The Akwa Ibom State Government in partnership with ECOWAS-EU has flagged-off ‘Small Arms and Light Weapons(SALW) Control, a disarmament programme initiated to train repentant youths in various skills.
The programme tagged ‘Strengthening Peace Security and Stability in West Africa, was declared open by Governor Udom Emmanuel in Uyo on Wednesday.
The programme which is supervised by Leadership Initiative for Transformation and Empowerment (LITE-Africa) and the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) as implementing partners commenced with 150 youths as beneficiaries in Phase 1, drawn from Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo, while venue of the training includes; Delta State, Enugu, FCT and Edo State.
The Governor, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, thanked the repentant youths for heeding to caution and taking the right decision to embrace peace, assuring that Governor Emmanuel, a youth- friendly leader, is poised towards human capacity development and their welfare.
“I really respect you for listening to a peaceful progress-loving hardworking young men centered, God fearing governor.
“During the 2019 campaigns, the governor expressed his desire to make the throng of youths to be engaged in factories, industries or working, it was a thing of concern to him, since he is a man of clear conscience and love for young people.
“I want to thank ECOWAS and LITE Africa for this initiative, I aslo thank Captain Iniobong Ekong, Special Assistant to the Governor on security for his concern, he loves all of you so that in future you become great men and women,” the SSG explained.
The SSG charged them to be of good character during training, urging them to focus and take advantage of the intervention programmes designed to present them with an opportunity through rehabilitation to gain skills that will better their lot.
“Just as you have all started, you are going for training and you are all going there to learn, right now Governor Udom Emmanuel has begun construction of a skill acquisition center in Ikot Adaidem, he is working tirelessly for the place to be ready and well-equipped, there will be various crafts ranging from auto-mechanics, electricals, computer experts, plumbers at least something to give you an income in order to save you from engaging in vices.
“Acquire skills so that you can be at peace with your conscience, so that you can grow and be good men and women, law abiding citizens,” he added.
In his remarks, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Security, Captain Iniobong Ekong, thanked the beneficiaries for giving up arms to embrace peace and acquisition of skills.
Ekong emphasized that the right choices in life will always bring peace and goodness, charging them to encourage others that crime does not pay.
He said, “Encourage others that crime does not pay, you can’t survive in crime for more than a year so whatsoever you see here make good use of it.
“You are going for training ECOWAS-EU and LITE-Africa is going to equip you to start, so it is not the kind of training you attend and start looking for work; as you are coming back they will provide you tools to work with, if you progress you employ people”.
In his remarks, the Executive Director, LITE-Africa, Dr. Joel Bisina, said the project is an initiative designed to reduce the illicit flow, proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the hands of persons who are not authorized to carry weapons.
“What we do in this programme is to talk to young men and women who are in possession of weapons individually or as a group working, we are working with the various state governments to see how we can reduce the proliferation of arms, and in Akwa Ibom State we were able to mob up some arms which were destroyed in December 2019 and those who are here today are those persons who made the choice either as individuals or as a group to drop their arms.
“The programme has as one of its objectives to enhance livelihood and skills development to the individual beneficiaries and microcredit to the individual communities that support the process of disarmament; these are the ones who have decided to trade the path of peace so that they can contribute meaningfully to the society,” he stated.
According to Dr. Bisina, during the process of disarmament, a biometrics exercise was conducted to the repentant youths which was followed by skills mapping to identify their areas of interest adding that various institutions have been identified while they have hired the services of a training coordinator to assist them acquire the necessary skills and create wealth.
The Coordinator of Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM), Dickson Orji, also advised the beneficiaries of the programme to be committed to the training.