Dr. Okonkwo has also called on the federal and state governments to use the Igbo apprenticeship system to address the challenge of youth unemployment in the country.
He made the call while giving an address at the 2022 edition of the All Market Conference, organised by the Ndigboamaka Progressive Traders Association in Lagos, where he said the Igbo apprenticeship scheme has the capacity to mop up the army of unemployed youths and engage them meaningfully .
While encouraging traders of the 58 major markets in Lagos, Dr. Okonkwo advised them to open new avenues of partnership with governments in order to effect lasting changes that will transform their business environment.
According to him, being a trader is in no way degrading and should command some respect as everyone who has something to sell is a trader including himself since he trades in tickets for flights
On the apprenticeship programme, he urged the federal and state governments have the capacity to enter into agreements with traders and other tradesmen to provide tutelage to youths and reduce unemployment.
He said the scheme, which had proven to be a success among the Igbo people and had helped them to create wealth, can be replicated across the country with government providing the needed guarantees for start up funds.
“I call on governments across Nigeria to explore the benefits of the apprenticeship system practiced by the Igbo people and use it to address youth unemployment and fight criminality.
“What it takes is a policy on the placement of willing youths in businesses that will take them through tutelage for a period of time while government empowers them with start up funds upon completion”, he said.
According to him, unemployment has become the biggest contributor to insecurity across the country adding that for government to effectively tackle the situation, it must begin to think outside the box to see other ways of addressing the problem.
“When youths are meaningfully engaged”, Okonkwo said, “they rarely have time to engage in criminal activities”.
The United Nigeria Airline boss further said providing guarantees for start up funds for youths will be a much needed incentive to encourage their participation in apprenticeship.
Okonkwo, who in 2020 instituted a research at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Business School into how to revitalise the Igbo apprenticeship scheme and reposition it to become the new model in tackling unemployment, said the report of the study, which was publicly presented in October 2021, should form part of working and policy document of government on addressing unemployment in the country.
He said: “In October 2021, the report of the study which I instituted at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Business School into the Igbo apprenticeship scheme was presented at the university in Awka.
“The report made far reaching recommendations s on how to reinvent the scheme and position it as the new framework for addressing unemployment in the country.
“I therefore believe that it has now become necessary for governments across the country to obtain copies of the study from the university to see how they can tap into the recommendations to develop new policies that would help them to tackle unemployment and secure our states”, he stated.
Also speaking, the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo Olu agreed with the United Nigeria Chairman and said that the state governor is doing its best to develop key infrastructure in the state.
Reeling out some major project the government has embarked on and the ones on its radar, Sanwo Olu listed places like the Old Navy Town Road, Ojo-Badagry, Buba Marwa Road among others.