Okowa’s Giant Stride in Job Creation


The rising unemployment rate in Nigeria is the bane of economic development of the country. Joblessness has resulted in increase in social ills among the young people.

The increase in the rate of unemployment in the country can be adduced to lack of vibrant industries to absorb competent graduates. This obstacle was in part caused by an infrastructural deficit and a debilitating Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) implemented by Nigeria in the 1980s, which led to the closure of many industries and from which the country is yet to fully recover. It is also well-known that the youth unemployment situation has been aggravated by flawed and inconsistent public policies on employment.

The urban unemployment rate was 10.8 per cent in 2016, it increased to 18.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 and by the third quarter of 2018, it rose to 23.1 per cent while the rate of underemployment was 20.1 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. This is considered to be too high for a country with an urbanization rate of 5.3 per cent.

The combined unemployment and underemployment rate for the period was 43.2 per cent. It is projected that the rate of unemployment in 2020 will be over 33.5 per cent,putting into consideration the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic.To reduce unemployment, successive governments in Nigeria have adopted various policies to create jobs.

Job Creation is a process of aligning economic growth with developmental needs of a country. 

The First National Development Plan (FNDP) in Nigeria between 1962 and 1968 has as one of its cardinal objectives the development of employment opportunities that will be accessible to all citizens.

The second National development plan (SNDP) in 1970 sought to use industrialization as envisaged in the Industrialization Policy to create jobs.

The third and the Fourth National Development Plan (1975-1980) has reduction of unemployment as its primary objective.

There was an expansion of employment in the Public, Private and Service Sectors in Nigeria between 1973 and 1981.

Unfortunately, the continuing fall in oil price since 1982 and the accompanying reduction in foreign exchange earnings resulted to shrinkage in government revenues, shortage of raw materials and spare parts for the import-dependent manufacturing sector and a depression in the business of firms retailing and servicing imported goods. The reaction of the public and private sectors to their changing fortunes was the adoption of the retrenchment strategy for workers.

Government economic policies are centered around Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which are considered as veritable tools to impact skills and provide financial assistance to unemployed persons who are predominantly young school leavers and undergraduates between the ages of 18year and 35years.

In spite of the various strategies and targets of successive governments, unemployment in Nigeria has continued to grow unabated.

But in Delta State, the creation of decent and productive employment is the focus of the government under the leadership of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. Macroeconomic policies geared towards poverty reduction have remained the main thrust of the administration since its inception in 2015. A gainfully employed labour force and active population have high potential to contribute to the growth of national output for the promotion of economic development.

The Delta State Government in the last five years through the office of the Chief Job Creation Officer has implemented various Job and Wealth Creation Programmes such as it's flagship Skill Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP),Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP), Graduate Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP) and Production and Processing Support Programme (PPSP). This is in line with Governor Okowa’s promise to create jobs for Deltans.

The STEP and YAGEP training and mentoring process aim beyond raising entrepreneurs to producing leaders and managers that have high levels of personal responsibility and effectiveness.

STEP is a youth-targeted job creation programme in vocational and non-agricultural enterprises while YAGEP focuses on agriculture and agricultural value-chain enterprises.

Under the STEP scheme which covers various skills in different enterprises, youths in Delta State are trained in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) such as computer hardware maintenance, smart phones and PC tablets maintenance, information technology services and software application. 

They are also trained in building and construction services such as POP skill acquisition, interlocking, tiling, paint-making and painting works, masonry, welding & fabrication and plumbing.

The scheme trains participants in power and energy works such as electrical installation and maintenance and solar power works while others are trained in handicrafts such as fashion design and tailoring, textile design, leather works (shoe making and bag making), carpentry and upholstery.

Individuals who are interested in Personal Services such hair dressing and makeover, decoration and event management, catering and confectionary/baking are not left out in the training.

In order to expand the scope of the scheme, participants are also trained in audio-visual technology services such as light and sound technicians, cinematography (visual cameraman), set designers, production managers, audio-visual editors and photography.

After the training, participants are given STEP enterprise starter-pack “in-kind” and “cash”. The “in-kind” component are physical start-up items such as equipment, tools and materials according to the skill or enterprise. The cash component is treated as grant and non-repayable.

The cash component is a 12-month shop rent subsidy which is given together with the starter packs. This is to assist STEP beneficiaries start-up smoothly in their various locations across the state. The amount given as shop rent subsidy is treated as soft and generous micro-credit and it is repayable in two to three years at zero per cent interest. The actual amount of shop rent subsidy differs from location to location and enterprise to enterprise.

The STEP scheme in its first three cycles (2015-2016,2016-2017,2017-2018) recorded no fewer than 2,426 beneficiaries. 

STEP and other informal sector interventions of the state government have had tremendous positive impact on the state’s economy. Statistics generated by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and published in August, 2018 indicated that the services sector had grown at an accelerated rate from 2015 to 2017.The average annual growth rate from 2013 to 2015 was 8.9 per cent, but growth accelerated at annual average of 13.2 per cent from 2015 to 2017.

Under YAGEP, unemployed youths between the ages of 18 years and 35 years are trained and started up in their chosen agricultural enterprises which include poultry, piggery, fishery, crop production, agro-processing and agribusiness.

Individuals who have no formal skill in agriculture are trained and provided with starter-packs to set up and run their own enterprises while those that already own and operate their agricultural enterprises but needed support packages to become viable, survive and scale up, are equally taken care of.

The YAGEP starter-packs comprise critical start-up items, production inputs and farm management advisory, depending on the agricultural enterprise.

The development of farm enterprise clusters, owned and managed by the youths have transformed the state’s agricultural landscape with an effect on agricultural modernization.

Currently, there are a total of 25 YAGEP farm enterprise clusters with varying combinations of enterprises, including poultry, piggery, fishery, rice and tomato production across the state.

