The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) has earmarked over N6 billion for youth empowerment programmes involving supplying motorcycles and tricycles in its 2024 budget, despite 12 states banning their operation over rising insecurity.
SMEDAN aims to empower youth and women through controversial means, budgeting N2.53 billion for the supply of commercial tricycles (keke napep) across 36 states and N3 billion for motorcycles, vehicles, and tricycles in the Northwest. This is amidst state governments in Cross River, Kaduna, Enugu, and nine others fully or partially restricting okadas and kekes to improve safety.
Additional motorcycle purchases include N500 million for tricycles in 8 Sokoto LGAs and N50 million in Okija, Anambra. SMEDAN also plans to spend N5 billion on vehicles for traditional rulers and N440 million on Enugu road construction.
At SMEDAN’s new headquarters opening in December 2023, Vice President Kashim Shettima highlighted the administration’s strategic focus areas as job creation, capital access, economic growth, and poverty reduction. However, youth empowerment via means banned for public safety concerns seems counterintuitive.
With rising unemployment, empowering youth is imperative, but funnelling billions of naira into restricted modes of transport that states have banned due to safety issues has raised concerns over SMEDAN’s budgeting priorities and long-term impacts on livelihoods. Careful consideration is needed for ethical, effective programmes that balance economic benefits and social well-being.