By Yakubu Busari, Jos
She said the attention of Management of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) has been drawn to an article by Messrs Onimisi Alao and Ben Atonko entitled: Uproar in Jos as the ITF moves Headquarters to Abuja, which was published in the Daily Trust of Monday, July 06, 2015.
The ITF, as a matter of policy, refrains from reacting to every error by the media owing to its belief that given the pressures of their job, mistakes would always occur.
On occasions, however, we are constrained to correct glaring errors or misinformation that is deliberately targeted at portraying the Fund and its functionaries in bad light. This latest outing by the Daily Trust falls in this category.
From the headline, it will be clear to every discerning reader that the article was a hatchet job which ultimate aim was to sow discord and cast the Director-General in very bad light.
The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defines ‘uproar’ as a ‘situation in which people shout and make a lot of noise because they are angry or upset about something, or a situation in which there is a lot of public criticism and angry argument about something that somebody has said or done.’
Both usages do not justify the uproar suggested by the headline and neither do the body of the article, which runs more than a page qualifies for its usage. What is clear therefore is calculated attempt by the writers and their sponsors to manufacture uproar where there is none.
What one finds especially strange is that an article about an institution that is concerned with human capacity development would find itself on the Property pages of the Newspaper.
The obvious conclusion that can be drawn from this curious placement is the desperation to run the article despite the lack of appropriate space, which warranted the displacement of more relevant materials on the Property pages.
For those close to the ITF, Daily Trust’s publication may not come as surprise as it follows an emerging pattern or campaign from some sections of the media who are fronting for some faceless people and interests that are determined to impugning and running down the ITF DG, Dr (Mrs.) Juliet Chukkas-Onaeko, MFR, despite her sterling achievements only after one year in office. Under Dr Chukkas-Onaeko, who assumed duty on 19th May, 2015, the ITF has witnessed tremendous changes and recorded marked achievements more than in any comparable period in its history.
Since assumption, the DG has refocused ITF training from generic to technical, vocational training with emphasis on equipping young Nigerians with skills for employability and entrepreneurship.
Under the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP) 74,000 young Nigerians were trained in various skills, including welding and fabrication, ICT, Autotronics, Fish farming, Yam, Cassava and Rice processing, Tilling, POP, Plumbing, Tailoring and Garment making, Cell Phone and Generator repairs just as 2,300 Nigerians graduated under the Technical Skills Development Programme (TSDP). The programme is in partnership with NECA. Most graduands secured automatic employment on completion. Others have established businesses of their own and are doing well.
The DG has also pushed the ITF into several collaborations including a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Cement Technology Institute of Nigeria for training of artisans and technicians in the construction industry. So far, 350 youths each from the 36 states and FCT have undergone training in different skills areas. Similarly, the Fund also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigerian Institute of Building in order to train artisans to curb incidences of rampant building collapse.
To ensure that the ITF and similar institutions impart need-based training, the ITF under Dr Chukkas-Onaeko is in collaboration with the United Nations Development Organisation (UNIDO) to conduct a Skills Gap Assessment.
The report of the Survey, which is the first of its kind in the country, will evaluate Nigeria’s skills needs based on projected investments in the economy is expected later this year.
Expected outcomes of the survey is a list of skills needed in Nigeria in the next 5 to 10 years and identification of sectors that will be major job creators within the same period. When received, the report will also assist institutions in Nigeria to maximize their lean resources as we will tailor our trainings to projected openings.
The ITF is also partnering National Automotive Council to establish Automotive Parts Production and Training Centres. This will lessen current Nigerian dependence on imported parts and will also create avenue for employment as well as reduce capital flights. The DG has also acquired 4 mobile workshops from SENAI Brazil, to extend training services to all nooks and crannies of the country. This complements existing ISTCs.
The ITF workforce has also benefitted from the tenure of Dr Chukkas-Onaeko. She has sponsored 176 staff on different training programmes overseas, 879 on local short courses and 64 to different institutions of higher learning while she has also effected significant improvements in all aspects of staff welfare. Although not exhaustive, they suggest the direction the DG wants to take the ITF.
Achieving most of these requires that the DG has to continually be on the move to engage all partners. It is a yoke that all DG’s have had to bear. It is especially so for the incumbent as the ITF is now the secretariat of two critical federal Government programmes-the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) and the Presidential Jobs Board. That she is often in Abuja because of these commitments should not be construed as an attempt to relocate the Headquarters.
She clearly dismissed such suggestions during her visit to the former Governor of Plateau state, Da Jonah Jang and during her several outings, one of which the writers copiously quoted.
Even if the DG’s denials are not enough, ITF’s investments on the Plateau, which have continued under the incumbent DG should be enough to dispel such rumours. In addition, relocating will require an amendment of the ITF Act and nobody has initiated processes for such amendment.
Most of these are common knowledge and should be familiar to the writers especially Mr Alao, who is the Plateau State Daily Trust Correspondent and has covered the ITF extensively.
What can deduced therefore is an attempt by the writers and their sponsors to cause disaffection between the DG and the people of Plateau State on one hand and put the DG on a collision course with the new Government on the Plateau.
Whatever the motivations, it does not bode well for any society when its respected media organs are taken control of, and employed for dishonourable purposes. Societies are better for it when journalists adhere to known ethics of the profession. Only by adhering to such ethics would the Fourth Estate of the Realm perform its role effectively.