Participants of the Delta State Skills, Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) disrupted Governor Ifeanyi Okowa's handout of the starter-packs ceremony to the second batch of 2015 STEP graduates in Asaba on Monday.
Over 2000 participants, who were mainly youths drawn from the three senatorial districts of the State, top government officials as well as invited guests, attended the ceremony. All efforts to calm the situation by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Festus Ovie Agas, Commissioner for Information, Patrick Ukah, Commissioner for Women Affairs, Omoshola Williams, and Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Charles Aniagwu, proved abortive.
Trouble started when the already charged-up youths embarked on a protest after sighting Mr. Okowa and his entourage step into the arena.
According to the protestors, the starter-packs given to them were incomplete and therefore broke the State governor’s promises to them when the program kicked off a few months back.
Upon seeing the governor and his team enter the venue, the SSG, Mr. Agas, the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Ukah, the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs. Williams, and other aides attempted to bring the situation under control but failed.
The aggrieved youths rained abuses on the governor and his team with name-calling and chanted, “We no go agree ooo, we no go agree. Wayo Okowa we no go agree oooo, we no go agree.” They said that they need the complete starter-pack to enable them test-run their work.
The youths also complained that the transport fares have not been given to them, as some of them came from Burutu, Bomadi and far away riverine areas of the State. They added that the said N3,500 and N5,000 purportedly promised to be given to them would not be enough to bring them to their various destinations.
Describing the incomplete starter-packs, one youth said, “It is just a ladder, an empty toolbox and a drilling machine that is on ground. We need laptops for auto-card electrical design, swage complete toolboxes, PPE and other safety equipment, including computers for a proper working environment."
SaharaReporters observed that as the youth protest began to grow, the Commissioner for Economic Planning and the person in charge of the program, Eric Eboh, and their teams quickly brought tools from different places to complete the toolboxes and other starter-packs.
"For us to test run our work, we need a generating set, and the toolbox is not a comprehensive one, which is what we were told would be given to us. The drilling machine, we cannot use it without light. Those were our submissions,” one youth said.
Addressing the aggrieved youths, the governor lamented the action of the protestors.
"Starter-packs may be given and may not be given. In the first instance, it is important that we understand that it is not under compulsion that there must be a starter-pack following the training. I also believe that when the starter-packs are being given, it may not be exactly what you want and it is obvious from what I have seen. If you make your request as a demand, I am not under compulsion to do so. So don’t believe that by acting up it will make you get what you are asking for," Mr. Okowa angrily stated.