Towards youths inclusiveness in Kogi state

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It is a known fact that the youths are the greatest asset and building blocks of every developed nation. OYIBO SALIHU takes a look at efforts to create enabling environment for youth engagement in Kogi state.
 In Nigeria, youths who are regarded as leaders of tomorrow have for long been relegated in all aspects of human endeavour.While many tertiary institutions churn out graduates without jobs to engaged them, governments at all levels seem to have failed them . However, Kogi youths in 2017 took the bull by the horn when they formed what is called Kogi Youths Advocacy Cluster made up of all the youth-focused organisations in the state.The youths also initiated Kogi Youth Development Bill which was sponsored by the former deputy majority leader of the state assembly now deputy speaker, Rt Hon Ahmed Mohammed.

Support from Actionaid
Because of the importance and its usefulness to the youths, it was supported by ActionAid Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation working in solidarity with People Living in Poverty and Exclusion to achieve social justice, gender equality and poverty eradication.Expectedly, the bill having passed through the assembly, was signed into law by Governor Yahaya Bello on April 24 2019.Governor Bello is the first in the country to assent to such a bill to liberate the youths from the shackles of unemployment, among other vices.It is believed that Bello’s decision to sign the bill into law is borne out of his desire to place the youths into their right place.Commenting on the gains of a youth commission when established, ActionAid Nigeria Resilience Programme coordinator, Mr  Anicetus Atakpu, said organisation through its SARVE II project has been supporting the move for the implementation of the commission law to enable the state harness emerging thoughts, integrate existing interventions into a holistic and structured approach for youths development in the state.Atakpu pointed out that aside the capability of the commission to articulate development aspirations and the needed structure to deliver a comprehensive programme of action for youth development in the state, the commission would also pave the way for sustainable policies that would contribute to youths development.He added that the commission would address some of the drivers of violent extremism and contextualisation of youths development needs in the state.”The commission would provide a platform for articulating youth voices and ideas in framing development interventions in the state. It would track all governmental investments on youths to facilitate planning, monitoring and evaluation.”The commission would establish programmes and tailored-interventions to foster youths entrepreneurship, employment and economic independence, for instance, micro-credit and franchise scheme, transition to work programme, skills training, among others.”It would build a conscious youth citizenry through outreaches, sports and recreational activities, interface with local and international development partners, the private sectors and other donor agencies towards support for youth development in the state,” he noted.Atakpu lamented that Ministries of Youth and Sport Development both at the state and federal only focuses on sports development, rather than youth empowerment, research and development.He added that the commission would be a think-tank, policy emanating structure that would drive research, policy formulation, advisory and coordination for youth development in the state.”The establishment of the  commission would not require extra cost of governance as staff would be seconded from existing staff force of the state’s civil service.”It  would act as an agency for fund raising on youth development and extensively harness support from development agencies in driving its programmes of action.”Example ActionAid, UNFPA amongst others can support its youth strategy development process which might not come at any extra cost to the government.”Also in a communique issued recently at the end of a one-day advocacy round table meeting on the operationalisation of the commission law in Lokoja organized by ActionAid Nigeria in collaboration with PIBCID and funded by GCERF, participants observed that Kogi has been proactive enough to have emerged the first in Nigeria to sign the bill into law, but regretted that after the signing ceremony, operationalisation of the commission is yet to commence.

The meeting was well attended by civil society organisations, the media, National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), community- youth based organisations, representative of NBA, representative of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), National Association of Kogi State Students (NAKOSS) and faith-based organisation to plead with the state government towards operationalisation of the law in the state.However, participants at the end of the meeting resolved to appeal to the state government to take deliberate steps towards setting up the commission.They also resolved urge the state government to sustain the lead as youth- development state in Nigeria.According to them, “The state should sustain her efforts at fighting insecurity by creating a platform for youth to be meaningfully and economically engaged.”In her opening remark during the round table meeting, the executive director,  Participation Initiative for Behavioural Change in Development (PIBCID) Halima Oiza Sadiq said PIBCID gave the struggle a voice which was supported by ActionAid Nigeria leading to the passage of the bill and assent. She however lamented that since then, the law was kept in a cooler.”The bill was premeditated to address violent extremism, youth restiveness, unemployment, idleness and under-utilisation of human resources. Also commenting, the executive director, Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHRCR) Comrade Idris Miliki, said Kogi youths for now have no direction until the commission is put in place to address challenges holistically in the state.”Regrettably, the youths who are supposed to demand through a peaceful protest to the Government House are busy giving award to Governor Bello without considering the issues surrounding the commission.”The National  Youth Council of Nigeria which is the national body of the youth across the country has never lend its voices to the agitation for the establishment of the youth commission even when the major work has been done by stakeholders, civil society organisations and the media.”We are using this medium to call on Governor Bello to make sure that the  commission is set up as quickly as possible so that the effort would not be in  vain.”If truly the governor has the interest of youths at heart, he should please establish the Youth Development Commission otherwise people would be moved to draw inference that his acclaimed youth priority is mere lip service which is not good for him especially now that he has interest to go higher in politics,” he said.

Lending his voice, the executive director Renaissance Care and Empowernment Foundation Mr Idris Ozovehe Muraina, said the country had been bedeviled with serious security challenges, stating that most of the perpetrators of crises in Nigeria most often than not are attributed to the youths due to lack of engagement. He stressed that most inmates of Correctional Centres today are youths.He reminded the state government that when it took the decision to have a youth development commission, every citizens in the state gave kudos to Governor Bello for taking such a rare step aimed at empowering the youths.He expressed worries that the youth commission which was well celebrated in the state till today has suffered setback due to lack of political will to inaugurate the commission to start operation.”It is a clear fact that state government has done a good job by nipping the youth problems in the bud, but what is left is the implementation because you cannot have a law for the youth and after praising the governor, the law is left dormant.”We are appealing to Governor Yahaya Bello to  quickly inaugurate the commission so that it can start operation to engage the youths so that before 2023 the state government can build network of peace through the commission.”The commission when operational would bring the youths closer to a level that vices such as unrest, cultism, armed robbery can be eradicated. The youths through the commission would further add impetus to the effort of the governor in providing security for life and property in the state.”

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