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*Meets With Students, Youth Leaders, Women

Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has announced a monthly empowerment scheme for small-scale businesses across the eight local government areas of the state.

Governor Diri, who disclosed this on Wednesday during an interactive session with secondary school students, women and beneficiaries of the state’s higher education loans scheme in Yenagoa, said the initiative is meant to develop small businesses in order to grow the local economy and generate wealth.

The interaction was held as part of activities marking the second anniversary of his administration.

The governor had earlier also met with youth leaders from across the state at the Peace Park in Yenagoa.

A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, quoted him as describing the scheme as a sure way of bringing to fruition his prosperity mandate to the doorsteps of the people.

His words: “We want our people to go into business. I hereby direct a monthly empowerment across our state of the number earmarked in all the local government areas. So, every month, we will have new sets of people to be empowered for the rest of our tenure.

“The Commissioner of Finance is directed to set aside the amount worked out on monthly basis for this scheme.

“There was no mistake in tagging this administration “Prosperity Government.” We are bringing prosperity to our doorsteps. As we build roads and bridges, we are equally shifting attention to human roads and human bridges.”

The governor charged pioneer beneficiaries of the empowerment scheme to make good use of the opportunity to eke out a living for themselves, stressing that his government will sustain it till the end.

He appealed to the youths and women to be good examples of the programme by multiplying what is invested in them for business purposes.

Senator Diri also directed the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment and other relevant organs of government to organise an economic summit for the state having held education and health summits.

In a welcome address, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Child Development, Mrs. Faith Opuene, said the 210 initial beneficiaries were carefully selected comprising two each from the 105 wards in the state.

In their remarks, beneficiaries of the students loan programme through their representatives, Obah Azibator from the Federal University, Otuoke, and Stanley Oyinkeprebi of the Niger Delta University, Amassoma, expressed profound gratitude to Governor Diri for alleviating the plight of students in tertiary institutions and their parents through the scheme and helping them to address their academic challenges

Earlier at the Peace Park, Governor Diri urged youths in the state to desist from criminal activities and engage in legitimate businesses to make a living.

He said his administration placed priority on youth empowerment because without building their capacity, the infrastructure development of his government would not make the expected impact on the people.

He charged the youths to key into his administration’s empowerment programmes to acquire skills that would make them self-reliant and productive members of the society.

Describing himself as an advocate of resource control, he also advised them to stop illegal oil bunkering as it pollutes the environment and is detrimental to the health of the people.

The Bayelsa number one citizen thanked the youths for their support and peaceful disposition, adding that the achievements in youth development within two years of his administration were possible because they keyed into the vision.

He promised more human capital development programmes for the youths and women.

“I know that Ijaw youths and indeed Bayelsa youths are resilient and respectful to elders. Our youths are brought up with values to be free and fend for themselves through legitimate ways to earn a living. Our youths want the best in education and are very intelligent. Our youths can compete favourably around the world academically. That is why they come out in flying colours.

“For the next two years, your government will shift emphasis to human capital development. Get to be involved in skills acquisition and business. We are coming with different empowerment schemes for our youths and women in all the local government areas.
So, we need to continue to encourage our sisters and brothers to move away from crime, illegal businesses such oil bunkering and criminality.

“We urge you to key into the various empowerment programmes and I believe working together, Bayelsa will be a better place and one of the most developed states in Nigeria.

“Oil bunkering destroys our environment and causes strange sicknesses. Our people die because of what the oil companies are doing to our environment. And we unknowingly are also destroying our environment by getting involved in oil bunkering.

“I have been in the forefront of advocacy for true ownership of our resources. But let us deploy better ways of engagement. Let us not use the crude way to destroy ourselves.

“Bayelsa is peaceful not only because of the policies we have enunciated. It is because of you. As youths, you have all agreed to leave hatred. Let us leave acrimony. Let us go away from the previous ways of living and exhibit a new lease of life.

“Please continue to keep the peace and maintain security to attract investment. We cannot develop the state alone.

“The more important one is that we can build all the roads. We can build all the bridges but if we do not build the youths, who will use them?”

Earlier, the Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Daniel Igali, thanked Governor Diri for making youth empowerment a top priority of his administration, adding that many youths have won laurels in various sports competitions within the two years of his administration.

In their goodwill messages, different youth leaders expressed appreciation to the governor for the various initiatives aimed at empowering them in the state.

Highpoint of the event was the presentation of souvenirs by youth groups to the governor.

In attendance were the Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, the Speaker and members of the state House of Assembly and other top government functionaries.

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