The participants reportedly flayed political parties for failing to articulate in their manifestoes how they would, among other things, provide strategic youth agenda; show how jobs would be created, which sectors should create jobs and how many jobs should be created; plan to restructure the NYSC with clear vision like plans for vocational education.
Stakeholders, in the recent past, had also considered the Nigerian youth sector halted by outdated national youth policy, abandoned youth development centres, paralysed National Youth Council of Nigeria, lack of youth employment policy, non-participation in international youth activities, non-existence of grants to youth organisations, non-existence of youth development infrastructure like youth parliament, youth development index; an NYSC in dire need of reform; among others.
Before the advent of the current administration, the Nigerian youth, in registering their agitations, had severally come up with series of recommendations to make governance more youth-friendly. Their topmost priority was the acceleration of youth development and participation in governance through a national youth forum that would harness their input in formulating a broad-based national agenda. They had also called for adequate funding of the Federal Ministry of Youth Development by the federal government to carry out strategic youth programmes for the youth.
They had equally called for a national legislation that would mandate all the states of the federation and the FCT to create a separate Ministry of Youth Development to operate solely for the purpose of youth programmes at the state level. Apart from agitating for a review of the National Youth Policy Document with broad based youth participation, the youth had also made case for a legislation backing the creation of a national youth parliament that would serve as a platform for youths to make impacts and participate in national development issues.
A statement credited to Mr Dauda Kigbu, the Director of Networks and Social Mobilisation, Federal Ministry of Youth Development, at the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) Africa in March earlier read: “Nigeria has a youth population of 80 million. Therefore, by reflecting, addressing, being sensitive and responsive to youth issues and involving them in the making of policies that affect them will help confront society’s stigmatisation of young people as deviant, criminal and incapable”.
When the Ministry of Youth Development was created two years ago, the youth expressed strong feelings of hope. Now that the euphoria of the two years into the current administration is all over the place, the question on the lips of many, especially the youth, is: how far has the Ministry of Youth Development, under the leadership of Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi, fared in realising the expectations of the nation’s teeming youth within the last two years?
The President, National Youth Council of Nigeria, who is also the President, Pan-African Youth Movement, Ben Duntoye, responded, “The minister has brought life back to the youth sector. We, the organised Nigerian youth are happy with his performance so far… The Council is a witness. He revived and repositioned us as partner in the developmental process”.
Corroborating this assertion, Olawale Rasheed, the Special Assistant to the Minister, said “the youth are now better placed in the national process. When the Honourable Minister assumed office in 2007, the situation in the youth sector was pathetic. The youth policy was outdated. Youth corps members could not serve as at when due. Many stayed at home for six or more months. The NYSC itself was in need of reform. The youth council was in comatose. No youth centre was functioning. There was no national policy on youth employment. In fact, the sector was in disarray.
“Today, the situation is different. No more backlogs of corps members waiting to serve. New youth policy is out. New policy on youth employment is now adopted and is being implemented, the youth council is now functioning, the youth parliament is on and we now have eight national youth development centres”.
Speaking at the 3rd National Council on Youth Development Conference earlier this month, the Minister noted that “the Ministry has laid the foundation for accelerated youth development in this country. Within the last two years, we have put the policy platform in place whether in the areas of employment or the generic youth policy. We have initiated reforms in the NYSC which we are implementing. We have integrated the youth into decision making process through the youth parliament and the revitalised youth council of Nigeria. This administration is not paying lip service to youth development. With specific reference to youth unemployment, my ministry initiated the national youth employment action plan and I am happy to report that the administration has launched its implementation as part of the package to cushion the effects of the global recession”.
Olasunkanmi noted that the youth centres established by the ministry were designed “to serve as empowerment points in all areas of youth development. We intend to commence demonstration farms in all centres to enhance the effectiveness of our youth in agriculture programme. Other activities slated for the centres include standardised vocational training covering various trades, small business bureau for entrepreneurship training, ICT programmes, referral and counselling programmes for youth in conflict, youth afflicted with disease and those psychologically disoriented”.
According to the him, a functional National Youth Parliament has also been established to train and give the youth voice in governance process, regretting, however, that of all the 36 states urged to set up state chapters of the Youth Parliament, only Gombe State had so far done so, while Bauchi and Yobe States were in the process of doing so.
In the view of the Speaker of the National Youth Parliament, Honourable Luke Onafiok, “the Nigerian youth today enjoy open access to ventilate their views in the political process. The minister has set up the youth parliament …But I appeal to the President to increase the funding of the sector so that the minister can continue his much good work. It is undeniable that so much has been achieved in the areas of youth development and empowerment, but more is still to be done. On our part, we promise more challenging and life changing programmes, but humbly appeal that a monthly subvention be granted to the Parliament for the purpose of executing programmes and undertaking oversight projects that would enhance our productivity”.
On whether the review of the national youth policy takes into account new challenges facing the youth, the minister contended that the reviewed document conforms with and even surpasses the United Nations’ guidelines, confirming that “the new policy is before the FEC for approval. The creation of a national youth employment action plan, which is now the basis for job creation, is designed as a multi sector approach to job creation for the youth. The ministry has also designed and secured approval for the overhauling of the NYSC from the FEC. This reform is to cover administrative and legal structure of the scheme”.
Youth development infrastructure, Olasunkami said, had been successfully laid. “A national study was completed on the status of youth called the youth development index. This is to allow for performance review of the effectiveness or otherwise of youth policies. An annual youth development report has been established for a nationwide recording and publications of youth development activities. Youths are now nominated into key national decision making bodies like the Vision 2020”.
The ministry, he added, has adopted a policy on combating drug abuse among youth while a grant system has been put in place for youth organisation to fight HIV and drug menace. “We are collaborating with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to sensitise our youth on the danger of drug abuse”.