by crossriverwatch admin
Mr. Pat Ugbe is the Cross River State Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development. He agrees that youth unemployment is pervasive in the state but insist that government is taking steps to change the situation.
In this exclusive interview with crossriverwatch, he enumerates the steps his ministry is taking to create employment and diversify the economy. He adds also that the state need youths that will stand up and speak for the State when things happen.
Below are excerpts from the interview:
CRW: Can you do a brief introduction of yourself Sir?
Pat: My name is Patrick Ugbe, Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development in Cross River State.
CRW: What is the program of your ministry for young people in the state in 2013?
Pat: 2013 is just starting and in that regard we are going to sit down with all the departmental heads to work out a program. But the main focus of that progam will be one that will ensure the empowerment of our youths in Cross River State. One that will ensure that they get themselves gainfully engaged. There are a number of things we are looking at. Last year, we did carry out in partnership with MEDA (micro-finance and enterprise development agency), an empowerment program for some youths that were trained and given skill in various areas. And We hope to continue with that this year. That partnership with MEDA is one that we find very fruitful because in areas where we lack the competences, MEDA has those competences in terms of capacity building for the youths. So we partner together to ensure that the youths are given adequate training at the end of which they are empowered through credit facility that they are given. The credit facility conditions are of course not as stringent as what normally obtains in the regular banks. And that is one veritable way of making sure that the youths are empowered because the jobs are not there for them to apply for and get anymore. And the only way we can stem unemployment is for them to become entrepreneurs and the focus of this training is for them to become entrepreneurs so that they can be employers of labour themselves and by so doing, create that pool of employment for other youths. Sports is there as well and sport also is one way of getting them gainfully engaged. We have a comprehensive program in sports that is meant to develop the youths in sports and we will pursue that vigorously. As well as you know that in 2014 we will be hosting the sports festival so that puts a lot of pressure on us again this year to ensure that we follow that program full force so that by 2014 we will have a very good performance at the festival.
CRW: The most pressing challenge for young people in the state today is youth unemployment arising from a lack of an alternative economy in the state, how do you intend to cross this hurdle and create the environment that can generate employment?
Pat: Well, that’s what we are doing which is why I said the focus is entrepreneurial training. If they don’t get entrepreneurial training, they will keep looking up to government and I said the jobs within the govt circles are not there anymore. It is that fear of the unknown which is why an average Cross Riverian looks up to government rather than finish school and take up the gauntlet and create employment for others or be your own employer and that entrepreneurial training will do that. We are trying to focus our attention again in shifting their focus from regular work to agriculture. Agriculture is huge as you know and that is where you can actually start off your business and grow it to a large scale level. And then there is ICT as well. These are sectors that are waiting, that have opportunities for our youths to key into and without that entrepreneurial training, they will never see those opportunities, so we believe when we finish with that, they will begin to see opportunities in those sectors and take to it.
CRW: How is your ministry mainstreaming disability issues into all of these and is there a legal framework that clearly defines the place of people living with disabilities in this program?
Pat: They may not be a law but it does not mean that we are overlooking people leaving with disabilities. We are actually taking care of PWDs in all spheres of human endeavours. And I personally believe that people leaving with disabilities is no barrier at all to them. I have seen a lot of people with physical disabilities excel in the world and there is no limit at all to their progression in the society and we particularly take that into consideration as we design programs for the youth.
CRW: Let us take it that disability issues have gone beyond sympathy and goodwill of office holders to legality and human rights. Will your government through the department of youth development support the call for a legislation by the state assembly to protect the rights of PWDs?
Pat: They can be a law but like I said, in Cross River State, we’ve always ensured that we take them into consideration in whatever we do. It is only where you find a situation that they are not properly carried along that they will insist on having a law been legislated so that in everything you do, you must know that they are there. But for us, we’ve always recognized their position.
CRW: Your ministry recently shared N5.2m to youth and social organizations. What was the intention?
Pat: Well, we are only assisting the youth organizations in carrying out their activities in the state, in ensuring that they build on and inculcate leadership values in our youths in the society and for doing that the state government only gives them that little stipend as an encouragement for them to do more. They perform a very important function. And what we are doing this year is to encourage them to go far and wide into the nooks and crannies of the state not limiting their activities to the urban areas alone. To ensure that our youths are properly guided on values and leadership because we have noticed that is seriously lacking in the youths.
CRW: Talking about lacking in leadership and values; the promoters of the proposed All Cross River Youth Summit, ACRIYOS say part of what the summit will achieve is to raise a new crop of vibrant young professionals poised to intervene on issues of interest to the state. What is the position of the government on the summit?
Pat: Yea, definitely it’s a good idea. Whatever brings people together to brainstorm and chart a course forward is always a welcomed idea. It’s a good idea. Our youths need that summit if at the end of the day the summit will spark that vibrancy in them. We need to have a vibrant youth in Cross River State, a Youth that will stand up for the state when things happen. For instance the Bakassi issue, the oil wells issue, we need a vibrant youth in the state that will stand up and begin to articulate issues like that and fight for the rights of the state as well. So if a proposed summit like the All Cross River Youth Summit will spark that vibrancy in the youth as promised, it is very much welcomed, we will stand for it and we will support it.