“But I, being poor, have only my dreams. I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams” ~ W.B. Yeats (1865-1939)
Sequel to my nomination as a National Conference delegate representing Outstanding Youth Role models in the ‘Other Youths Organization’ list, I thought it expedient and proper to create a 12-member think-tank (TT) comprised of a crop of intelligent and exceptional youths to discuss and formulate a viable youth agenda for the National conference.
The members of this Think-Tank are as follows: Hassan Rilwan, Blossom Nnodim, Nasir Galadanchi, Japheth Omojuwa, Umar Musa Ikhilor, Linus Okorie, Ibrahim Wala, Alexander Mamchika Atta, Haruna Abdullahi, Ahmed Terab, Audu Maikori, Vera Ibe.
Over the past few weeks, members of this think-tank have had series of interaction via various social media platforms (Facebook, twitter, blackberry group, WhatsApp etc.) requesting for inputs from the general youth populace towards the formulation of a viable youth agenda for the National Conference. These online interactions have generated a lot of interesting feedbacks upon which members of the think-tank met to extensively deliberate on Saturday, March 22nd, 2014. After a full day of brainstorming and passionate discussions amongst some members, the following was agreed upon as a viable youth agenda for the national conference.
It has been observed that there is a wide gap between the educational content being presently churned out to the youth and the emerging realities of the society they face after graduation. This gap must be bridged. In this regard, it is our considered position at the policy objective of the State on Education as captured in Section 18 (3) of Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) be expanded to include the following:
- Provision of free entrepreneurial training for the youth
- Provision of free Skills Acquisition Training for youths with or without formal education;
- Provision of free Leadership Training for youths at all levels of formal education
- Formulation and inculcation of a National Ideology at all levels of formal and informal education and training. This National Ideology should emphasizes honest hard work, dignity of labour, patriotism, pursuit of excellence, ethnic and religious tolerance and respect for individuals and human rights.
Social Security for Unemployed Youth:
A recent report suggests that 65% of the total Nigerian population is made up of young persons between the ages 0 – 25. Unfortunately, about 45million Nigerian youths are without employment. Despite the various government programmes and claims of reducing unemployment, the devastating effect was brought home to us during the recently organized NIS employment examination which saw the death of over 20 youths with several hundred injured. May their souls rest in perfect peace.
Consequent on the above, we therefore call for the establishment of a Youth Social Security Trust Fund (SSTF) to provide social security for unemployed Youth. Sources of such fund shall include (but not limited to): Government grant (1% of total emoluments of government employees), Corporate Social Security Tax (1% of net profit), International grants/donations (World Bank, USAID, DFID etc.).
It is our considered view that all other government programmes on Employment creation such as the National Directorate on Employment, YouWin, Sure-P programme for youth employment, Growth and Employment Project (GEP) should all be collapsed into this Youth Social Security Trust Fund.
In the light of the above, NYSC’s scope and mandate should be expanded to include graduates of all tertiary institutions (not just universities and polytechnics). The scope should also include youths who must have graduated from any informal sector of education (such as vocational and skills acquisition training Institute accredited by appropriate government regulatory body).
There should be an NYSC Reform whose end product should be the empowerment of the youth and provision of entrepreneurial skills for youth with ease of access to capital to set up new businesses and expand existing ones. The capital should come from the Youth Social Security Trust Fund.
It is our considered view that Social security need not be monetized in form of financial stipends to unemployed youth as this might amount to giving the youths fish instead of teaching them how to fish. It is also economically impracticable and will present a huge burden on government. Instead, funds in the Youth Social Security Trust Fund should be channeled towards the following:
- Provision of very low interest loans (under 5%) for unemployed graduates of both formal and informal institutions who must have undergone the requisite entrepreneurial training via NYSC and have a viable business proposal.
- Provision of services such as Health services for unemployed Youth. The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is currently expanding its scope to cover vulnerable persons (such as women and aged-persons) by 2015. It is our strong opinion that every jobless youth should be considered a vulnerable person and put under the scheme.
