Youths and undergraduates of tertiary institutions in Akwa Ibom State have decried the scanty notice the state government gives bursary awards and other requirements that border on the needs and aspirations of youths, while purportedly paying more attention to purchase of expensive vehicles for monarchs, building worship centres and holding Christmas carol.
They ventilated their opinion at a town hall meeting organised by Actionaid and Connect Development, CODE, tagged Youth Organising and Leadership in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State.
Eno Peters from Obot Akara Local Government said: “Government stopped to disburse bursary in 2010. From 2010 to 2019 is a wide gap and Akwa Ibom students have suffered so much because of non-implementation of the bursary.
“Recently, I heard that the governor gave out expensive Special Utility Vehicles, SUVs, to paramount rulers, but critical issues that affect Akwa Ibom students are not given priority attention.”
A student at University of Uyo, UNIUYO, who simply identified herself as Joy, regretted that the state government was yet to keep to its promise and claim of working hand-in-hand, few months ago, with the university management to address incessant robbery attacks in the female hostels.
Another youth, Nkereuwem, condemned the trend of selection of beneficiaries for youth empowerment and employment based on favouritism, political affiliations and ethnicity, which marginalises many youths.
Secretary-General, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, JNAPWDs, Akwa Ibom State, Akaninyene Isidore, who lamented failure of government to implement the draft document designed to tackle discrimination against PWDS in the state, noted that many PWDs undergraduate have dropped out of school since the state government stopped their special scholarship scheme, as well as students annual bursary.
“Before this administration, a lot of us benefited from the bursary. A lot of us, who did not have the capacity to go to the university, benefited from the special scholarship scheme. I am one of the beneficiaries.
“But we hear during yearly budget presentation that budgetary provisions have been made for bursary and scholarship for PWDs. So we want to know if the beneficiaries are from outside Akwa Ibom State”.
Representative of civil society group, Policy Alert, Iniobong Usen, said the complaints by the youths was not surprising because, according to him, the situation stems from the fact that government only implements programmes that it prioritised, whether such programmes were people-oriented or not.
His words: “Even the proposed 2020 budget does not reflect the priorities and aspirations of young people. I will cite examples. Just as the state government budgeted N500 million for students’ bursary, it also budgeted N500 million for the Christmas carol. I can assure you that they will implement carol because that is a top priority of this government.
“This government seems to be very interested in spiritual welfare of Akwa Ibom State, that is why in its magnanimity it decided to build a world-class worship centre worth billions of naira.
“Whereas it only budgeted a paltry sum of N700 million for rural development. That is why we cannot have electricity in our villages, it is not a top priority of this government.”
However, Executive Director, Akwa Ibom State- based Foundation for Civic Education, Human Rights and Development Advanced, FoCERaDA, Mr. Clifford Thomas, said: “It did not start from this administration.
“It was inherited from past administrations. The budget process and implementation are shrouded in secrecy; it is like a witchcraft arrangement.
“From the level when the proposals are made to the implementation level, the young people are not carried along; Akwa Ibom people are not carried along.
”Government sets the exams, it has the marking scheme, sits for the exams, scores itself and claims that the budget achieved 90 percent success, whereas it actually underperformed.
“Government must get the students and youths involved from the budget proposal stage to enable it understand their needs. Again, if the Ministry of Education cannot persuade government to pay bursary, it means it has failed.”