen, at the closing ceremony, she noted that SAED has the capacity to contribute immensely towards government’s effort to address the problem of youth unemployment.
While appealing to the private enterprise to support the programme, she said: “I am pleased to address you on this unique occasion which marks the end of the weeklong maiden edition of NYSC SAED Festival with incredible discoveries, display of talents and series of products produced by the youth corps entrepreneurs under the NYSC Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development programme.
“It is for this reason that the present administration endorses the NYSC scheme in skill acquisition and other youth related entrepreneurship development initiative aimed at job creation, enhanced service delivery and rural development.
“This indeed demonstrates the capacity of the scheme to contribute immensely towards government’s effort to significantly address the problem of youth unemployment and other challenges associated with the growth and development of the nation’s economy.
“The success of the maiden edition of the NYSC SAED Festival is no doubt an encouragement for the government to sustain its policy programme towards the implementation of our development programmes that will empower our youths to be productive and self-reliance.
“With what we have seen, it is most gratifying to state that the scheme is undeniably crucial in fast tracking the socio-economic growth and development of Nigeria as a nation.
“I feel very proud to be associated with the success story of NYSC skill programme and on this note; I must sincerely commend the NYSC management and its critical stakeholders for sustaining the SAED programme and commend organizations partnering with the scheme in its resolve to raise the crop of entrepreneurs from among the ranks of corps members.
“I enjoined other private organizations to key into this partnership to take advantage of the poll of resources available in NYSC in order to strategically reposition and deepen the present nation’s economy.
“In conclusion, having been pleased with the by what I have seen today, I wish to reiterate my commitment to the sustenance and subsequent NYSC SAED Festival as a means of strengthening the capacity of NYSC scheme towards meeting up with responding to the numerous national development challenges along its traditional responsibilities of enhancing unity and national integration,” she noted.
Commending the management of the scheme, the Youth Minister said: “The current leadership of the scheme has made giant strides in the area of the SAED activities.”