By Emmanuel Afonne
Dr John Kennedy Opara, the pioneer Executive Secretary, Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC), has advocated the training of youths on farming and other skills as solutions to the nation’s security challenges.
Opara made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at his Called Servant to Service (CSS) Integrated Farms on Abuja-Keffi Expressway in Nasarawa State.
He urged the Federal Government to conduct a census of unemployed youths in the country and organise skills acquisition training programmes for them in different areas and places, most importantly farming.
He said that the current insecurity in the country carried out mainly by the youths would be a thing of the past if the youths were self-reliant and not dependent on others for survival.
“I want to recommend that every state of the federation must do a census of the unemployed youths starting from the local government areas.
“Let the people come and register and then the government can know the number of people that are unemployed, then they can organise training for them in farming and other skills in different places and areas.
“Some can go into sewing, value addition, farming, hydroponics among others.
“And, when they are trained and equipped, I am telling you that we will have millionaires, who will be independent and we won’t bother about kidnapping and stealing,” Opara said.
According to him, insecurity is the challenge of everybody and not the government alone, and as such, all hands must be on deck to get it solved.
He pointed out that criminality would be gone if the government could address the issue of unemployment.
“I don’t agree with the government sharing money to people; you can never make the best out of them.
“The best way is to train the people, then give them a loan and tie it to what they are doing.
“For instance, if the person is farming one hectare of land, you tell him or her that once he or she harvests, you will take it back; that way, the person is paying back the loan.
“We must do this consistently because there is no free money anywhere; we must change our mentality because mentality affects reality as the government is not meant to give free money,” he said.
Opara commended the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for its intervention programmes as a bank of the Federal Government.
He, however, noted that it could not achieve the Federal Government’s food sustainability target because of a lack of proper monitoring and evaluation.
He, therefore, urged the government to train and empower agricultural extension workers in the 36 states of the federation and FCT with the responsibility of organising and monitoring the farmers.
He also called for the setting up of a department in the Ministry of Agriculture, which would solely be responsible for monitoring, supervision and evaluation of farmers’ activities to ensure loans were paid back when obtained.
Opara further said: “the challenge we have in achieving food sustainability in the country is monitoring, evaluation and supervision.
“Even, if the CBN opens its vault for everybody to take a loan, without monitoring, evaluation and supervision, we will go nowhere.
“So government must go beyond what we are doing now to have a team or department that will be in charge of that,” he said.
According to him, it is not the CBN that should monitor; they cannot because they will only come once in a while. It is a process.
“We have a database of about 4,000 people that graduated from our centre and we give them a computer gadget.
“That gadget is where we load all that we taught you and if there is any difficulty they contact us. So it’s a holistic thing.
“So it’s not about giving a loan, yes, they tried but I can tell you that we won’t be able to achieve the desired result,” he said.
He said that the International Skills Acquisition Centre operated by CSS farms was ready to assist the Federal Government in training youths on farming and other skills to enable them to be self-reliant.
The former NCPC boss said that states like Bauchi, Cross River and Imo had already trained about five thousand of their youths at the centre. (NAN)