Nigeria’s Coalition Against Covid-19 (CACOVID) has unfolded plans to commit over N100bn (about $262 million) over the next two years to buy rifles as well as other security gadgets for the Nigeria Police Force, with special focus on the 44 police stations destroyed by hoodlums in the wake of the #EndSARS protest against police brutality.
In addition, the private sector-led coalition unveiled plans to raise and spend N150bn (about $394 million) to set up and implement a youth development programme to support the federal government’s job creation drive.
CACOVID said the youth development programme would provide technical and vocational education to over four million Nigerian youths over the next five years.
Co-Chair, CACOVID and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, at a media briefing in Lagos on Wednesday, outlined the organisation’s plans to assist the federal government in tackling issues that triggered youth restiveness, which ignited the #EndSARS protests. He also rendered account on the activities of the group.
He spoke in the company of President, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; Chairman, United Bank for Africa Plc, Mr. Tony Elumelu; and Group Managing Director/CEO, Access Bank Plc, Chief Herbert Wigwe.
Emefiele said preliminary analysis indicated that unemployment, particularly amongst the youth, was a critical factor behind the recent unrest experienced in some parts of the country.
He said: “As a result, CACOVID has committed to creating a high impact youth development programme that will provide technical and vocational education to over four million Nigerian youths over the next five years.
“Students will be trained on craftwork, plumbing, masonry, carpentry, and other artisanal related skills for which sufficient demand exist in Nigeria.”
According to him, selected students on the conclusion of the programme will be certified by the appropriate standards board and will be eligible to receive loans to support their entrepreneurial pursuits.
“So far, over N25 billion (about $66 million) will be domiciled in a fund to support these entrepreneurial pursuits, which would also include acquisition of related equipment to conduct business activities.
“The ultimate objective is to provide young Nigerians with employable skill sets that will enable them to live a gainful life. We believe this initiative can lead to the creation of over four million jobs over the next five years,” he added.
For the out-of-school graduates that possess certain entrepreneurial skills, Emefiele also said CACOVID would be working with the Bankers’ Committee to complete the creative centre at the National Arts Theatre, Lagos in four select areas namely: ICT and software design / development, fashion, music, and movies.
The project is expected to cost the Bankers’ Committee over N40 billion, he said.
“Given the impact, the unrest had on the conduct of business activities, members of CACOVID has committed to developing a business continuity plan that will enable businesses and firms to share timely information and resources to forestall physical or cyber-attacks, which could derail the smooth functioning of business activities in the country,” he stated.
However, Emefiele while rendering account of the activities of the private sector-led initiative, said the group received a total of N39.64 billion as donations from members of the private sector and spent N43.272 billion on various interventions, including N28.7 billion on food relief, as palliatives to 1.7 million households translating to eight million Nigerians.
He explained that the ultimate objective of CACOVID is to work with the government in providing support in areas that would result in improved health and societal outcomes.
He said the group sought to aid the government in improving testing capability, and management of positive cases of Covid-19 in Nigeria.
In addition, CACOVID was expected to provide palliatives to vulnerable members of the society, particularly those who earn daily incomes, and had been severely affected by the lockdown.
He thanked Nigerians and businesses that supported CACOVID in its efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Nigeria, as well as in catering for vulnerable Nigerians.
He said banks and financial institutions would extend reliefs through concessionary loans to affected businesses and firms, to enable them to rebuild and restock their stores and continue to conduct their business activities.
Emefiele said to further strengthen the security apparatus in the country, CACOVID has committed to providing over N100 billion to procure equipment and gadgets for the Nigerian Police Force over the next two years as its contribution to fully modernise the Nigerian police.
“Providing adequate security is not only the task before the government but also that of the private sector,” he said.
The CBN governor said owners of business premises desire a secure environment to conduct their legitimate businesses.
“We, therefore, seize this opportunity to once again, appeal to members of the private sector, who we will be calling on again, to rally round CACOVID to secure not only our businesses but also our country,” he said.
Speaking at the briefing, Dangote explained that training the youths on technical and vocational jobs would also enable the federal government to draw a database on various skills for vocational jobs.
He said: “We would have a database so that you don’t just call an armed robber to your house. You can go into that data and call someone. We all have repairs, and with that data, you can know who to call for repairs.
“What we are doing is that we are providing them with money to buy tools. So as soon as they get the training which is free, which we are paying for, then they have the guarantee that they would get jobs.
“We have about 30,000 workers at our (Dangote) site, which we are planning to get to 50,000. Only 25 to 28% of that would be foreign workers and the rest will be Nigerians who would be trained.”
Elumelu assured Nigerians that CACOVID will support the federal government.
He said: “The CBN governor has done extremely well. We used to be in banking together, but I didn’t realise his level of passion for the country until we started CACOVID.
“With the level of passion, every day since March this year, we spent several hours discussing how to intervene in the economy through CACOVID.
“So, at times when you hear things outside, you begin to shake your head and say if only people knew the efforts being made by the CACOVID leadership. We had people stay awake throughout the night.”
He said to reopen the economy wasn’t easy, explaining that to get the airlines to start flying they had to assure the government that things would happen in certain ways and that they provided money for certain things.
“All I will say is that let’s have a bit of patience. The private sector in Nigeria is committed to poverty alleviation because poverty anywhere affects any of us. So, let’s work together to create more jobs,” he said.
Wigwe said: “Every transformation comes with its own pain and hitches. CACOVID right from inception came to help with the issue that came with COVID-19 and also to protect the livelihoods of people.
“Obviously in that process, there would be hitches from time to time. As we share more information, people will have a clear picture of what we are trying to do. The most important thing has to do with issues of employment.
“Covid-19 and the lockdown have created several problems. What I will say to young people who are seeking funding to start their own businesses is that they should reach out to their banks.”