Mr Oduduobong Ndiok, one of the beneficiaries of Ibom 3000 project training apprentices in his shoe-making shop.

Itoro Bassey

During a visit to PAPZESHOES AND LEATHER WORKS located at #20 park road, by Itam Police Divisional Headquarters, in Uyo capital city on a Wednesday afternoon, some elated workers, young men and women, were seen making fashionable footwear. Two other employees were getting together packaging materials, shoe boxes, laces, et cetera, and putting finishing touches to trendy shoes already made for gents, ladies, boys, girls and children.

The venture is owned by Mr Oduduobong Ekpenyong Ndiok, a native of Ikot Offiong-Ibesit, Oruk Anam local government area.

Mr Ndiok is a beneficiary of the Akwa Ibom State Government’s Ibom 3000 Project. The Ibom 3000 project is one of the youth-focused skills training and entrepreneurship promotion programme of Governor Udom Emmanuel administration. He was one of the nano, micro and small scale business owners who were trained on business management and marketing, and given a business expansion grant. Two years on, he said the Ibom 3000 project has greatly enhanced his business skills and marketing performance.

“I got information about the Ibom 3000 Project on Facebook. Out of curiosity, and because I believe so much in the Dakkada philosophy of Governor Udom Emmanuel, I was inspired to go for it. I accessed the form online, filled it and I was selected. Together with others in the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) category, we had three to four weeks training at Ibom Hall, specifically on how to develop our competencies necessary for individual and organizational efficiency and productivity as well as career growth. My colleagues and I were awarded certificates on completion of the training. And all of us were given a take home package of N100,000”, Mr Ndiok, a graduate of Maritime Academy, Oron said.

His commendation for the entrepreneurship project started in 2021, anchored by the Ministry of Trade and Investment with the aim to build and improve the capacity of youths selected across the 31 local government areas of the state in diverse vocational, technical, entrepreneurial and managerial skills in oil and gas, agribusiness, ICT and SMEs, spotlights its huge success. The project is a critical component of the job and wealth creation agenda of the Emmanuel-led administration captured in its 8-point completion agenda.

There was no doubt that the skills acquired during the several weeks of training was well conceived and delivered, seeing the high spirits of beneficiaries during the graduation ceremony of the first batch of participants in Uyo in August, 2022. Critic could not fault this particular endeavour because it centred on career development and job skills acquisition which is most sought after considering prevailing youth unemployment in the State. And there is no doubt that the N100,000 (and above) seed funds has clearly assisted the beneficiaries to maximize their potential and they are already attaining their strategic business objectives.

Ndiok thanked the state government for the project while narrating how the training has positively impacted his shoe-making business.

Small businesses in Akwa Ibom leveraging on Ibom 3000 project
Ndiok displaying footwear made in his workshop.

“When I started, the acceptability and patronage of handmade shoes was low. But in the last two years, the industry has changed. We have so many people now having interest in shoemaking, and I also ensure that I produce fine and quality shoes and leather works. There’s growth in my business. If you looked at this business about a year ago, it was not like this. I injected the N100,000 into my business and it’s worth it. The important thing is that I enjoy what am doing. Social media is my platform for publicity, and I make more than 80 % of my sales through social media”.

The narrative is also changing for the other beneficiaries – those who enrolled for the oil and gas component of the programme. They were trained at the Oil & Gas Academy in Nyadiong, Mkpat Enin local government area, in skills including, fitting, rigging, iron bending, welding, crane operation, fork-lifting, scaffolding, and catering, among others,.

Different beneficiaries of the project are practicing what they learned, some as freelancers while some have started their own businesses. Imeofon Inyang, for example, works with BlockMay Limited as a Mobile Developer, is doing great exploits in the ICT industry. Mr. Hanson Johnson, Founder/CEO of Start Innovation Hub, and Ecosystem Director at Innovation support Network Nigeria, whose company was one of the implementing partners to the Ibom 3000 Project handling the ICT component, disclosed that the training was hands-on, project-based together with virtual support for beyond the bell assistance to enhance effectiveness.

“I still remember when the then Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Barr. Prince Akpabio, reached out to us and asked what magic we use to be so remarkable at what we do at Start Innovation Hub. My response was that we are focusing on using innovative solutions to solve our most pressing challenges with our limited resources. He asked a follow up question, ‘name one of the challenges that you are solving let me see whether it is what brought me?’ I responded, unemployability among young people, and we have over 200 verifiable success stories to share.

“The trainees (of Ibom 3000 project) had mentors and it wasn’t really anything new because this is what we practice already in the hub but we had the opportunity to build the capacity of more young people and make them employable”, said Mr Johnson who had also served as Country Mentor to Google Developers in Nigeria.

Johnson said emphatically that the beneficiaries of Ibom 3000 Project are not liabilities to anyone today, rather, they have moved from their entry level job positions to better offers and are doing well for themselves while contributing to the development of the state.

It is evident that the state government has spent a lot of money in impacting the lives of youths as business owners and emerging entrepreneurs in the state. The state government under Governor Udom Emmanuel was proactive, innovative and foresighted in coming up with previous youths-centred programmes such as the “My Entrepreneurship Goals Programme” (MEGP) which focused on strengthening start-ups and the growing business community by training beneficiaries in basic business tools, ICT, and entertainment, while providing them access to funding which they require to succeed in life global market.

As a kind public official, Governor Emmanuel has shown the humane nature that informs his choices in public policy execution. He places premium on the acquisition of digital skills through these trained and equiped entrepreneurs. The state government is doing more and more. In August 2022, the Directorate of Marketing and Brand Management announced an upgrade programme for Digipreneurs tagged “Dakkada Digital Skills Training 1.0” for entrepreneurs who had been previously trained in the My Entrepreneurship Goals Programme, listing areas of focus to include web development, digital marketing, graphics design, storytelling, social media marketing, as well as photography, videography and content curation in the global marketplace.

December last year, 100 youths who participated in the second phase of the Dakkada Digital Skills-(ICT software) development in cloud services and network, data science and analytics, and web application development (Front end and back end) were presented with starter packs containing laptops embedded with relevant softwares and applications. In addition, they will receive a cash grant of N200,000 each from the government through the Ministry of Labour and Manpower Planning, the coordinating Ministry handling the programme.

The Ibom 3000 Project, just like the other youths-centred programmes of the state government is a good promise kept. As the saying goes, “the taste of the pudding is in the eating”, the beneficiaries are savouring the sweetness of the scheme which is now in it’s third phase.