From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State has rolled out empowerment package to ameliorate the sufferings of the people of the state, especially women and youths who are jobless.
Already, the governor has sent a letter to the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, seeking approval for the empowerment scheme that would take care of over 30,000 women and youths drawn from all the 197 wards.
Umahi said it was part of his administration’s resolve to touch lives of the citizenry positively, especially the low income earners and the rural dwellers by giving them special grant of N250,000 each to start off any business of their choice.
The governor through his letter requested among other things, the approval of the House, to enable his administration raise the money as empowerment fund.
He said the idea was to ensure that poverty was reduced to its barest minimum and to positively engage the youths and women across the state to be self-reliant.
Speaking at plenary, leader of the House, Joseph Nwobashi, read the letter from Governor Umahi soliciting the approval of the House to withdraw the money from the state stabilization fund to fund the empowerment scheme.
Mr Nwobashi maintained that the governor’s request was a noble one, adding that in the face of hard economic realities, only a leader with great commitment and love could think of how to empower the people, especially those who did not have the enablement to start up their own businesses.
He urged members of the House to support the governor by approving the request.
The Deputy Speaker, Mr Odefa Obasi Odefa, also lauded the efforts of the governor in bringing succour to the people noting that with the empowerment fund, the state would witness economic turnaround, which would complement the efforts of the state government.
Odefa also said that Umahi through the letter sought the approval of the House to use the money to empower over 3,000 persons across the state, citing the recent economic realities as reason for the gesture in order to stabilize the economy and help low income earners.
His words: “The governor had demonstrated an uncommon leadership by requesting this honourable House to approve the fund to be used to empower these people in the rural areas. The idea of empowerment in the state is to ensure equitable distribution of state wealth to every part of the state.”
The member representing Afikpo North State Constituency, Mr Ogbonnaya Ikoro, said the governor’s request was a noble one and should be given all necessary support to ensure he delivers to the people of the state the democracy dividends he promised during campaigns.
Also the Speaker, Francis Nwifuru, lauded the efforts of Governor Umahi in trying to bring the state at par with its contemporaries in the face of the economic downturn.
He described the move as laudable to empower people across the state, noting that it would help the state rediscover its potentials.
After the approval of the empowerment fund by the State House of Assembly, Governor Umahi took the stage at the main bowl of the Abakaliki Township Stadium to officially announce the commencement of the disbursement to the various beneficiaries.
He said that the fund which was distributed through the State Ministry of Economic Empowerment and Poverty Reduction would be done transparently and seriously monitored by the state government to ensure that the beneficiaries utilize the funds as required.
He said it was a grant that was aimed at giving initial capital to the beneficiaries to set up their own small scale businesses which would be monitored by the state government from time to time with a view to encouraging them more.
“We shall monitor you as you cash this N250, 000 each for your business, those of you that do well with this seed money, we will add more to you to ensure that you do better. The idea is that if we give you N250, 000 and by the end of the year, you are able to make it double or triple, we will double our own and give you. We want to have millionaires in at least all the wards across the state,” he said.
He, however, warned against profligacy in the spending of the empowerment funds, adding “this money is purely given to you to empower you to do something and legitimately earn a living. It is not for you to spend it on frivolities as you are going to account for it in the near future. You must utilize this money judiciously and we will be praying for you to succeed with this step,” he said.
One of the beneficiaries, Ogonna Mpenyi, from Omege ward in Umuezeokoha community of Ezza North council area of the state, expressed joy that the state government has empowered him to succeed.
Mpenyi who was graduated by his master three years ago after five years of apprenticeship at the Alaba International Market, Lagos had been staying idle following the inability of his master and family members to raise a little capital for him to start off his business was lucky to be among the first batch to benefit from the empowerment scheme.
He said he would not be returning to Lagos but would find a shop in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital where he could make use of the fund to start a business.
“I won’t go back to Lagos because things are hard there, I want to stay in Abakaliki where I can use this small capital to start a little, but if I go to Alaba, this money can’t even rent half a shop not to talk of stocking it,” he said, as he commended Governor Umahi for coming up with the empowerment scheme.
Another beneficiary, Mrs Ngozi Nwali, a hairdresser, said the future was already assured as she said she would use the money to buy important modern equipment to help her business.
She also thanked the state government for coming to her aid, stressing that with the money, she would not beg for money again in her lifetime.
Over 2,700 persons have so far benefited from the empowerment scheme while the ministry was still working towards raising it, to 3,000 persons as captured in the first batch of the scheme.