- Provision of employment opportunities/incentives for unemployed youths. Funds from the Youth Social Security Trust Fund can be used to create financial incentives for youth to take up employment in certain neglected sector of our economy (such as the agricultural sector).
With regards to Informal educational Training for youths without formal education, there should be a Skills Acquisition Certification and Regulatory Board that should regulate and certify existing skills acquisition and vocational training centres at all levels of government for quality assurances, regulation, efficiency and organizational purposes. This should solve the very low quality of our artisans and reduce capital flight due to our increasing reliance on neighbouring countries for them.
Justiciability of Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution:
It is baffling to observe that the very chapter that captures the fundamental obligation of government towards its citizens (especially as it relates to socio-economic rights) is said to be in-justiciable (i.e. it cannot be a basis of suing government for their enforcement).
Here are a few of the socio-economic rights which government is obliged to provide:
- Right to General welfare and security, (S. 14(2)(b);
- Provision of Transportation: adequate facilities for movement of people, goods and services throughout the Federation (S. 15(3)(a);
- Provision of Physiological needs: suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens (S. 16(2)(d);
- Right to employment: all citizens, without discrimination on any group whatsoever, [shall] have the opportunity for securing adequate means of livelihood as well as adequate opportunity to secure suitable employment (s. 17(3)(a);
- Right to health: adequate medical and health facilities for all persons (S. 17(3) (d);
- Right to education, from cradle to grave: free, compulsory and universal primary education; free secondary, university education and adult literacy programme (S. 18(3)(a) to (d);
- The State shall not operate the economic system in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group (S. 16(2)(c);
- The State to ensure that the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good; (S. 16(2)(b);
- The State to control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity (S. 16(1)(b).
It is our considered view that Chapter 2 of the Constitution especially section 17 (3) that stipulates the socio-economic rights of the citizens should be made justiciable. This will make government to prioritise the fulfilment of these basic needs to the people. In any case these very socio-economic rights have been captured in many International Conventions (such as the African Charter on Human and People’s Right) to which Nigeria in a signatory.
In view of the fact that the youth make up more than half of our country’s population, it is only reasonable that the government should direct its policy towards ensuring more participation for youth in governance. In this regard, we are of the view that:
- There should be a downward review of the required minimum age for contesting elective offices for Federal and State Houses from 35years of age to 25/30 years of age.
- There should be a national bench-mark for determining who is a “youth” that is in line with international standards. In this regard, it is our considered view that the bench-mark should be fixed between 18-35 year instead of the present situation where persons above 45 and 50years are appointed to be in charge of youth affairs.
- The Minister for Youth Development should be appointed from amongst the Youths who will be more likely to be in touch with the needs and aspirations of the average youth and not from crops of elders who are totally out of touch with the realities facing the youths.
- Conscious efforts should be put in place to ensure that more youth are involved in government rather than for political thuggery. The negative tendencies of some State Governors to set up youth thuggery groups to intimidate their political opponents and further their political dominance is very condemnable and must be stopped immediately.
It is imperative to state that the above issues facing the youth are not the only agenda the youth, (of which I am a representative), shall table before the Conference. We shall also come up with our position on Resource control, true federalism, State Police, indigeneship, and other critical issues which shall form the overall agenda for the National Conference. For now these issues facing the youth are our top priority.
Let us finally reiterate, that the National Conference is about the Future of Nigeria and the youth are the future of this country. We therefore urge all delegates to bear this in mind as they deliberate and take decisions. In paraphrasing the words of W.B. Yeats, we the youths are saying: ““But we, being poor, have only our dreams. We have spread our dreams under your feet; therefore tread softly because you tread on our dreams”
(Hassan Rilwan is a Nigerian Entrepreneur, Media Consultant, Publisher of Sardauna Magazine, a Global Shaper and Youth Delegate to the 2014 #NationalConference. He tweets via @Hassan_Rilwan)
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blcompere OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of blcompere as a publication.