For a visitor coming to Maiduguri, Borno State capital after a long time, the presence of hundreds of young men at different points along major highways in the city could make the visitor nervous especially with the security challenges in the area.
But the young men; ages between 15 and 30, hold no arm or explosive, rather, they are using their brains and hammer to beautify the city. Some of these youths, according to Daily Sun’s finding were petty traders, unemployed men mostly secondary school leavers and graduate of polytechnic with Ordinary National Diploma. Borno State government said it was more concerned about creation of job for unemployed youths and capacity building for the unskilled one as its approach to addressing the insurgency problem.
“We believe poverty and unemployment are the roots of the insecurity in our state and except we provide jobs for our youths, more young men will see Boko Haram as alternative to living because idleness is a devil’s workshop,” Governor Kashim Shettima had repeatedly maintained.
No doubt, the insurgency has affected economic activities even as many, whose shops or business premises were close to scenes of attacks on the Joint Task Force (JTF) troops, have been compelled to shut down their businesses. Ibrahim Ali, 25, and father of two was one of such people thrown out of business by the insurgency.
He said he used income from his service at a washhouse (car-wash) in the metropolis to finance his younger brother’s education at the polytechnic, took care of his mother and family until October last year when soldiers ordered the owner of the car wash to close shop following an attack on JTF patrol vehicle which led to the death of three.
“I struggled with hunger and the education of my brother suffered a set-back until I started this beatification job. We learnt how to set tiles before we commenced work,” he told Daily Sun.
Ali is not the only one bearing the brunt of the insurgency, Abba Masta was a GSM recharge card hawker. He said “I was thrown out of business following the shut down of the GSM services in the state as soon as the state of emergency was declared in Borno,” he disclosed. Recalling his economic trouble, Abba said life was miserable for him for about two weeks until a friend advised him to join the tiles laying workers.
“I have never thought telephone services can go off for more than two or three days and that was why I thought initially the services would be restored soon. So I used to wake up each morning and sit at the Post Office area until I finished spending all my savings and business money on feeding,” he stated.
He however said he might combine his business with the laying of tiles “as soon as telecom services are restored to earn more income.”
Among the beneficiaries of this palliative measures is Garba Bukar, a polytechnic graduate and chief executive of a civil engineering firm. Garba was engaged as supervisor to train some of the youths in production and fixing of interlocking tiles. “I have a firm and I have been producing interlocking tiles since I graduated. Some of the supervisors here are graduates or diploma holders. I have trained over 1, 200 youths on interlocking tiles production in my firm and now supervise the laying of these tiles.
I’m happy this exercise is engaging our youths and at the same time beautifying our state because same work is going on in Mafa, Jere, Kaga and other parts of the state.”
He said the exercise which started about six months ago was yielding results, adding that it has changed the orientation of many of the youths about work ethics and the need to be self reliant. “It is impressive and engaging because rather than begging or involving in criminality, they now discuss how they can start something on their own. Government has promised to set up some of them who exhibit excellence and competence in their work,” he stated.
He said each youth is paid N250 per square metre of interlocking tiles fixed, while supervisor earn N1500 daily. “There are 70 supervisors at each of the site and the daily income of each of the unskilled youth depends on the capacity of the person. This is producing results as it encourages hard work and healthy work rivalry. No food for lazy man as they say,” he pointed out.
He further disclosed that fixing interlocking tiles does not require expensive or very sophisticated machines as Double T and Hammer can be locally sourced as tools. He also lauded the initiative of the Borno State government, adding that the move has “substantially address the challenges of the insurgency.”
Daily Sun gathered that the state government introduced skill acquisition for the purpose of fighting unemployment and poverty in the state. It said block moulding industry was established by the state government while dozens of hydra-form block making machines were purchased.
“The latest machines have superior production capacity over the conventional types in terms of production cost, easy transportation and speedy production processes using soil and cement mixture,” a senior government official explain.
Daily Sun further gathered that thousands of youths in the state have been trained on the act of laterite brick making and roofing sheets. But unlike in the past when government relied on big company or contractors to supply these products at high cost for use in many civil works including construction of housing estate, the bricks produced by the youths are now being used not only to revamp the aesthetics of cities and towns in the state but also for the construction of public buildings.
The finished products, it was further learnt, are being used to construct public building embarked upon by the state government especially in Maiduguri metropolis, Damasak, Konduga, Kwaya Kusar, Chibok and Yoyo Village at Kukawa Local Government.
Daily Sun gathered that the products (bricks and moulded roofing sheets) were used for the building of the Teachers’ Village, along Pompomari Bye Pass in Maiduguri for teachers.
Investigations revealed that, with the various skill acquisition centres in the state, unemployment and poverty was gradually being tackled, as the government believes that “when a man has a source of income, goes out every day to work, there won’t be dull moment.
“It is when he has nothing doing that he loses hope about life and embrace criminality in whatever guise. This is our concern in Borno and government is addressing the problem headlong.”