BEVERLY HILLS, March 19, (THEWILL) – No fewer than 150 repentant militants from Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo local government areas in Akwa Ibom State, have been posted out to undergo skills acquisition and training in various parts of the country.
The training, THEWILL reports, involves collaboration by the European Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Leadership Initiative for Transformation and Empowerment (LITE-Africa), with the support of the Akwa Ibom State Government.
Addressing the beneficiaries made up of repentant gangsters and youth before their departure, Governor Udom Emmanuel, represented by the Secretary to the State government, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, commended them for accepting the amnesty by the state government and willingly relinquishing their arms to the police.
It would be recalled that the EU, ECOWAS, LITE-Africa in collaboration with the Akwa Ibom State Government and the relevant security agencies, after the disarmament, had conducted arms destruction exercises in November 2019.
This exercise witnessed the destruction of about 460 small arms and 1,000 rounds of ammunition recovered under the Civilian Disarmament Initiative in the state.
The Governor lauded the committee for coming to partner with the state government to end youth restiveness, insecurity and other criminal vices in the state in addition to providing sustainable means of livelihood through the intervention programme for the hitherto illegal arms carriers.
He charged the trainees to accord seriousness to the skills acquisition training and announced robust financial support for their upkeep.
Speaking, the Executive Director of LITE Africa Mr Joel Bisina, who spoke on behalf of EU-ECOWAS, said in a bid to promote peace, reduce armed conflicts, and small arms proliferation in the country, LITE-Africa and the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) with support from the EU and ECOWAS were working to strengthen efforts aimed at preventing further proliferation and trafficking of illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW) in Nigeria.
Bisina disclosed further that over 41 training institutions had been engaged across the country waiting to receive the 150 young people from Akwa Ibom and the same number from Cross River, bringing the total number to 300.
He explained that the training which had various durations would be intensive, appealing to the beneficiaries to show commitment and discipline throughout the period of the programme for the sake of their future and families.
He assured them of adequate provisions for their needs throughout the period of training, with plans to equip successful trainees with start-up parks for them to become self reliant and employers of labour in future.
Addressing the group, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Security Matters to the Governor, Capt. Iniobong Ekong (Rtd.), thanked Udom for making adequate provision for payment of the trainees’ weekly allowances within the duration of the programme.
He also commended the youths for what he described as “choosing life. You chose life, that’s why the government of Akwa Ibom State gave you life. I want to thank you, particularly because it’s not easy to believe in a system you’re not part of.”
On his part, the National Project Coordinator of the Nigerian Component of the ECOWAS-EU Small Arms Project, Dr. Dickson Orji, said the 150, being the first batch, would undergo training on the skills of their choices.
According to him, the programme embodied skills acquisition and attitudinal training, vocational training, business development, training career development, agricultural business, greenhouse farming among others.
He said the beneficiaries, upon completion, would be provided with starter packs and guided to start their own businesses.
Orji noted that the Nigerian component of the EU-ECOWAS small arms under the current pilot phase focused on the seven states of Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Cross River and Akwa Ibom.
Speaking on behalf of the beneficiaries, Samuel Akpan, an indigene of Ukanafun council area, expressed gratitude to the state government, the foreign collaborators and their partners in Nigeria for the opportunity given to them to better their lives and enhance their living standard.
He promised to justify the confidence reposed in them and maximise the opportunity given to them by the state government.