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Audu Maikori: Creating Room For Growth

AMAudu Maikori’s name is synonymous with entertainment. In recent time, he has been at the forefront of bridging the gap between unemployed youths and prospective employers. In this interview, he tells FUNKE OSAE-BROWN how he is achieving his goals through Graduate Internship Scheme.

Our meeting that Friday morning was not in any way unnerving. A meeting with someone like my subject sure must be an interesting one. Audu Maikori is famous for being the chief executive officer, Chocolate City, a music and entertainment company. But the purpose of my chat with him that sunny December morning has nothing to do with music.

Lately, Maikori has his hands dipped in many pies. He is involved in very many activities outside the creative industry. And so, that morning he is seated behind a table at the restaurant where we agreed to meet. He looks totally different in his well-trimmed over-grown beard. He looks much older, perhaps more matured. He spots a professorial kind of look.

“Good morning,” he says, as he stretches his hand for a handshake.

One will easily be enamored by his level of intelligence and knowledge as he spoke. He has all the information at his finger tips. He is in touch with the times. At the touch of his phone keypad, all the information he has stored on it comes up as he reels out the figure to back up his claims. He is a young man whose perception of the current day government is totally different. Unlike other young men and women in his age group, who are quick to cast aspersions on government, Maikori has done his homework well. He knows the pains of the modern day Nigerian youth, joblessness.

And so, when he had the opportunity to make his voice heard, he was invited to be a member of Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) committee inaugurated by President Goodluck Jonathan on February 13, 2012, under the leadership of Dr. Christopher Kolade. The mandate from the President to the SURE-P committee is to `deliver service with integrity’ and `restore people’s confidence in the government.’ The committee has therefore expressed its desire to ensure that the use of the fuel subsidy savings to deliver the programme mandate is done with utmost probity, transparency and accountability.

Maikori knows a difficult task lies ahead of him as a young man whose generation has lost confidence in the country’s governce. His contemporaries seem to derive more pleasure in criticising government than take action to effect the desired change. And so, Maikori agreed to be a part of the committee with a mindset to do things differently.

As a member of SURE-P, he is charged with the task of creating employment opportunities for about 185,000 young men and women, as well as supervising the Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) for the Federal Government, wherein 50,000 interns will be placed in various companies across the country in a public-private partnership model.

The Lagos leg of the GIS programme started on Monday, December 8, and ended Thursday, December 11, 2014, at the Welcome Centre Hotel, Airport Road, Lagos. About 300 companies registered in the job fair at the Welcome Centre.

Over 10,494 companies across the country have registered for the programme. “From the South West, there are 4,152 companies, the South South – 1,560 companies, North West – 1,335, and North Central – 2,131, and North East – 331companies, because of the zone not much is happening there due to the insurgencies,” says Maikori.

Maikori’s idea for the GIS came from his experience as an intern at the Afe Babalola Chambers. “My experience at Afe Babalola Chambers got me to where I am today. We thought it would be important for young people to have the chance to work in a company for a maximum period of one year. That is the idea behind GIS.

“We want to ensure that there is a flow of knowledge from employers to employees. We want to help young people acquire the skills that they need to be employable. As interns, they will be helped to learn, mentored and be paid N30,000 a month by the Federal Government. Some companies also give transport allowances of about N10,000. The interns are all covered by life insurance so that they do not become a liability to the employer,” he discloses.

Maikori says the essence of the scheme is to bridge the gap between unemployed graduates and prospective employers. “When an employer sees a great CV, he then calls for an interview to get a better impression of the candidate. We also do job matching test like the one we did at the Welcome Centre at Ajao Estate. Subsequently, we will do another one at other parts of Lagos, we had about 2,000 graduates who came in for the job fair. It was a four-day programme.”

The GIS, explains Maikori, is designed for unemployed young people who are below age 40. “If you are above forty then you cannot be a part of it,” he explains. “You must have served, finished your NYSC to participate. As long as you are below 40, it does not matter what you graduate with. You can go on to the website www.yesurep.com. There are two websites; one is for the employers and the other is for the employees (Interns). You go and register; we will send you an email to confirm that the registration has been done. The application is computer base.

“For example, if you were looking for an intern now and you want the one in metaphysics, you will search the interns and it will give you the list of those in metaphysics, and we will send it to you. We send in five CV at a time, so that employers can take a look and make their pick.”

Maikori understands what it means to be gainfully employed, hence, his passion to drive the GIS. As a law graduate from University of Jos, and was called to the Nigerian bar in 2001, he has worked at several firms and companies including Chief Afe Babalola SAN & Co, Leasing Company of Nigeria (a subsidiary of Bank of Industry), Abuja Markets Management Limited, and was senior legal consultant to CPCS Transcom International, a Canadian infrastructure firm, where he worked on the legal and regulatory aspects of a number of key infrastructural projects including the privatisation of the Nigeria Ports Authority, Nigerian Railway Corporation, unbundling and privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN – defunct NEPA), Lagos Rail Mass transit Project and the Abuja Mass Transit, Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria.

Maikori is currently senior partner at Law Allianz – a firm of legal consultants and advisers – where he handles the intellectual property and infrastructure transaction advisory department. His last assignment was heading the legal team for the Kano State Bus Mass Transit Project on the NIAF/DFID team in Kano State in December 2011.

He has distinguished himself in his field. He has received both local and international commendations for his work in youth development and entrepreneurship in the creative industry. He was invited to Albania in 2008 to deliver a keynote speech at a seminar organised by the Albania Ministry of youth and Employment in conjunction with the British Council. One is therefore not surprised that he is overseeing a platform to make other young people like himself succeed.

On the 29th of June 2007, he won the highly coveted British Music Award International Young Music Entrepreneur of the Year (IYMEY) for his work with Chocolate City after beating off fierce international competition from Egypt, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland and Tanzania. He received a special judges’ commendation as well as 15,000 Dollars as prize money.

At the inaugural edition of the United Kingdom Young Music Entrepreneur (UKYME) 2008, Audu was nominated to serve as a judge alongside 4 other British Music industry heavyweights.

In December 2011, Chocolate City Group was named winner at the prestigious Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya. Chocolate City was selected from over 3,300 applicants from 48 African countries to clinch the coveted prize.

Maikori says there are other projects under SURE-P which include the Maternal and Child Health project. According to him, a combination of interventions was designed to cushion the effect of subsidy removal, mostly on vulnerable populations in Nigeria. “SURE-P MCH aims to contribute to the reduction of maternal and newborn deaths in Nigeria, thereby helping the country meet Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5. Designed to run for four years (2012–2015), the project has nationwide coverage and concentrates on rural and underserved communities.

In addition, he says the Federal Government, under the SURE-P scheme, has started building a railway line to connect Port Harcourt to Jos to Maiduguri, and Kafanchan. “The information is out there, it is just about searching it on Google. For instance, Lagos/Ibadan Expressway is ongoing, the contractors are Julius Berger. Their contract ends in August 2017. What SURE-P funds are doing is intervening where things are not going well. For instance, the Lagos/Abuja/Lokoja road, I know you might have been on that road.

Many have died on that road, and they have almost finished it now. The railway project is also ongoing. The last time I entered a train was when I was eight years old, that was when a train functioned around me. As I speak, rail tracks are functioning now; that is the work of SURE-P. The Lagos to Kano railway line is functioning.

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