Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), European Union (EU) and Akwa Ibom State Government have teamed up on ‘Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Control, a disarmament programme initiated to train repentant militant youths in various skills.
The programme christened ‘Strengthening Peace Security and Stability in West Africa, was declared open by Governor Udom Emmanuel in Uyo, the state capital.
A leading Non-Governmental Organization, Leadership Initiative for Transformation and Empowerment(LITE-Africa) and the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) are implementing partners which is commencing with 150 youths as beneficiaries in Phase 1, drawn from Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo, while venue of the training includes; Delta, Enugu, Edo States and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) respectively.
Represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, the governor commended the repentant armed youths for accepting the olive branch and embracing peace.
He said, “I really respect you for listening to a peaceful progress-loving hardworking young men centred, 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 also 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.
“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 centre in Ikot Adaidem. He is working tirelessly for the place to be ready and well-equipped.
There will be various crafts ranging from auto-mechanic, electrical, 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”.
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.
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”, he said.
For his part, Executive Director, LITE-Africa, Dr Joel Bisina, said the project was an initiative designed to reduce the illicit flow, the 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”, he said
He added, “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 society”.
Bisina explained that during the process of disarmament a biometrics exercise was conducted to the repentant youths which were 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 to acquire the necessary skills and create wealth.
The coordinator of the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM), Dickson Orji, also advised the beneficiaries of the programme to be committed to the training.