The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, has said that he could go hungry in a bid to empower youths under his jurisdiction.
He said this during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the House of Oduduwa and the Bank of Industry (BoI) in his palace on Sunday.
Among the features of the MoU is the provision of N1 billion loan at an interest rate of 7.5 per cent to the youths.
Ooni emphasised the need to get youths empowered, saying that was necessary for the nation’s continuous growth.
He subsequently challenged monarchs across the country to be dedicated to developing youths in their communities.
He said: “I won’t mind going hungry to empower the youths. If the youths of today are empowered, many generations will benefit from them and poverty will be abolished.
“Today’s event is another giant step in the history of Ile-Ife. We are moulding future of our youths in the areas of agriculture and agro-allied industry.
“I put a challenge to other monarchs to engage in community partnership. We should stop relying on government. There are so many initiatives that community leaders can tap into. Community leaders should go into partnership with multinational companies and financial institutions to benefit their people.
“This N1bn funding will obviously help the youth of the entire House of Oduduwa and beyond. This is a very good template that should be emulated by others. As monarchs, we should think of what we can do for our people and support government in its empowerment moves.
“Government at all levels should set up a body that will particularly focus on local contents initiative. The body should also be responsible for quality assurance and control. With this, over 60 per cent contracts will have local input.”
While the Ooni signed for the House of Oduduwa; Acting Managing Director of BoI, Mr. Waheed Olagunju, endorsed the MoU on behalf of the financial institution.
Olagunju explained that the initiative was aimed at reducing youth unemployment in communities.
According to him, substantial part of the loan will be disbursed to women and businesses that show high sustainability.
He said, “We have been partnering with multinational and corporate companies, but today we are collaborating with traditional rulers. These are people who have access to the grass root. Partnering with them is a way of democratising entrepreneurship. We identify areas in which communities have comparatove advantages and invest in them.
“The beneficiaries will be selected using the world best practices. For this edition, about 15 to 20 percent of them will be those who deal in local products. We are working with the entrepreneurship centre of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Applications are expected to be submitted and a joint committee of BoI team, the Oduduwa House and OAU team would access it.
“They are to be monitored by members of the committee and elders, especially the traditional rulers. We estimate that about 5,000 youths will benefit from this.”
Chief Executive Officer of Hephzibah Network, Olamide Awosunle, estimated that with the loan Ile-Ife would begin to supply food to South-West states.
“This is to complement the Agro-prenuership Summit and it will help to grow Ile-Ife and south Western Nigeria. In a short time, Ile-Ife will be feeding the whole nation and South West states especially will depend on Ile-Ife to get food,”Olamide who is the project director said.