The Prosperity Administration under the leadership of Senator Douye Diri has made commendable progress in different strata of governance in Bayelsa State. One of such noticeable areas is in the development of human capacity, which is a cardinal policy of his administration.
Upon assuming office on February 14, 2020, Governor Diri thought it wise that development of the state should be approached from two broad fronts – infrastructure development and human capacity development.
Two years ago, the administration set out to create empowerment programmes and develop new skills at various levels in order to build the financial capacity of young men and women willing to do business or expand their enterprises.
The idea behind this lofty vision was to create a critical mass of Bayelsa entrepreneurs that would participate actively in the local economy, reduce unemployment as well as steer youths away from crime and violent activities.
It is against this backdrop that the Senator Diri-led administration set out to empower 210 small and medium-sized business owners, two from each of the 105 wards in the state every month and supports them with a grant of N200,000 each.
To drive this vision, the state government injected an initial sum of N50 million monthly. In view of its overwhelming impact it had on beneficiaries, the amount was in February this year increased to N100 million monthly.
Governor Diri equally increased the number of beneficiaries per ward to four – two males and two females – in view of the success rate of the scheme and assured that it will continue throughout his administration.
He said the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) scheme is one of series of empowerment initiatives targeted at encouraging Bayelsans to do business and reduce their dependency on handouts from politicians.
On April 25, 2023, Senator Diri presented cheques worth N200 million to 840 business owners at the DSP Alamieyeseigha Memorial Banquet Hall in Yenagoa.
The beneficiaries representing the eight local government areas of the state recounted their experiences amid joy and gratitude to the Governor and his Prosperity Team.
In separate testimonies, Youpele Seimokumo, Ebiye Yalla, Omasirmo James and Blessing Oyinbunugha were full of praises to the governor for the initiative, stating that the empowerment has boosted and transformed their businesses.
On their part, Mercy Ekeou, Oduma Iti, Rosa Girra and Nyanayo Inara said Diri deserved commendation for introducing the laudable scheme.
The seed money, according to them, has promoted the expansion of their businesses and enabled some of them to pay their wards’ school fees as well as relocate to the state capital to continue their trade.
The governor, who was visibly elated, described their testimonies as heart-warming, and informed that a committee was in place to monitor their progress.
According to the Bayelsa chief executive, his administration will be motivated to further increase the grant if beneficiaries of the programme continue to live up to expectations.
Diri, who was particularly touched by the testimony of a beneficiary, Madam Nyanayo Inara at the April edition of the event, graciously approved the release of an additional one million naira to her in appreciation of her unflinching support of the Peoples Democratic Party.
It will be recalled that Madam Inara was shot in the leg during the 2019 governorship campaign in Nembe when members and supporters of the party came under an unwarranted attack by unidentified gunmen.
So far, the SMEs programme, which is now in its second year, has benefited 2,310 entrepreneurs drawn from the 105 political wards. Its primary target is to give the people a sense of belonging.
The Commissioner for Women and Children Affairs, Mrs. Faith Opene, who also shared some insights on the programme, said the governor increased the number of beneficiaries per month to 420 as against 210.
Describing the initiative as a worthwhile legacy that will outlive the administration, she expressed the optimism that by the end of his tenure, a greater percentage of Bayelsns would have been empowered economically.
The Prosperity Government also took the empowerment of women a step further when it encouraged women to form cooperative societies, assuring that soft loans will be made available to them.
Worried about the situation whereby indigenes of the state do not control the local economy, the state’s Number One Citizen affirmed that his administration is poised to change that narrative by equipping young Bayelsans with the necessary skills in various fields.
As a Governor, who walks his talks, the state government has equally taken the bold step to also train a large number of youths in various skills, including Information, Communication and Technology (ICT).
Under the Diri Digital Entrepreneurship Empowerment Programme (D-DEEP), no fewer than 8,000 youths in the eight local government areas will be trained. The scheme was launched in November 2021.
Also, about 2,000 beneficiaries have so far been trained under the Douye Diri Skills Acquisition Programme in the last one year.
Having equipped the trainees with enterpreneurship tools, Diri describes them as torch bearers of his Prosperity Administration.
As a result of his passion for manpower development, he directed that the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment engage additional 800 trainees for the programme.
The beneficiaries were trained in nine skill areas, including fashion designing, shoe-making, solar energy installation and repairs, catering and paint making.
The Prosperity Government also presented business start-up items to 400 graduates of the state-owned technical colleges, taking into cognizance the general shift from certificate education across the world towards science and technical education.
The starter packs consist of a complete set of tools to start out a business for each beneficiary in 11 different trade areas comprising of catering, plumbing, dress making, marine diesel/petrol mechanics, building technology/ draughtsmanship and electrical installations.
Others are computer/book keeping, welding and fabrication, hairdressing, motor vehicle mechanics and mechanical engineering.
Another area of empowerment worthy of mention is the training of youths in the agricultural sector as a pathway to diversifying the state’s economy away from its reliance on crude oil revenues.
A total of 5,000 youths are expected to be trained in integrated farming at the CSS Global Farms in Nasarawa State and soft loans provided for them to commence small scale farming businesses.
Already, 404 participants have undergone a two-week intensive training in poultry production, fish farming, plantain/cassava farming, rice/maize farming, feed-mill processing, greenhouse and hydroponics as well as in ruminant fattening, agricultural business and financing among others.
In line with the agenda of his administration, Diri also presented start-up packs and empowerment items to 366 pioneer trainees under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) programme.
The governor, who had flagged off the programme in December 2021, said the state government was eager to train more Bayelsans and appealed to the federal government to release its matching grant for 2021/2022.
Thus, the Diri administration has opened the floodgates of opportunities for Bayelsans irrespective of political party leaning to excel in various trades and become employers of labour rather than job seekers.
No doubt, the numerous empowerment programmes have recorded huge success, and if sustained, they have the capacity of ushering in sustainable prosperity to Bayelsans and other residents in the Glory of All Lands.
*Febabor is a broadcast journalist with the Bayelsa State Government House Press Unit