To differentiate the graduate truck drivers from the conventional trailer drivers, instructors at the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT), Zaria call them logistics assistants. Most of the graduates who applied to work as truck drivers with the Dangote Group of Companies qualified as engineers, architects, chemists, mathematicians, just but to mention a few. This is why, perhaps, the NITT instructors quickly attempted to professionalise the Graduate Truck Driving Scheme with the alias of Logistics Assistants.
Out of the about 13,000 graduates reported to have applied to be employed as truck drivers, some of them hold Ph.D degrees. Others had obtained masters degrees in different fields while thousands are graduates of different universities, polytechnics, federal colleges of education and other tertiary institutions with qualifications that cut across engineering, sciences, social sciences and arts.
The lucky graduates among the army of the applicants were only 2,000. These 2,000 graduates are scheduled to undergo a training programme in batches at the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT), Zaria, which would be run in four years. The about 100 pioneer batch of the graduate-drivers have already commenced a three-month training at the NITT.
Although all the trainees interviewed by Weekly Trust said they were attracted by the reputation that the Dangote Group had earned for itself internationally, other reasons like spending many years without viable job, passion and lust for high pay contributed to the large turn up of graduates to apply to work as truck drivers.
Observers said for the young graduates to accept to work as truck drivers is indeed commendable.
Banker turned truck driver tells his story
Henry Pender is a graduate of Political Science from the University of Ibadan. Pender graduated in 2000 and has worked as a banker, yet he is among the about 100 graduates undergoing training to become truck drivers; or rather logistics assistants. Pender is also the class governor of this first batch of trainees.
“After my service, I had the privilege of being retained at the Rivers State Primary Education Board where I did my primary assignment. I was with them for about a year before I joined the All States Trust Bank, which is now defunct. I worked with them for three years before I joined the Ecobank, from there I moved to the Oceanic Bank before joining Ecobank again after the acquisition of Oceanic Bank by Ecobank.
“I had to leave the banking industry when I married my colleague, because the human resource policy then did not allow spouses to work in the same office. I felt that my wife should stay behind while I as a man would look around for something to do. It wasn’t easy, because the job was not forthcoming as I thought. I attended a couple of interviews at different places, but I didn’t get what I was looking for.
“When this opportunity of becoming truck driver with Dangote presented itself, I applied with open mind. I felt that this is an opportunity for a new beginning to move into a new paradigm that is not explored. We have just begun the journey in the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT). I was pleasantly surprised when I came here to see people from different backgrounds and professions.
“We are all getting along very well. I am looking forward for an experience that would improve our larger society. Dangote has put something in place that would turn out to be a revolution in the transport industry in this country. I think this programme would eventually become a model that all organisations of international standard would adopt in no distance future.
“From personal point of view, I like driving. I have driven a lot since when I became a professional driver and I like travelling. But by coming here, I have been exposed to the academic side of driving. I feel that whatever I do as a graduate, there should be a level of expected difference from what a layman would do. I think the objective of employing graduates as drivers is for sanity to be restored on our highways. Most of us are victims of the recklessness of heavy truck drivers and this is what this initiative wants to address. We are being trained here to become complete gentlemen as drivers,” Pender said.
He explained that he has, essentially, decided to join the truck driving profession out of interest not for material reward.
“As at the time we had our interview, there was no mention of any material reward. It is now that we are hearing that after a successful driving for a certain period, or covering of certain mileage that one would own a truck or things like that. No such thing was mentioned; there was no mention of special incentives rather than we would be employed and paid salaries.
“What I would say lured me into joining the truck driving profession is the name Dangote that is known locally and internationally. I bet you that if it were some other companies that came up with this initiative, some of us may not be here but the mention of the name Dangote, one would know that there is quality; there is a personality behind it; there is international recognition; that is what lured most of us here beyond any other material gain.
“We only discovered the entrepreneurial incentive of this programme when we came here; when most of us have completed their registration. Being somebody who had the experience of the banking sector, I would quickly join Dangote, because I know I would have job security and we are enjoying ourselves here in the NITT as the pioneer batch of this training programme. I never knew there is an institute like the NITT in Nigeria. We are grateful to them for the knowledge they are impacting in us.
“I want to also use this medium to urge the youth of Nigeria to work hard. We have to make names for ourselves by working hard as it is not all of us who are children of the privileged, therefore we are here as part of our dignity of labour. I would rather stay here and do this work than apply for visa to go abroad and face all kinds of humiliation by washing toilets or driving taxi while I have a similar option here, which I would do with dignity and leave a good example for the upcoming ones,” Pender explained.