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Youths’ engagement as catalyst for sustainable development




THEY are fondly referred to as ‘leaders of tomorrow’, ‘future hope of the nation’ and sometimes ‘engine room of any society’. The strategic roles of youths in national development cannot be overemphasized.

Nations across the world rely on its youthful population to effect positive change especially in the area of security, education, economy through industrialization among others.

But, the youths have repeatedly lamented various challenges they are confronted with such as poverty, inadequate access to education, poor health facilities and lack of job opportunities.

The scenario, no doubt, prompted President Mohammadu Buhari to pledge recently to create more jobs for Nigerian youths. Speaking at a ceremony to mark the 2015 youth day, Buhari reiterated his commitment to provide the necessary infrastructures that would create employment for youths in the country.

The president described unemployment as one of the major challenges facing Nigeria and the African continent, pointing out that many graduates still remain unemployed.

Speaking at an event organised by the Ministry of Youth Development to mark 2015 World Youth Day with the theme “Civic Engagement”, Buhari, said: “You may wish to note that Africa is the most ‘youthful’ continent in the world.

According to the figures I have been presented with, at least 20 percent of the continent’s population of 1.2 billion is between the age bracket of 15 – 24 years, with about 42 per cent below 15 years of age.

As the rest of the world gets older, Africa is getting younger. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It all depends on what we make of it”.

Therefore, one of the greatest challenges facing governments and policy makers in Africa today is how to provide opportunities and meet the needs of young people, the vast majority of whom need to be empowered to enable them to lead decent lives and contribute their quota to the socio economic and political development of their countries. “Correctly harnessed, this tremendous labour force could propel us to take a quantum leap in developing our infrastructure so that Nigeria can join the 21st Century”, Buhari said.

For the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the engagement and participation of youth is essential to achieve sustainable human development.

However, NLC argued that, opportunities for youths to engage politically, economically and socially are often low or in some instances nonexistent.

A statement issued on behalf of NLC by its General Secretary, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson said trade unions are committed to youth participation “not only in the trade unions but in the society at large and are looking around issues of interest to young workers like job creation, decent jobs, security, youth development and empowerment and many more” .

According to NLC, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is focusing on the issue of Economic Empowerment for this year’s Youth Day celebration.

NLC said: “Congress strongly believes that the future of the trade unions depends on the young workers and that the youth can be empowered to positively contribute to the development of the society and the peace process in Nigeria.

Again, the economic empowerment of the youth in the long run will lead to sustainable human development, reduce poverty, crime and unemployment.

It is in realization of the contribution and potentials of the youth that Congress adopted the youth policy at the February 2015 National Delegates Conference to mainstream young workers into the labour movement by developing their capacity and providing the opportunity to harness their full potentials as well as promote their active participation in trade unionism and nation building. “The Nigeria Labour Congress is proud to be part of the noble campaign to promote youth civic engagement and economic empowerment for sustainable human development”, Ozo-Eson added.



The Director-General of International Labour Organisation (ILO), Guy Ryder, also used the opportunity to recognize and commend the civic engagement of young people who, time and again, “are showing themselves globally to be forces for positive change.

Often the changes they are seeking are connected to the world of work: they are mobilizing and speaking out for a better future with decent work.

Their success matters to us all”. Explaining further, Guy said it is now eight years since the start of the global financial crisis, adding that it is encouraging that global youth unemployment rates have finally stabilized.

He said: “However, this rate remains well above its pre-crisis level, and the labour market transition for young women and men, particularly the most disadvantaged, is still an uphill battle. “Many young people are trapped in jobs where their rights are not respected and where they work in conditions of great insecurity.

There is a real risk of lower lifetime earnings for young workers or their prolonged disconnect from the labour market and society. “Yet, in both the formal and informal economies, there is also evidence of great entrepreneurial spirit and dynamism – in different ways and at different levels, as young people seek ways of coping with and surviving in very difficult job markets.

That energy is also being invested in many forms of engagement commonly drawing on the unprecedented connectivity of the young generation.

Tackling the global youth employment challenge calls for action on many fronts but one thing is certain – policy-making needs to heed the voice of young people if it is to respond effectively to their needs and aspirations.

Young people in their diverse contexts and realities know well the often simple measures that could best help them on to the ladder of opportunity and onto the road to realizing their ambitions and dreams. “Young people are also investing their energy in solidarity with others.

They are often champions for ethical production, for workplaces free from child labour and forced labour, for equality of treatment and for the right to organize as well as for economic activities that protect the planet and people’s livelihoods”. The ILO boss said the world of work must stand shoulder to shoulder with young people in their stand for decent jobs and social justice.

ILO also called on all actors in the world of work – employers and their organizations, workers’ organizations and governments – to actively foster the inclusion of youth making space for young people in their organizations and activities and listening to the voice of youth.

According to ILO, by encouraging the participation of youth in their organizational activities, in social dialogue processes and labour market institutions, and by upholding the rights of young people in the labour market, world of work actors can lend powerful support to the inclusion of young people.

