The Rivers State Ministry of Employment Generation and Empowerment has commenced the empowerment of unemployed Rivers youth through its Strategic Waste Recycling Programme.
The programme, which enjoys the support of the State Ministry of Environment and the Environmental Sanitation Authority (RSESA), involves the payment of N1000.00 for every 100 empty plastic bottles or metal cans returned to the Employment Ministry by an unemployed youth in the state.
Addressing newsmen shortly after the programme’s kick-off in Port Harcourt on Friday, the commissioner in charge of the ministry, Dr. Ipalibo Harry, said that the exercise is aimed at engaging unemployed young men in the face of very limited availability of white-collar jobs.
“Part of my job is to ensure that we keep our young men engaged in one form of work or the other; and it looks to me like the opportunities available for white-collar jobs are very, very slim. For that reason, the state government has mandated that we do whatever that is possible to keep our young men engaged. So, this came in necessarily to assist our young men by way of empowering them while at the same time solving the environmental problems that we experience in this part of the country,” he said.
Besides the economic gains to the youth, the programme is also aimed at reducing the incidence of flooding in the state.
According to the commissioner, the state governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, has approved that flooding can actually be reduced in the state by taking away the plastics that are found in the drains and on the streets; and because a good number of our young men are idle, the thinking to get their minds engaged in picking these recyclables and exchanging such for money became very necessary.
He described the programme as being strategic in the sense that it is also intended to domesticate the practice of waste segregation whereby people establish different receptacles within their homes for putting degradable and non-degradable wastes.
“Over time, the Ministry of Environment has been struggling to teach our people to do this, but by this conduct you will see that if somebody knows that he is going to get money from plastics at home, he will begin to separate such from the degradable waste. And gradually you will see that the culture of waste segregation from home will begin to grow.”
Harry, therefore, urged unemployed youths in the state to take advantage of the scheme to generate income for themselves while waiting for better job openings. He advised such persons to take their collections to Plot 11, Sani Abacha Road, near Elkan Terrace Hotel, Port Harcourt, where officials of his ministry will be on hand to attend to them between 10.00am and 2.00pm daily.
He said that the programme will continue as long as there are empty plastic bottles and cans to be taken out of the streets, but that his ministry intends to undertake a review of the exercise in March.
Some of the young men and women who received instant cash payments after turning in their recyclables expressed delight at the ministry’s youth empowerment initiative.
One of them, Bapakaye Wariboko, said that he heard about the programme over the radio and then mobilised some holidaying school kids whom he paid over N70,000 to gather the 16,300 plastic bottles from which he had just earned N163,000.
The political science student of the University of Port Harcourt who hopes to realise about N1.5 million from the programme, said that the money will be used mainly to pay school fees and also procure textbooks at the resumption of classes after the ongoing ASUU strike.
Amos Taribo of Degema Local Government Area is another beneficiary. He learnt about the programme through a friend. The 450 plastic bottles he submitted were mainly pickings from bars and restaurants.
Other participants who spoke with The Tide while awaiting their turns during the counting process also lauded the scheme but decried the use of manual counting method instead of a time-saving weighing machine.
Over 280,000 empty plastic bottles and cans were handed in before 2.00pm on that day.