By Lucy Ogalue
The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) has awarded start-up kits to some Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and other entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.
The Director-General of SMEDAN, Mr Charles Odii, announced the gesture on Friday in Abuja.
Odii said that the empowerment was done under the National Business Skills Development Initiative (NBSDI) of the agency.
He restated the Federal Government’s commitment to ensuring an inclusive government that leaves no one behind, especially the youth, women and PWDs.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that no fewer than 55 persons were trained and awarded certificates and start-up kits in the Federal Capital Territory.
Of the number, 35 who trained in fashion designing received industrial machines and 10 participants, who trained in catering, received mixers, gas cylinders and an industrial oven each.
The participants, who trained in leather works, were also equipped with the necessary machines for their business.
The training is expected to run concurrently in 13 states of the federation, with 55 participants in each state, totalling 715 to be empowered by SMEDAN.
The SMEDAN boss also said that the government acknowledged the importance of small businesses to national development and would do all in its power to support them.
He said: “India and China changed their economies because they focused on people like you, the small businesses.
“This administration, we are not paying lip service to SMEs development, and that is why we are doing all of these today and much more that are lined up.
“We understand times are challenging, so what we have done is to reduce the cost of acquiring this knowledge and skill and the cost of acquiring the equipment.”
He further urged them not to sell the kits given to them but utilise them and ensure to empower others around them to create more jobs for Nigerians.
Odii said: “55 people were trained. If each participant employed just five persons each in the next six months, 275 more jobs would be created only from this training.
“When you create jobs, you will reduce the high rate of violence in our society.
“So, play your part, put the knowledge you have acquired to action and we will support you.
“The Minister has also committed, and I will hold him to it, that as many who create jobs and employ people, I will make sure they get more support, that is the only way we will arrest poverty.”
He charged them to be good ambassadors of the agency by preaching the good things the government is doing, creating more jobs to reduce unemployment and insecurity in the country.
He also called for more collaborations both locally and internationally to enable the agency to reach out to more states and more Nigerians.
Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Youth, Mr Ayodele Olawande, who presented the items and certificates to the participants, urged them to ensure that they became employers of labour.
He said: “55 people can turn this country around if we are determined.
“So, let each of you try to train at least 10 other people before the next six months.
“Imagine the multiplier effect it would have, if these persons you have trained train additional five others each?
“And there is going to be a reward for participants who are able to do this,” Olawande said.
He emphasised the importance of every Nigerian youth acquiring at least two skills, rather than waiting or depending on white-collar jobs.
He said: “If a productive youth has two or more skills, we would have advanced more than where we are today.
“Also, it will be a crime for any one local government in this country not to have a product to sell to people. Let each state start producing something.
“If 18 Local Governments in Ondo State, for instance, are producing something and are exchanging that with other Local Governments, before you know it, they will be exchanging with different states.
“So, we are going to ‘no skills, no nature and no products, no nature’, and that is why we are here to partner with SMEDAN to work things out to make a better nation.”
An awardee from the PWD community, Mr Adero Umar, thanked SMEDAN and the government for the opportunity provided for them to be part of the training.
Umar said: “I am happy for this opportunity and the materials in leather works, which I have received today.
“I will not roam the streets begging because I have acquired a skill and will be able not only to start my own shoe business but employ people like me to join me in my business.”
Also, Ashiru abdullahi, another PWD and already a fashion designer, thanked the agency, saying the industrial sewing machine he got would enable him to expand his business.
Miss Okeoghene Akaeva, a caterer, said she was happy for the opportunity to learn a skill and also excited about the kits.
“Even though we were told we would be given the items, it still came as a surprise to me and I am very happy.
“I thank the agency and Federal Government and pray they have the means to continue the programme so that more people can benefit from it. (NAN)
Edited by Sam Oditah