This will be particularly important in realizing the vision of the 2030 Development Agenda that no one should be left behind”. Also commemorating the Youth Day, Young Journalists Forum (YJF), called on African leaders to ensure youth engagement in all sectors of the economy so as to reduce the vulnerability of young people, to restiveness, desperate and illegal migration via the most dangerous means, like journeying through the deserts “where most of our young people die before getting to their destinations”.

According to the group in a statement issued by Coordinator Chukwu Nzeh and Secretary Ene Okon it is also worthy that, the high rate of enrollment by terrorists the world over especially in Africa, where youth are so engaged for the negative reasons, thrive because they are not economically empowered.

The group said: “It is appalling to discover according to the Koffi Annan Africa Progress Panel report that illicit financial flow out of the continent amounting to several billions of dollars, annually, which should be ordinarily used to ensure that they are independent and constructively engaged for global peace especially within the African region.

In a quest to contribute our quota to sensitize youths to hold their leaders accountable, we the YJF, will be training Nigerian Youth on how to take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act to check corruption in the country, the training will take place in Abuja this October.

It will be recalled that the YJF, organized, a training on the FOI, Act, in 2012, where the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) chairman Ibrahim Larmode called on journalists to publish denials by organisations to release public information requested. “We call on the present administration of President Mohammadu Buhari to work towards ensuring the establishment of sports centres, vocational and training centres in each ward of Nigeria to also engage youths mostly those who are yet to be gainfully employed to empower themselves to contribute their quota amidst the dwindling job opportunities, to national development, in these important sectors. “We call on Nigerian government to monitor the activities of some companies in Nigeria where young Nigerians are sexually, mentally, psychologically and physically harassed.

We also call on the Nigeria Labour Congress,NLC, to strengthen her youth wing to mitigate some of these excesses perpetuated by some employers.

We also join the Africa Progress Panel to call on world leaders especially countries where illicit funds from Africa are stashed abroad to properly regulate funds coming from developing countries, especially within Africa, so that the funds can be used by the countries to invest in their countries and engage more youth.

It will reduce the high rate of desperate illegal migration by mostly young people seeking greener pastures from developed countries, which is currently increasing by the day.

The earlier they check these flow of illicit funds the better for all of us”. Buhari recalled that at the Malabo 2011Summit, African leaders committed themselves to providing employment, whether directly or indirectly, for at least three per cent of its unemployed young people every year.

The president said: “For us, the meeting in Malabo 2011, marked another turning point in the continent’s quest for development. The summit adopted that all member States should advance the youth agenda and adopt policies and mechanisms towards the creation of safe, decent and competitive employment opportunities.

This would be achieved by accelerating the implementation of the Youth Decade Plan of Action (2009 – 2018) and the Ouagadougou 2004 Plan of Action on Employment Promotion and Poverty Alleviation. African leaders have since stepped up efforts to give voice, visibility and platforms to the youth to advocate for more investments in their future.

It is, however, an issue of serious concern that in Nigeria, so far, economic growth has not translated into commensurate and improved social outcomes, especially for our 60 million young people who made up the majority of the population. Consequently our youth migrate from rural to urban areas and from this country to other countries across borders, in search of greener pastures.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen and my beloved youth, I want to assure you that the new Administration will place high premium in tackling challenges facing the youth sector.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, unemployment remains a major concern in Nigeria, with rates rising from 6.4% in 2006 to 24.20% in the first quarter of 2015.

“Tackling the global youth employment challenge calls for action on many fronts but one thing is certain – policy-making needs to heed the voice of young people if it is to respond effectively to their needs and aspirations. Young people in their diverse contexts and realities know well the often simple measures that could best help them on to the ladder of opportunity and onto the road to realizing their ambitions and dreams.

The unemployment rate among youth is even more disturbing and considered to be over 50% due to the sheer number of unemployed graduates and a huge number of youth who have had no chance to go to school roaming about the streets.

It is worth noting that although educational attainment by Nigerian young people has increased significantly in the last decade, the relevance of curricula, quality of education and the fit with skills required by the job market, still remains a challenge for us as a country. “Unsuitable qualifications limit our young peoples’ employment prospects and potential to contribute to national development.

Our new Administration is poised to providing an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive so as to ensure greater opportunities for jobs to be created for our young people. “This we believe will assist in reducing criminal activities and terrorism.

We have resolved to provide adequate infrastructure and strengthen our job creation institutions in order to increase opportunities for our young people. For Nigeria to sustainably create jobs and ensure growth, we will pay special attention to the growth of our Small and Medium Scale Enterprises.

This can be achieved through boosting the intervention funds as guaranteed by the Central Bank of Nigeria. “In order to ensure that young people are healthy, skilled and educationally empowered, we will strengthen our academic and vocational training institutions as well as significantly improve our healthcare delivery system. “Young Nigerians, let me conclude by reiterating that we are very much committed to fulfilling all our campaign promises.

We, therefore, seek your cooperation and patience in this regard. “Be assured that ‘change’ for us is not a mere political slogan but the beginning of a new era desired by the majority of Nigerians. The youth must therefore be vanguards of this change and at the same time be the change that they wish to see.”

On its part, the United Kingdom based Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), said youth employment prospect continues to show promises.

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