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By Ukpong Ukpong

Enterprising youths in Akwa Ibom State have alot to benefit from the reformed Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, which is taking bold steps toward upgrading its empowerment programmes for youths. In line with its policy on building collaborative partnerships, the Commission has prepared new concepts of engagement that will be both productive and sustainable.

This new approach is a welcome development, given that in the past youth empowerment schemes by NDDC were more or less aimed at handing out stipends without strategic objectives to ensure that recipients are groomed to give back to their immediate communities. Consequently, despite humongous funds spent on so called youth empowerment, the region still faced serious youth unemployment with attendant restiveness, criminality and vices.

At the recently concluded Youth Interactive Forum organised by the NDDC in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the Managing Director, Dr. Samuel Ogbukwu, stated that the Commission is setting up the Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce, which it would use as a vehicle to support Small and Medium Enterprises in the Niger Delta region, effectively proffering an innovative solution going forward.

According to him, “we are considering setting up a Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce that will strengthen young entrepreneurs in the region”.

Such an initiative came at the appropriate time in Akwa Ibom State, when a passionate, youth-friendly administrator, Dr. Emem Wilcox Wills, is in charge of the NDDC State office. Under his watch, the initiative is sure to offer alot of opportunities to teeming Akwa Ibom young entrepreneurs, who are breaking limits on all fronts with pioneering goods and services taking advantage of the internet revolution.

Dr. Wills recently underscored the importance of youths in State development, noting their energy, passion and enthusiasm would be channelled towards rebuilding and reintegrating society for peace, unity and prosperity.

“It’s time to rebuild our State. Youths are very critical in the process because of their energy, resourcefulness, passion and enthusiasm. NDDC will partner State government to productively engage youths to develop and prosper our State”. As such , the Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce will become a launch pad for current and aspiring entrepreneurs in the State.

Moreso, working through the Chambers of Commerce, the NDDC would herald the paradigm shift from the era of merely giving handouts to actually empowering youths to become productive members of their communities, states and the region as a whole. This is the position of the Managing Director of NDDC, Dr. Ogbukwu who said “it is no longer acceptable that our youths will be at home and be receiving stipends. Hence, we are changing the NDDC Youth Volunteer programme to Youth Internship Programmes where youths will be attached to organisations for one year to learn skills”.

Therefore, the chamber of commerce will help ensure that every empowerment programme is sustainable and focused on mentoring young entrepreneurs, who will then mentor and employ others since government cannot employ everybody.

It is therefore imperative to support the Commission to succeed with this initiative which aims to engage youths to work for the benefit of everyone.

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