15 November 2014, Sweetcrude, Benin – Amidst the uproar that followed the partial removal of fuel subsidy in January of 2012 came the announcement that a new federal government programme would be created to ease the effect of government’s decision on the average Nigerian. When the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, SURE-P, was created and a committee inaugurated in February of the same year, their focus was to ensure that the funds accruing to the federal government as a result of the subsidy removal would be reinvested into programmes and initiatives that would be easily accessible by all. Thus, the SURE-P committee began their arduous task under the leadership of Dr Christopher Kolade. Many may have thought that SURE-P would fail; that as other ventures had before it, it would be ‘business as usual’. Those people, I believe, have to date, been pleasantly surprised to find that not only has SURE-P remained, it has grown in spades.
Since its inauguration two and a half years ago, SURE-P, in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, has been involved in several projects such as the procurement and management of mass transit, maternal and child healthcare, community service programmes, HIV/AIDS Intervention, Polio Eradication and other noteworthy causes. Chief among their projects are the vocational training and Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS).
Nigeria’s Minister of National Planning had declared that the current unemployment statistics for Nigeria as at 2011, stood at 23.9%; which translates to almost 40 million citizens. Another figure from the National Bureau of Statistics had indicated that over 70% of Nigerians live on a USD a day or less. These figures are frightening, to say the least. Thankfully, there is some ray of hope on the horizon.
With the vocational training project which has as its areas of focus; hands on skills, life skills and entrepreneurial skills, SURE-P has invested in reducing unemployment through skills acquisition and development. As of today, they have arranged over 6,000 job placements for skilled labour, with 1,000 technicians registered at the NationalAutomotive Council. Quite impressive, one might say, but that is until one learns that through SURE-P, about 185,000 Jobs have been created.
While this may be a mere drop in the bucket when you consider the almost 40 million jobless Nigerians, it is a drop nonetheless, and one that will be accompanied by many more drops with the passing of time. Admirably, we do not have a bunch on delusional people forming that committee that manages the president’s SURE-P pet project. These are men and women who are fully convinced that the government alone cannot employ all the unemployed. Thus, apart from the encouragement and training of youths towards the pursuance of entrepreneurship, the committee also launched one of its most laudable projects; the Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS).
Based on the figures which the government has to work with, the only way the GIS will be able to reach its full potential and be a rewarding enterprise is if the government, non-governmental organisations and private business owners all key into its vision. The beauty of the GIS is that it is not restricted to any industry and the government has made it more attractive to business owners by committing to pay the allowances of all graduates taken in by different organizations.
Thanks to the GIS initiative by SURE-P, over 3,000 graduates have found placements, while others are awaiting theirs. In a country such as ours, this is a step in the right direction. So far, SURE-P and the Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala led Federal Ministry of Finance have proved to be a formidable team focused on improving the lot of our youths.
*Uwa Eghomeka is a teacher and budding writer