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Equipping Nigerian youth for nation building, leadership

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When the Federal Executive Council (FEC), last Wednesday, announced the adoption of November 1, as the National Youth Day (NYD), there was jubilation among the youths, who described President Muhammadu Buhari’s gesture as a show of commitment toward empowering the Nigerian youths.
 
They said the President’s action further demonstrates his genuine concern to celebrate all hardworking youths, who have shown a commitment to nation-building.

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More to their happiness was the recent approval of an N75 billion National Youths Investment Fund (NYIF), by FEC, designed to finance youth-led innovations over three years.
 
They commended the government for setting up the Fund, saying that more of such initiatives and programmes would be required to empower Nigerian youths, and redirect them to opportunities for engagement and change.
 
This would also help to calm the escalating tension figures of high rates of unemployment, with hopes that the government was now more concerned with issues relating to youth development and progress.
 
Already, youth unemployment in Nigeria has been a growing concern, which has led to increased rates of violent crimes, kidnappings, restiveness and socially delinquent behaviours among them.
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Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), revealed that Nigeria’s unemployment rate as at the second quarter (Q2) 2020, was 27.1 per cent indicating that about 21.7 million Nigerians were unemployed.
 
The country’s unemployment and underemployment rate also revealed that the worst-hit were the youths with over 13.9 million unemployed.
 
In the Q3 2018 data, there were about 13.1 million Nigerian youths unemployed. Youth between the ages 15 to 24, had about 6.8 million out of jobs, and another 7.1 million unemployed.
 
With the National Youth Day, November 1 will now be marked as a day to raise awareness on issues concerning youths in Nigeria, and for organising public information activities on youth-related matters.
 
According to a statement by the Youth and Sports Ministry, “Every commemoration would have a theme around which activities will revolve across the states and the Federal Capital Territory, with each one of them bidding to host the event, although Abuja will host the maiden edition.”
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The statement said the Council directed the Youth and Sports Development Minister, Sunday Dare, to present the memorandum to the National Economic Council (NEC), and the Council of State for adoption and the buy-in of state governments.
 
Dare said: “The approval by Mr. President in Council for the commemoration of the National Youth Day on November 1, every year is a further testimony to how this administration sees the youth as a resource to be harnessed and invested in.
 
“This development, coming on the heels of a similar approval for the establishment of the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund, has further energised our resolve to prioritise issues relating to the youth.”
 
On the N75 billion NYIF, Dare, said the youth bank was meant to support enterprise among the country’s youths between ages 18 and 35.
 
The Fund is meant to create a special window for accessing credit facilities and financing on the part of youths that will help to fund their ideas, innovations and also support their enterprise. 
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He said the scheme would target 500,000 youths annually, adding that a minimum of N25 billion would be disbursed yearly, for the next three years.
 
For the remaining part of 2020, he indicated that an initial sum of N12.5 billion would be needed to commence NYIF.
 
He noted that providing less-cumbersome access to credit and finance for the average Nigerian youth with an approved work plan or business idea would help lift thousands of youths out of poverty and birth a whole generation of entrepreneurs.
 
“Each fund approval will range from N250,000 to N50,000,000, with a spread across group applications, individual applications, working capital loans set at three years, with a single-digit interest rate of five per cent.”
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He said the Fund was part of youth-focused programmes already put in place by the Buhari administration, as part of a national plan to combat youth unemployment, and drive innovation, fuel entrepreneurship and support youth SMEs.
 
Commenting on the approvals, President, Nigerian Youth Congress (NYC), Blessing Akinlosotu, who lauded Buhari for his love for the youths, said his approval of the National Youth Day to celebrate the youths has shown that they are worthy of leadership positions.  

Akinlosotu, who said this was a sign for greater things to come in the lives of the Nigerian youths, maintained that the approval had created a channel for youths to be celebrated.
 
He said Buhari had clearly shown that his campaign promises for the Nigerian youths were not mere promises. Rather, they were well-thought-out ideologies to empower and give them a sense of belonging in the country.

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He said: “We in NYC sincerely appreciate our amiable President for his genuine concern for the youths, and pray that God continually lifts his government higher and grants him grace to rise above the challenges confronting our nation today.
 
“The honourable minister also cannot be thanked enough; he is a leader that leads with a clear vision of what he wants to achieve, and aggressively goes after it and returns with an overwhelming result.”
 
In his submission, a former Rector, Lagos State Polytechnic, and President, ULDA, Oshodi Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited, Olawumi Gasper, urged that the implementation framework must take into cognisance the dynamic changes being witnessed globally, in the youth empowerment ecosystem.
 
He noted that many developing economies have realised the value of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and contribution to the economy in terms of goods and services, creation of jobs at relatively low capital cost, especially in the fast growing service sector; among others. It is therefore expected that the Youth Investment Fund will articulate common solutions to wealth-creation and self-reliance among the youths.

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Gasper equally charged managers of the initiative to also recognise the role of successful entrepreneurs as mentors and trainers, financial institutions and industry partners that will hand-hold the participants through voluntary sharing of experiences and lessons.
 
He said representatives of private enterprises, business associations, business media, financial institutions, and network of business mentors should be involved in driving this unique initiative.
 
The Chief Executive Officer, Auldon Limited, Paul Orajiaka, described the youths as change-makers, saying that investment in their skills acquisition and gainful engagement, as well as sowing seeds of hope among them, was imperative.

He said: “This brings to perspective the importance of investing in them in a largely gerontocratic and oligarchic society as Nigeria, where youths are bombarded by images of success based on ‘easy money’ especially amongst public servants.”
 
However, an educationist, Justice Eyo, is sceptical about the sustainability of the Youth Fund, which is planned for only three years, especially as governments in Nigeria are characterised by policy inconsistency and lack of continuity.

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He noted that the Ministry of Youths and Sports already oversees the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), which consumes about 90 per cent of its budget, while the National Institute for Sports, has suffered job losses since the pandemic.
 
Rather than spread its jurisdiction, he advised the Ministry to invest its resources into reviving the sports industry.
 
Eyo said: “Much as the Sports Minister has mentioned that the NYIF will be secured from the ploys of politicians, federal intervention projects are typically havens of gross nepotism.
 
“An astute attempt to build youth enterprise in Nigeria should involve a coordinated approach, with one body such as the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investment, overseeing one scheme.
 
“Alternatively, since the National Directorate of Employment was instituted to ‘implement programmes to combat mass unemployment,’ its mandate should include the coordination of all youth empowerment schemes.
“Ad-hoc measures like the National Youth fund are abortive against issues of youth enterprise in Nigeria. With relaxed regulations, a central approach towards government funding would provide policy prioritisation, consistency, and increased accountability.”

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