The YAGEP rice initiative which started in 2017 has a cultivation of 74 hectares of rice farm at Ugili-Amai in Ndokwa West Local Government Area. In 2018, 42 hectares of rice farm was cultivated at Deghele in Sapele Local Government Area and 54 hectares at Mbiri in Ika North East Local Government Area. 

Forty-eight youths were trained during the 2018 production year. The YAGEP project on rice resulted in the production and processing YAGEP rice in 10kg packs.

The Graduate Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP) was targeted at a distinct segment of unemployed graduates with professional training and are located in urban clusters. 

The aim is to improve the employability, job-readiness, work aptitudes as well as work experience of unemployed graduates and stimulate the formation of own enterprises/companies among graduates in selected professional fields. Employability and job-readiness workshops are regularly organized for job-seeking graduates who have completed National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) by the State Government.

The capacity-building workshops offer job-readiness aptitudes, self-improvement opportunities and real-time job market information to graduates who are seeking employment in the private sector.

Training and capacity-building are carried out in collaboration with the private sector, human resource and recruitment firms and public interest corporate entities such as development foundations and non-governmental organizations. Nineteen graduates have benefited from this scheme.

The Production and Processing Support Programme (PPSP) is an agricultural value chain support programme designed to upscale the use of modern inputs and technologies, increase outputs and productivity of crop, livestock and fishery enterprises. 

In addition, it is designed to improve agricultural value addition and post-harvest management. The support packages include inputs, technologies and materials necessary to make production and processing more efficient. 

The aim of PPSP scheme is to provide subsidized inputs and technologies to crop, livestock and fish farmers and to facilitate support for out-grower schemes, off-taker arrangements and market linkages for existing smallholder farmers and youth farmers. It is also for provision of subsidized agricultural processing and value-addition equipment and facilities to agricultural cooperative societies, commodity associations and women.

This scheme enabled the facilitation of tractor management and ownership by agricultural cooperative societies for affordable, efficient and sustainable farm mechanization services.

The Production and Processing Support Programme (PPSP) supports viable agricultural production and processing enterprises to increase their output, employ 
additional labour and create wealth. 

Under the PPSP agricultural loans were facilitated for eligible agricultural cooperative societies, farmers, processing entities and operators along the agricultural value chain. The beneficiaries of the scheme were existing farmers, multipurpose cooperative societies and commodity associations across the three (3) Senatorial Districts of Delta State.

In addition, a total of 1,157 farmers benefitted from the PPSP production support packages while more than 1,000 Agro-processors benefited directly from the technology-enhancing interventions for cassava processing, oil palm processing, fish processing, melon processing and fishing cooperatives, associations and 

The Delta State Government through the Office of the Chief Job Creation Officer between 2015-2019 trained and established a total of 4,274 youths in various vocational, agricultural and non-agricultural enterprises. 

In the current 2019-2020 programme cycle, 800 youths are currently undergoing the training phase of the programme prior to being established with starter packs in various agricultural and non-agricultural enterprises. 

The job creation programmes have impacted on the lives of previously unemployed Deltans and on the economy and development of the state. 

Across the state, there are testimonies of successful small businesses and life-changing stories by those who were trained, started up and mentored under STEP & YAGEP schemes. 

Some have grown to become employers of labour and are training other youths to become self-employed.

Others have innovatively diversified into other businesses/trades or developed business partnerships and relationships to enhance their income. Many have achieved greater employability through the programme and are now gainfully employed in the industrial and other sectors.

The mindset shift, among youths in the state from government (salaried) employment to entrepreneurship and self-employment is one of the social impacts of the Job creation programmes.

Through the training and reorientation modules of STEP & YAGEP, the youths are imbibing the principles of skills acquisition and entrepreneurship as a viable employment option. They are now looking beyond and outside their academic certificates for employment and livelihoods, as owners and managers of skills-based enterprises.

The State Government’s policy on the establishment of Agricultural industrial Parks across the state focuses on Agriculture, Agribusiness and Agro- Industrization of 
the state.

The aim is to promote food security,job and Wealth creation for the teeming youths of the state.

The agricultural Industrial Parks are being established in three Cluster development areas in Uzere Agro-Industrial area, Abaraka -Umutu Industrial area and the Ogwashi-uku industrial area for agro-processing,Agribusiness, Marketing and value added activities supported by a dedicated concentration of feeder roads and amenities.

Each of these high impacts One -Stop Agribusiness environment will be propelled by an anchor investor devoted to agricultural value chain development activities including agro-processing, Commercial farming, out grower schemes and market linkages. This will stimulate large scale crop and livestock production by the people 
in the catchment areas.

The parks will have delineated areas for agro-industry, technical services and workshops, warehousing/commerce, residential and conferences. The target industries for the park will be processors/manufacturers of products based on the agricultural raw materials available or can be grown within the catchment areas.

The industrial parks will be sitting on 220,217 hectares of land. 

The target processors for the agro-industrial parks are rice mills and rice flour manufacturers, cassava chips, flour, starch and garri producers, banana/plantain flour producers, wood mills, paper pulp mills, wood-based industries, palm oil and palm oil-based products producers, slaughter houses for beef, broiler, pork and related products, dried or picked fruits , fresh and processed vegetables.

The aim of siting the agro-industries and agribusiness in the same location is to help investors gain economies of scale, seamless operations and increased profitability.
The manufacturers and large processors who will be in the agro industrial parks are expected to create between 3000 and 6000 jobs. 

Income will be created for no fewer than 5000 families and an additional 50,000 farm households directly or indirectly.


Written By Nduka Omodon

Nduka Omodon is the Senior Special Assistant (Media) to the Governor of Delta State