By Billy Graham Abel Yola
The Senator representing Southern Adamawa, Binos Dauda Yeroa, has slammed the APC as being responsible for causing the EndSARS protest by failing to create jobs for millions of youths in the country. In this interview, he said that the 2019 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) Atiku Abubakar would have handled Nigeria better than the people are currently witnessing.
Recently, you had the medical outreach programme, which right from the onset of your assumption of office as a senator, you indicated that it would highlight your policy thrust in delivering the dividends of representation to your constituency. You were able to launch the third outreach, what informs your thoughts and would you say your goals are being achieved?
I am particularly grateful you started by asking me about my programme in the health sector.
Indeed, the healthcare delivery has been my number one priority and that is why within two months of my assuming office, I conducted the first medical outreach in Demsa, where we delivered free medical services to over eight thousand patients and that was in August 2019.
We followed it up with the second outreach in Ganye in January 2020, and the plan is to be able to go round the nine local governments in my zone delivering free medical services, but the COVID 19 experience halted our progress and we have not been able to do a follow-up after the Ganye outreach until recently between Christmas and new year when we conducted a three-day outreach in Guyuk, which is the third in the series.
So, the reason for my focusing on healthcare is because I am basically a rural dweller. I know the challenges our people at the local and rural level are confronted with.
I know that there are absence of good medical facilities and medical services at local level and I know the suffering that people are going through and I thought that one thing I can do, even if it is the only thing I could do, is to be able to ameliorate some of their sufferings by taking medical services to them at their doorsteps.
That is why we are focusing on that area. And I can say from what we have done, what we have seen, the impact being made, our people are really very appreciative of what we have been able to do, because there are people that the simple task of transporting themselves to a healthcare facility or to a hospital is a huge problem. I am not talking about the cost of getting those medical services; we are talking about moving let us say from Kpasham to Numan, or to move from Kpasham to FMC Yola to get good medical services; it is a big problem, or to move from old Demsa town to general hospital in Numan to get good medical service; it is a problem.
So, when we now take these services to their doorsteps, we save them some of the cost of traveling, we now are able to deliver the services to them for free.
There are some of them that the ailments they are suffering from have been with them for quite some time and they could not help themselves until we launched this intervention.
We have done operations like hernia, fibroid, eye surgeries, in fact, the largest number of surgeries done were eye surgeries; people that were having serious eye problems, some of which were virtually blind have been operated upon and they can now see; so that is my focus, to be able to help people in the area that they are not able to help themselves.
Besides that, you followed it up immediately with skill acquisition programme recently too. So how important was that as part of the extension of the work you are doing?
During the campaign activities before the elections, one thing that stood out throughout the constituency and I can say throughout the country, is the high level of youth unemployment.
And my party, the PDP, had a very laudable and feasible programme to create jobs for the youth and lift millions out of poverty, but unfortunately, we are unable to implement it at the national level but at my own level, I thought that I can do a little. I can contribute a little to help at least some of the youth.
So what I did was to organize a training programme in February 2020, where we picked 50 youths across the nine local governments and conducted an entrepreneurship and leadership training for them; we brought in experts from Abuja that conducted the training for them in Numan.
Now, after they have done that, the next stage was to be able to empower them so that they can put what they have learned into practice and also to point them to a direction where they can get access to facilities, so that they can set up their businesses or they can grow their businesses.
We realized that to be able to access some of the facilities, you need to be certified by a CBN accredited facilitator or trainer. So, we went further to arrange another round of training in late November 2020, where we brought an expert who is accredited by CBN to train these 50 people that we earlier trained in February last year.
And in addition, we selected another set of 100 youths who were also trained so that all in all, we were able to train about 150 youths that have been CBN certified, that can access facilities from CBN, and I know that some of them are already packaging proposals to be able to access facilities from government.
But, we now strategise at our own level, to be able to give them something small to enable them kick-start their businesses.
So, we were able to get some equipment. We obtained water pumps for those who want to go into farming, especially dry season farming; we got knapsacks that they could use for spraying herbicides and we got some other equipment that our farmers can use like pumping machines, the knapsacks, rain boots, cutlass which they can use in their trade.
Some who indicated that they wanted to go into tailoring, we also obtained sewing machines, those who indicated interest in doing some local community businesses like grinding, we also purchased grinding machines for them, some who wanted to start barbing or hair dressing saloon, we gave each of them N50,000 cash support to help them start something in their line of business interest.
So, that is what we have been doing right now. We trained them, empowered them, and then open doors for them so that they can be on their own and stand on their feet, not only with what we have done for them but also other opportunities that are out there, because people get access to facilities that if you don’t know how to go about it, you would not be able to do so.
Let’s get your thoughts on the EndSARS protests that happened recently across the country.
I think the genesis of the EndSARS, even though it started as a protest against police brutality but there are so many other tentacles to that issue that came forth after the protest started but basically, you can ascribe the protest to youths unemployment and youth idleness.
You know it took place at a time when all the federal universities were on strike and students were at home and doing nothing. So many young people were very agitated; they want to go back to schools; added to that was the frustrations of the lockdown and the stay at home rules caused by the COVID challenges.
On top of that list was the fact that a lot of youths are unemployed and they say the idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
A small idea planted on these youths’ mind could explode into big things. That was what happened. It started very well though; complain against police brutality which all of us were witnesses of. Police brutality and police practices that are acceptable were the issues in focus, but it now snowballed to a lot of other things.
People now talk about miscreants who were sponsored to hijack the protest. But then, if you look at it again, you will see that it is more about the way it started; if nothing was done to checkmate it, that will be the inevitable end of it.
But what I will advise is that government has to do everything possible to keep youths productively engaged.
Talking about opening other sectors of the economy so that it can generate employment for the youth was an issue I have been talking about. If the government was busy constructing roads for example, it is not only machine that would be required, human labour would be required. If they are constructing houses, people will provide labour for them to construct the houses; there are so many areas that if government focuses on to create jobs, it will take the youths off the street and keep them productively engaged.
And then of course, if you open the schools and students are in schools, they will not have the time to be going on the streets rioting or be protesting.
I think basically, the government must accept that it has a responsibility to create jobs in the country, even if you say not directly but to create the enabling environment that will create the jobs.
Like I said earlier, our party, the PDP had a programme in the 2019 elections for multiple job creation.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has the right ideas and very clear ideas of what to do to create jobs and if he were the president, I am very sure that the country will not have been where it is today.
In view of the massive unemployment challenges in the country, what is your overall assessment of the 2021 budget, where do you see this budget taking us to?
Yes, concerning the budget of 2021, even when we were processing the budget of 2020, I also made that observation, because to me, the country is mortgaging its future because if you look at the level of borrowing that we are going into, we keep on piling debts; who is going to pay them? It is going to be generation coming after us.
So, you can see how we are mortgaging their future and, you know, if you look at it, if we are borrowing for developmental projects and purposes, then it can be excused but you look at the budget, you will see that more than 70 per cent of the budget is on consumption; it is to pay salaries, it is to pay for overheads, it is not to be deployed productively or invested.
And if you look at it, in fact you will see that the revenue projections in the budget is about seven trillion naira and the expenditure is thirteen trillion naira; it is clear there is a gap of six trillion naira; this gap is going to be closed by borrowing.
So, you can just see that we are just borrowing money to expend, not on development, this is the concern for me and for everyone interested in the future of this country.