Abia State

 

Abia State presently implements two YESSO components namely Public Workfare and Skills for Job in 6 pilot local government areas, 244 communities with total number of 3,863 (PWF) beneficiaries mined from the state Single Register (SR) and 1,150 beneficiaries for (S4J).

 

Abia State is located in the south eastern part of Nigeria with Umuahia as the state capital while the major commercial city is Aba, which was formerly a British colonial government outpost in the region and is also one of the most populated areas in Nigeria. The state was created in 1991 from part of Imo state. It has seventeen (17) local Government area that constitute the Federal Republic of Nigeria and has poor population of about 15.8% in 2009. This happens to be the single data available for a year at that moment.

 

The State is one of the last states that joined the World Bank sponsored and the Federal Government of Nigeria supported Youths Employment and Social Support Operations (YESSO). The late emergence of Abia State into this exciting social safety net programme was made possible by the support of the state governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and they happen to be the only state from the South East of Nigeria to partcipate in the programme. Both beneficiaries of YESSO (PWF & S4J) are paid N7500 monthly as stipend during training as well as when they are deployed to PSOs for internship or work sites as S4J or PWF beneficiaries respectively.

 

Abia state is implementing two Components namely public workfare (PWF) and skills for job (S4J). PWF is operating in 6 pilot LGAs of 244 communities with the total number of 3863 Beneficiaries mined from the Single Register (SR). The LGAs, total number of Beneficiaries and their Gender can be seen as follows, Isialangwa North LGA has 597 male while female 423, total 1020 Isialangwa South LGA has 370 male while female 246, total 616, Ohafia LGA has 547 male while female 339 Total 886, Umunneochi LGA has 73 male while female 97 total 170 Ukwa East LGA has 497 male while female 338 total 835, Ugwunagbo LGA has 195 male while female 141 total 336 making it a total number of 3863 beneficiaries for PWF.

 

The beneficiaries were drawn from the Single Register (SR) of Poor and vulnerable households with the first cycle of operation running as a pilot programme in Six Local Government areas of the State. Two poorest local government areas were selected from each of the three Senatorial Districts of the State namely: Ohafia and Umunneochi from the Abia North Senatorial District, Isiala Ngwa North and Isiala Ngwa South from the Abia Central Senatorial District, Ugwunagbo and Ukwa East from the Abia South Senatorial District. Two YESSO, interventions namely the Public Workfare (PWF) and the Skills for Job (S4J) are currently being implemented in the State.

 

The National Directorate of Employment (NDE) that implements the S4J component assessed facilities at some established Training Institutions in the state and found out that Gregory University which is a private institution located at Uturu, Ummunneochi local government area has the best facilities to host the three months skills training for the beneficiaries before being sent on Six months Internship programme with Public/Private Sector Organizations (PSOs).

 

Abia State YESSO S4J programme started by mining from the Single Register. This step was followed by verification of the mined list. The verification process witnessed some initial display of apathy as most of the prospective beneficiaries in the list who could not quite remember when their data was captured into the Single register as poor and vulnerable households, thought that the process was another of some of those Government exercises that does not solve their immediate need of placing needed money in their pockets to solve their basic needs like food and shelter. Out of the over Five thousand prospective beneficiaries that were mined, about Two thousand were verified.

 

The three months skills training programme was flagged off on the 3rd of October, 2019 at St. Gregory University, Uturu, which is the state training institution. The Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu was represented at the event by his deputy, Rt Hon Sir Ude Oko Chukwu. Many other top government functionaries were also in attendance. By the end of the three days Orientation Programme that immediately followed the flag off ceremony, less than the expected 2,000 beneficiaries had reported. Whereas some of them still thought that the programme was “One of those Government Programmes”, many others were too poor that they could not afford initial transport to the location of the training. The State Governor later directed the benefiting local government areas chairmen to mobilize vehicles to assist the beneficiaries to report. The Chancellor of the University, Prof Gregory Iyke Ibe also mobilized vehicles to bring the beneficiaries to campus. About seven days into the programme, beneficiaries who had reported and were convinced that the programme was real having been given accommodations in the University Campus with three square meals and quality training programmes on daily basis, started calling and sending out messages to their relatives that were verified asking them to come and not to miss out on the better life they were now experiencing. The number of beneficiaries eventually reached 1,150 within two weeks of training commencement before close of registration.

 

Many of the beneficiaries who had not had the privilege of any good life before now started experiencing it. They learnt Vocational, Entrepreneurship and Life skills while also having time to engage in some Social activities that poverty had denied them. Evidently, it has been long since some of them had not had the opportunity of three-square meals daily. They also had access to modern facilities and conveniences. In expression, they formed musical groups that composed and sang the YESSO S4J Anthem (Downloadable from the Website). They started the Inter Local Government Football Tournament that had Isiala Ngwa North LGA lifting the Chancellor’s trophy with a cash reward of N100, 000. Isiala Ngwa South lifted the Silver Trophy with a cash reward of N70, 000 while Ohafia LGA lifted the Bronze Trophy with a cash reward of N50, 000. Some of their Local Government Chairmen also complimented the Chancellor’s cash rewards.

 

About the end of the three months campus residential skills training, most of them were looking more robust than they were when they came having been exposed to all the good life and were then praying for the extension of their stay in campus but they had to move to the next level – Internship.The high point of their Campus life experience offered by virtue of the YESSO programme was during the closing ceremony of the S4J residential skills training on 10th December, 2019 which coincided with the University Chancellor’s birthday and thanksgiving service. He offered degree Scholarships to 100 of the participants with University entry qualifications that had hitherto lost hope of further education due to poverty. He also offered automatic employment to one of the participants that made an instant graphical sketch of him based on acquired skills during the training. The scholarship beneficiaries are now fully admitted and undergoing their programmes at that University.