By Goddie Akpama
On Wednesday, April 16, 2020, as usual with him, the Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade, announced that his administration will, in the next one week, employ 8,000 youths between the ages of 18-35 years, who will earn N30,000 monthly to work in every available sector of the economy they will be placed.
Telling his guest and hundreds of his appointees who gathered at the venue in Calabar where he shared/flagged off the distribution of Covid-19 palliatives.
Ayade said the state will be witness to what he termed “Job Festival” on Tuesday. According to Ayade, he will provide food and money as palliative for as long as the Covid-19 pandemic will last.
Commendable, some people have shouted!
But, on critical examination, there is nothing to celebrate about the promise because we have heard such stories from him over and again, that never came to pass in the real sense of it.
Lest I forget, there are insinuations making the rounds that the move by Ayade’s administration is a deliberate attempt at hijacking the Federal Government’s Special Public Works Programme whereby 774, 000 people, that is 1,000 from each local government area in the country, would be employed as special, and voluntary workers to help in the fight against the deadly Coronavirus. And the Federal Government also noted that the employment of this number of Nigerians is an additional palliative to the citizens to cushion the harsh economic reality that has trailed the outbreak of the Corona virus globally.
Let us hope that the fear of the possible hijack of the programme by the state government is mere speculation.
If it happens, instead of employing 18,000 real young men and women across the 18 local government areas of Cross River State, only 8, 000 handpicked persons may enjoy the Federal Government employment package, while the remaining 10,000 that will make up the list will either be ghosts employees or proxies for syphoning the wages that will be provided by the Federal Government into private pockets of some dubious public officers in the state.
Ayade’s announcement that youths in the state who are between the ages of 18-35 years should assemble and register for image and data capturing at Government House, U.J. Esuene Stadium, Traditional Rulers’ Council Office or the State Property Development Investment Limited (CROSPIL), all in Calabar looks appealing at first glance. But, a proper scrutiny of the directive shows it is as defective as silimar programmes of Ayade’s administration in the recent past.
First, it negates balancing and equal opportunity as necessary factors.
All the youths in Cross River State, who are within the age bracket announced by the governor do not reside in Calabar or surrounding local government areas in the Southern Senatorial District.
So, in terms of easy access to Calabar, taking into consideration, hike in transport fare, accommodation, feeding, and so on. For instance, how easy would it be for any youth from interior communities in Yala, Obudu, Bekwarra, Obanliku, Ogoja, Ikom, Boki, Obubra, Yakurr, and even Biase and Odukpani, which have far-flung LGA, to travel easily to Calabar, and enjoy equal advantage of being employed seamlessly, as their mates who are resident in, or reside close to Calabar.
If the Ayade’s administration is serious, and honest about the employment of 8,000 youths, which I doubt so much, my stance is that the registration should be done with Voter’s register, a voter register has all information (including phone numbers) of all residing in the state. 90% of youths across the state own personal phones and such data could guide govt of genuine information to ensue Social Distancing.
More so, the registration can be done online to discourage crowding which is the most potent tonic for the spread of the Corona virus.
Now, why do I, and so many other Crossriverians believe that the state government is not honest about it?
It is because of the penchant of the state government under Ayade’s watch to consistently lie to the people.
A few examples will suffice here.
In May 2016, the state government at the UJ.Esuene Stadium dramatised how it has inaugurated 1,000 men and women as cadet officers of the Green Sheriff. That is days after they had subjected thousands of young Crossriverians to run around Calabar, the state capital for days. Aside from a few cars and less than ten people seen in Calabar, occasionally dressed in “Boys Scout” uniform, not much has been heard of the remaining hundreds. They evaporated as they gathered without any form of official engagement by the administration.
Despite all the advertisements on every available media space, most of them were never employed.
In March 2018 to be precise, Governor Ben Ayade, during political rallies held on different occasions in Calabar, Ikom, and Ogoja, promised to employ 3,000 youths per senatorial district, making the total figure 9,000 in addition to giving scholarship to 3,000 students, 1,000 from each of the political zones. Two years after, Ayade has not fulfilled the promise. I stand to be corrected on that.
In November over 500 science teachers, 40 lawyers, ICT workers were removed from the payroll of the various state government ministries, departments and agencies, forcing the affected workers to storm the streets in protest, up to the gates of Government House, Calabar.
Up until now, majority of them are not in any paid employment. How about hundreds of retrenched staff of the State Water Board, most of whom were never paid a dime as salaries before they were kicked out.
If a man cannot keep to the promises he made before on giving employment to different categories of people, is there any reason to believe his promise to employ 8,000 youths.
Tuesday this week has come and gone, (stories have set in) now its village square arrangement and bla bla bla .
Has the state government paid the hundreds of political appointees any salary for months? So, where will the money, N240 million to pay the 8,000 workers monthly be sourced from when the governor is always complaining that the state is broke and needs financial support from the Federal Government?
I suspect, the last has not been heard of the latest 8,000 jobs misadventure.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed.