By NBF News

The governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko has said that his relationship with labour is very cordial. Speaking during an interactive session with Labour Correspondents, he said that as a result of the warm relationship, he was given the title of comrade governor during the last May Day celebration by the Ondo State Chapter of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC).

Mimiko also spoke on how his administration has been empowering the youths in the state and on other issues

Relationship with Labour
I have a very sound relationship with them. At individual, the leadership and at corporate level, the workers. For one thing I have been in and out of government for a while. I can say to a very large extent that I have a feel of their aspirations.

I have a feel of their expectations from. Over the years, there has been mutual trust between our government and labour. And since we came on board I have tried as much as possible within the limit of our resources to meet these desires and expectations. I can tell you that our relationship is very cordial. Cordial to the extent that at the 2010 May Day, the state chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and its counterpart, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) jointly with the approval of their National Headquarters conferred me the title of a comrade Governor. Though I am not from labour background but I feel that is their own way of expressing appreciation for the achievement recorded so far by our administration.

Tackling unemployment
Like I have said, unemployment is a major challenge especially graduate unemployment. Since we came on board, what we have tried to do is to energise the economy. When the economy is energised I believe we will have more people who will be gainfully employed. Apart from that we have also tried to employ people in the civil service to fill in the gaps that people who have retired from active service created. For an upward of six to eight years there had been embargo on employment which our administration had lifted.

We have employed workers (professionals) in some specific areas such as Architects, Engineers, Administrators etc. And we have created a volunteer corp, not a formal employment as such but for every graduate that is brought in under the volunteer corp earns N12,000 while non graduates earns N10,000 monthly. In the informal sector we have employed over 2000 people too. We are also trying to refurbish some industries.

We allowed the private sector to drive with what we have brought in some rescue fund in form of equity and loan to start with. There is an old tomato factory which we have resuscitated. We have even gone ahead to train people. We have trained and engaged at least 500 people to man the tomato factory which would commence production very soon. They have already started planting tomatoes and they were trained in the most sophisticated irrigation method.

That again has generated employment for our people. Again we are creating a farm settlement in Owore. We are also planing to to engage some youths in animal husbandry, aquaculture, etc. At least about 500 youths will be engaged in our first series of farm settlement. In our programme in the oil sector and housing too, we are also generating employment. Having said all of these, I recognise the fact that we still have a long way to go and that is why we are still sourcing for investors so that we can be able to create more and more jobs for our people.

We are also encouraging people to acquire new skills that will also make them more employable. Just recently we had the first graduation of the first set of people (youths) who have been trained in Information Technology. About 100 of them were trained in computer programming, element of software development, renewable energy and other relevant areas. I believe that we will get there.

We recognise that unemployment is a major challenge and we are dead ready to curb. I was told by the centres that already employers are knocking on their doors wanting to engage these people. The reason is because we have equipped these boy boys and girls with a cotton-edge skills that will make them employable. We will get there. There is no doubt unemployment is a major challenge and we are dead ready to tackle it.

Poverty alleviation
Like I said empowerment as we view it is part of the existing skill acquisitions centres that are all over the state. I have also told you that we are empowering our young ones in the area of modern technology skills. Secondly, we feel that access to micro credit is one way out of poverty for our people. Most of them do not even have the type of collateral that ordinarily the formal banks would ask for. So we have a credit agency that handles that.

Since we came on board we have focused on the vulnerable. One of the most hardworking people in the society are women. Because of that we have decided to put together what we call Small and Medium Investment Empowerment Scheme (SMILES). It is a micro credit for market women. we have disbursed two tranche to ensure that the vision is realised. What is exciting about it is that we gave to trade groups, the tomato sellers……. But this last tranche we have been able to increase on the quantum of money disbursed without any form of collateral.

And we have some societies where individuals within the societies have pledged their properties to be able to access fund from the society. For me that is quintessential.very creative, intelligent and energetic people. So we have leaders of cooperatives staking their properties to be able to access these loans. Government has never lost focus on training and re-training of our people and making credit available for them to be independent and in the next one or two weeks we are going to disburse first set of micro credit in form of grant. For example, for the artisans the fund that we are disbursing is about N280m to a group of people that have never had such privilege from government.

Making people feel the impart of the government is our major concern. We have resuscitate the housing and car loans that has been moribund for years. For those who took car loans at 16 per cent, we have taken off 10 per cent so all that they need to do now is to pay 6 per cent. We payed N1.4 billion as arrears of pension and gratuity. When N1.4 billion naira is injected into an economy, apart from re-energising the economy, it will also empower individuals. The totality of what we are doing is to energise the economy, make available necessary infrastructure and micro credits to make life easy for our people to exploit their potentials.

Programme for the retirees
Though I was not around for a period of two weeks but a month ago I gave approval for the first set of training for retiring officers and even those who have retired too. There are a lot of Permanent Secretaries who had some lectures recently on how to be useful to themselves at retirement. We are going to still engage KPMG to structure out a training exercise that would be beneficial to them after active service. I can tell you that in 2009 alone we spent N143 million for local and overseas training.

For this year we have not spent much but a couple of weeks we will get a report some of the things we want to do. Part of what we did last year was to send all our permanent secretaries to a business school. The target was to expose them to best practices in administration and other things. We will continue to train and retrain our workforce because that is the only way we can get the best from them.

Plans for the people of Ondo
The truth of the matter is that in every polity there is always an initial challenge. If I tell you that it has been easy I would be telling you lies. But the fact of the matter is that we recognise that our people expects a lot from us so we made it a point of duty to see how we can meet their expectations. Even if not all but at least to a large extent. Having said that, our administration has squad up determined people who are willing to serve the masses of our people. We have a vision for our people. Like I told you we are not there yet but I know that if we remain focus by the grace of God definitely we will get there.

One of the major problems we had initially was lack of continuity in government. But within the last three years of our democracy we have been able to do a little more for our people. Most people go into elections as if there would be no other elections but I believe that as we stabilise, people will get to know that there would be another elections.

As time goes on new generation of politicians that would over the time garnered a lot of experience and develop and sharpened their focus will emerge and they are the people that will really make the difference. I have been privileged or lucky to be in public life for quite sometime. I was two times Commissioner, State Secretary, Minister and now a Governor. I have always hoped to sit on the driver's seat where I can use government to impart on the lives of our people.

That is what I am doing and that is what I will continue to do. And as we stabilise in our democracy I am sure more leaders who have the type of experience I have gathered all these years will use it in our democracy to affect lives. I said it to someone somewhere that there is so much creative energy in this country. There is so much resourcefulness in Nigeria. If we can get our electoral process right Nigeria will virtually explode on the world.

China will be a child's play with the potential and capability of Nigerians. Lets get the electoral process right. Let the people elect their own leaders. By the time this is done I am sure we will get our power situation right. We will get our infrastructure right and Nigerians creativity will blossom. I do not have any doubt in my mind that God created Nigeria to be a leader of nations.