‘Prioritising wealth creation initiatives will restore Nigeria’s economic prosperity’
Lawrence Fejokwu is the founder of the United States-based AIA Global Consulting Services, and promoter of the forthcoming South-South Entrepreneurship Forum, in this interview with UJUNWA ATUEYI, he averred that government, individual and corporate entities must intensify effort in promoting wealth creation initiatives, as it is one sure way of restoring economic prosperity in the country.
As the international coordinator/promoter of the forthcoming South-South Entrepreneurship forum, what is this initiative all about?
The forum is targeted at muting unemployment in our country through collective effort. Everybody must be involved to empower our youths and support the government. Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa in this regard will be hosting the South-South (SS) Entrepreneurship Forum, as a manifestation of his job and wealth creation agenda, the forum will feature enlightened discourses on innovative job creation strategies, promoted by the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the other states of Nigeria. The state as the host of the SS zonal entrepreneurship development centre, will promote skill acquisition, empowerment and application of the Integrated Learning System (ILS).
All the SS states of Edo, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-ibom and Cross River will converge at Asaba to discuss strategies for innovative job creation. The zone will benefit from the NUC’s National Entrepreneurship Resources and Knowledge Centre (NERKC) that would be launched soon because over 200,000 participants from the zone will participate in the various programmes. The universities, polytechnics and other higher institutions in the zone, as well as unemployed graduates and other population of adult Nigerians will be potential participant beneficiaries of the innovative programmes.
Why the choice of South-South for the forum?
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, on assuming power in 2015, launched his three point smart agenda, with priority on job and wealth creation. Several programmes were launched in the past 20 months to meet the objectives of the programme. Also in 2015, the NUC launched the NERKC project and created a business model to execute the project as a Public Private Partnership (PPP).
To achieve the objective of mobilising stakeholders in Nigeria and overseas, NUC management launched a national economic mission to sell the patriotic job creation project to critical stakeholders. Presentations were made to several banks and corporate agencies such as Dangote industries; NNPC, Minister of State for Petroleum resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and the Delta State Government. Delta State Governor, Dr. Okowa received the NUC’s management delegation with the entire executive council. The governor accepted to partner the NUC’s job creation and NERKC project. And we presented to Dr. Okowa, at the occasion, a marshal plan document to stimulate job creation in Nigeria in collaboration with the NUC’s NERKC project.
The Delta State SS Entrepreneurship Forum will serve as a model in Nigeria. The northern states entrepreneurship forum will be hosted by Kaduna state. The climax will be the national presentation at the FCT to fully launch the NERKC project created by the NUC to support the current job creation initiative for economic restoration in Nigeria. The forum will also take a holistic view of what can be done to create more jobs in particular to reduce the restiveness in the Niger-Delta area.
What is the correlation between NUC’s NERKC project and the SS Entrepreneurship forum?
The partnership with NUC is geared towards promoting the NUC’s NERKC. It is a kind of a national awareness all aimed at creating jobs. It is a zonal seminar for a start, one will be in the south, the second will be Kaduna, and then a national forum which will be held at the NUC centre. Usually every November there is what is called Global Entrepreneurship Week, which is held at the last week of every November.
The NUC’s role in promoting NERKC and ANEW programme is to deepen entrepreneurship in Nigerian universities to produce students equipped with skills and entrepreneurial knowledge to create jobs and launch small business entrepreneurs (SBEs). The Federal Government need to launch an Integrated Learning System (ILS) project to create 500,000 jobs SBEs per annum. All these initiatives will help restore economic prosperity in our nation. The innovative partnership will bring about empowerment prosperity and national rebirth. So in all, the NUC’s innovative NERKC project will empower millions of Nigerians and create millions of new ventures (SBEs), while the SS zonal Business Development Centres (BDC) will become national model. It will stimulate jobs, wealth and prosperity for Deltans. The BDCs will be designed and provided by the USA coalition of leaders in entrepreneurship and coordinated by AIA Global Consultancy Services, Nigeria.
Will the forum also address issue of loans for SBEs?
The Nigerian government has created so many opportunities to support SBEs, the CBN has a form for that, bank of industry has a form and many other banks in the country have been mandated to give single digit loan to those who are aspiring to startup new business.
We are asking our partners (individuals and agencies) to also help us in this regard. We are contacting the critical American society and agencies globally, through which we will create many jobs. I believe along the line we will create its own microfinance loan scheme. There are so many other innovations, our partners are bringing into the project, because the aim is to support the Nigerian Entrepreneurship Revolution in accordance to presidential mandate to create three million jobs a year.
Do you see government’s poor policy implementation frustrating the goal of this programme?
This is political question, even though we are discussing intellectual job creation. Well, I want recall the president’s regular comment, ‘lets forget what happened in the last 50 years.’ But we are aware that in the last 15 years, providentially God blessed Nigerian with immense financial inflow from oil, at a point oil was over a $100 per barrel. Could you imagine how many tons of dollars this country earned, and behold, where are we? The presidency said when they assumed office according to Prof. Yemi Osinbajo over 2/3 of Nigerians were extremely poor. That to me speaks volume. The government came and inherited enormous burden, infrastructure, crippled further with the global crude oil sales crash.
All these challenges I personally see as a blessing, I’m a very strong optimist that what is happening now is a foundation we need or rather a tonic to spur Nigeria. The president is much more concern with its fight against corruption. Buhari’s intension is to reestablish values and sanity as a major foundation, for us to have a strong Nigeria.
Given the enormity of challenges they met on assumption of office it has been impossible to have a road map, but behold, because of the sincerity and passion to create a new Nigeria, the president has received enormous good will globally, so Nigerians must support the president initiative to be able to recreate a new Nigeria, before Nigeria collapses. He did not create the problems, he met the problem, so we have to jointly solve the problem. Everybody who is passionate and patriotic have the responsibility to join government and build a new Nigeria. What can I do to lift this giant? Everybody contributed in one way or the other to where we are. So we all must also contribute to uplift our nation. And investing in programmes and initiatives that would spur entrepreneurial development where everybody would be more eager to set up his/her own business is one sure way out of our problems.
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