By Bianca Iboma-Emefu


•L-R:  Ejezie, Bayo Oladipo, Bakare, alongside beneficiarie


The Rotary International District 9110, in partnership with First Bank of Nigeria and Tolaram Group, said they have spent N20 million to empower 102 Nigerians across Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states with various vocational tools.

The empowerment initiative was aimed at providing the necessary resources to those in need to develop valuable skills and improve their livelihood. The groups collaborated to make a positive impact on the community and help those who are less fortunate to build a better life for themselves.

District Governor of District 9110, Ifeyinwa Rita Ejezie, said that the project was to create hope, bring smiles, economic development and empowering people to build and add value to their communities, which is in line with the seven focus areas of Rotary International.

Ejezie said economic empowerment was a continuous thing in Rotary.

“We want the beneficiaries to be able to put food on their tables.  They don’t need to sell it, we are going to monitor them and know how the beneficiaries have handled it. You must be passionate with whatever you are doing. If you utilize this, it may bring more equipment for you,” she said.

She reeled out some of the start-up kits distributed to the beneficiaries, which include sewing machines, grinding machines, plumbing kits, deep freezers, generators, industrial gas burners, cylinders and camp gas. Others were barber’s and hairdresser’s kits as well as makeup artists’ kits.

Ejezie spoke on the significance of economic empowerment in Rotary’s initiatives and called for government’s collaboration to reach communities effectively.

She emphasised the role of Rotary in complementing government’s efforts and stressed the need for recognition and partnership to enhance community development: “We know that government cannot do it alone and that is why we are assisting them in no small way in doing what they are supposed to be doing in our communities. So, the best they can do is to recognise Rotary for what it does and then partner with us accordingly.”

She stated that the N20 million worth of items distributed was the largest the district had done in one empowerment initiative in recent times, adding that the Rotary Club of Singapore equally donated funds to aid the initiative.

The Unit Head, Other SME Products E-Business and Retail, First Bank, Helen Ihonre, said the bank has a dedication to bolstering businesses through a range of initiatives aimed at fostering a robust business environment and stimulating economic growth.

“The bank has always supported Rotary’s projects and other humanitarian organisations to better the lot of indigent Nigerians through the Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness (SPARK) initiative,” she said, charging the beneficiaries to see this as a cash cow where they can sustain their income, as the bank is keen about sustainability, and offers insights to financial management and economic discipline.

Ihonre stressed the need for maintaining records and accessing low-interest loans to support business growth and expansion.

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She encouraged the beneficiaries to prioritise savings from the inception of their businesses while tasking them not to misappropriate funds and be prudent with their spendings.

“Start saving from the beginning of your business. Don’t wait till you sell and keep the money in your house. Your child would come and ask for money and you give him. You would use it to cook soup. At the end of the day, you would not account for what Rotary has done for you.”

She, therefore, urged the beneficiaries to open an account and get tips on financial literacy. She promised to give them a few tips on how to succeed in small business.

Similarly, Rotary International District Governor nominee-designate, Bukola Bakare, stated the process and challenges of raising funds for the project and how they incorporated Rotary from Singapore to absorb shocks from inflation.

She noted that the community intervention project had beneficiaries from the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria as well as other tribes drawn from Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states.

Bukola Bakare, who was equally the project coordinator, emphasized that everything distributed to the beneficiaries was free of charge. According to her, they got some of them from the Rotary Vocational Centre in Igbobo-Ikorodu, Lagos State, who have acquired skills for them to benefit, and also other beneficiaries from other communities.

She added that First Bank was a major sponsor for the project, saying the 102 beneficiaries were chosen based on needs analysis from Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba communities resident in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states.

“First Bank is our major supporter for this programme; we have a 10-year plan,” she said.

On her part, director, Lagos State Agency for Mass Education, Kemi Kalesanwo, said that 22 out of the 102 beneficiaries were from the agency’s vocational training centres. She said that the state government believes in public-private partnership and was happy with the collaboration with Rotary and First Bank.

She said they have been collaborating with Rotary since the tenure of past District Governor, Adewale Ogunbadejo, and have witnessed several interventions from the club.

She listed projects donated by Rotary to include one of the eight vocational training centres, owned by the agency in Igbogbo.

Kalesanwo, therefore, urged other Nigerians to support government programmes, while charging beneficiaries not to sell the array of work tools donated to them.

Permanent board member, Lagos State Universal Basic Education, Babatunde Adewale, while reeling out contributions and projects of Rotary International to schools in the state, commended the empowerment programme.

“We really appreciate Rotary and SUBEB. We will always continue to collaborate with them,” he said.

Otumba Wemmy Osunde, chairman, Illisan Development Association, Ogun State, vowed a personal commitment to ensuring beneficiaries utilise the items for economic gain.

Adekunmi Adeniyi, an industrial gas burner and cylinder beneficiary, alongside other beneficiaries, expressed gratitude to Rotary International and First Bank for the empowerment scheme. He acknowledged the impact it would have on their respective trades and crafts.

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