BY SAMUEL AJALA
When the skill acquisition centre in Oye Ekiti was established by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), the goal was to provide jobs for the unemployed youths of Ekiti state, but that aspiration never came to fruition, and these days, the facility only serves as a maize farm.
In October 2021 when TheCable visited, Ajayi Idowu, one of the community leaders, said hopes of many unemployed youths had been dashed since the centre was abandoned. Some of the youths, Idowu said, have now taken up criminal activities, citing lack of employment opportunities as an excuse.
He explained that if the centre had been functioning, it would not only have provided job opportunities for youths in the community, but also those from other parts of the state.
HOPE ONCE LIVED HERE
For Ogunyemi Ajiboye, an indigene of the community who has been jobless since he graduated from the university in 2017, the centre, if functional, could have been a launchpad for his career.
The Economics graduate said he has written many job applications and attended several interviews, but nothing has been forthcoming.
“That the centre is not functioning has been giving us a lot of concerns in the community and has rendered a lot of us jobless,” he said.
“The rate of employment in Ekiti state is really poor, and the reason is that in Ekiti, we have no factories, what we have are hotels and block-making industries.”
Ekiti is 19th on states unemployment data of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The unemployment rate in the state stood at 32.21 percent at the end of 2020. Per the Q4 2020 unemployment report, 467,025 persons in the state were unemployed out of 1.45 million in the labour force.
Temitope Ogunmoroti, another graduate from the community, has been without a job since he left school. Unemployed for about ten years, he explained how he has been struggling for daily bread and survival.
“I’m married with two children. I am an applicant. I’m from a poor family. I strive to struggle but nothing. I’m still struggling and hustling,” he said.
“I’ve not been employed for ten years. My experience on employment is just that we see that it’s only people that are connected that are getting employed.
“I know that there’s a National Directorate of Employment centre in Oye-Ekiti but it’s not in operation. Even the whole place is dilapidated already. If it’s functioning, maybe I would have gotten a skill that can fetch me another employment.”
Ojo Feyisayo had high expectations when the centre was launched in 2011. The Health Science graduate had hoped to get an opportunity through the centre, but when this didn’t happen, and no other job was in the pipeline, she resorted to small-scale trading to enable her to feed her family.
“I’m an indigene of Oye-Ekiti. I have searched for a job but when I didn’t know where to search anymore, I had to start my petty trade,” she said.
“It’s possible that I might have gotten a job if the centre in Oye was working.”
The experience is the same with Ajibola Popoola, who lamented that the abandoned state of the project didn’t only affect his community but other neighbouring towns.
“If the government had done the right thing, a lot of people would have benefited in carpentry, bakery, shoemaking at the centre,” he said.
ABANDONED, LEFT FOR MAIZE FARMING
There was no official or security guard at the facility when TheCable visited. The centre, which has three buildings, is gradually being overtaken by bushes while a portion has been converted to farmland.
One of the buildings, TheCable observed, has been put to use by a woman who appeared homeless and had found an abode there.
The woman said the roof of the second building was removed by a heavy wind several months ago.
LAND FOR THE CENTRE ‘FORCEFULLY ACQUIRED’
Segun Ajayi, a farmer who claimed to own the land where the centre is built, accused the community of giving the land he inherited from his father to the federal government without giving him due compensation.
Ajayi, who has been in a legal tussle with the federal government for about 10 years, said the court recently asked the federal government to compensate him before the centre can be completed and run effectively.
“There is a case on this land but I have won it in court. If the government wants to put something in a land, they will invite the state government who will, in turn, invite the community. Then the community will invite the family of the people who own the land,” he told TheCable.
“I have been dragging the land with the government for many years now. My lawyer is in Abuja and he has been fighting for me. The whole land is 2.9 acres and the court has asked them to settle with me. What I am expecting is money.
“Do they want me to go and steal while some people are enjoying themselves? They demolished my cocoa plantation and everything. It’s the government and our people that make people wicked. When you acquire somebody’s land, you pay them for compensation.”
‘FUNDING IS PART OF THE PROBLEM’
Michael Oluwole Ademolaju, the Oloye of Oye-Ekiti, said funding issues also contributed to why the centre has remained in a state of abandonment.
The traditional ruler said there has been a poor relationship between the government and the contractor.
He said the construction slowed down for some years, but he claimed that officials had now resumed work, although TheCable did not see any sign of ongoing construction or renovation at the centre.
“Let me just point out that the structure is dilapidated and once it’s commissioned, people will start streaming down to come and learn a trade,” he said.
On the alleged forceful acquisition of the property, the traditional ruler admitted that the community gave out the land to the government. He also confirmed that there is a form of compensation to be paid to the landowners.
“Look, the community gave out the land and the federal government took the land to start first and they still have construction,” he said.
“Like any other place throughout the federation, the government owns the land. They have not been paid, by the time the payment is ready, the government will pay everybody. There is no serious litigation, it was petitioned and the petition didn’t stop the contract.”
EKITI NDE KEEPS MUM
When our reporter reached out to Mustapha Kayode, coordinator of NDE in Ekiti, to enquire about the state of the skill acquisition centre, he said he could not release any information unless there is a directive from the national headquarters.
“You know in the state, we can’t give you any information unless there is a letter from Abuja. And if you need any information as regards that centre, go to our head office,” he said.
However, an official of the NDE — who doesn’t want to be named for fear of reprimand — blamed the “dispute between the federal government and the landowner as the cause of the abandoned state of the centre”.
“It would have been in use but there is a dispute,” the official said.
“The only problem on that land is the dispute that is there and he (landowner) is demanding compensation from the federal government and they are working on it. The federal government has done many things on that land. Maybe at any moment from now, the compensation will be paid.”
Upon its establishment in 2011, Abubakar Mohammed, the then NDE director-general, had boasted that the centre was established in line with the purpose of creating 20,000 jobs in four years for people in the state.
But ten years later, not a single job has been created, not a single youth has been empowered, and not a single person has been lifted out of poverty through the centre.
This report is supported by OSIWA, under the Campus Civic Media Campaign Project of Cable Foundation, in partnership with TheCable
Source: Policy Radar