……Youth unemployment gives us nightmares
Hon Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives, has assured that the House is committed to passing the #NotTooYoungToRun# bill in order to lower the age requirements for electives offices to ensure youth inclusion in politics and leadership.
Addressing the plenary session of the Nigerian Youth Parliament in Abuja on Wednesday, Dogara stated that as elected representatives, it is their duty make sure that their constituents’ voices are heard especially in a country with a youth population of over 60%.
He said it is as a result that “we committed ourselves in our Legislative Agenda to give priority to – ‘necessary legislative interventions to promote equality and inclusion, and entrench the rights of women, youths and vulnerable groups in the society’.
He said the bill which seeks to alter sections 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the 1999 Constitution is aimed at reducing the age of eligibility for elective offices across board, and to introduce independent candidacy to our electoral process.
Thus, according to the Speaker, if the amendment scales through, the minimum age of eligibility for the elective offices will be modified such that Presidency from 40 to 30 years, Governor – 35 to 30 years, Senate – 35 to 30 years, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly – 30 to 25 years.
Dogara however, said that while the Bill will not immediately correct the marginalization of young persons in Nigeria, it will however open up opportunities hitherto unavailable to young persons in politics.
The Speaker maintained that a major challenge afflicting Nigeria’s youth population is unemployment, and as “your elected representatives, this gives us nightmares.
“It is also my strong view that creativity and innovation are critical elements in engendering economic growth and development. Indeed the world is open for the youths to excel, especially in the area of technological development. Nigerian Youths can compete strongly in the technological field in the new world economy. We only need better technological education, funding and exposure to best practices.”
“At every opportunity, I have also used my office to promote the potentials of this country in order to attract investment into diverse sectors of the economy through legislative diplomacy promoted with leaders of various countries. We have therefore deliberately set up Parliamentary Friendship Groups between Nigeria’s House of Representatives and various countries to promote economic, legislative and political cooperation between our countries.”
See full speech below:
REMARKS BY THE SPEAKER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA, AT THE PLENARY SESSION OF THE NIGERIAN YOUTH PARLIAMENT HOLDING AT NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, ABUJA ON WEDNESDAY, 17TH MAY 2017.
TOPIC: BILLS AND MOTIONS PASSED BY THE 8TH HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: BENEFITS ON NIGERIAN YOUTHS
I consider it a great honour and privilege to address the Nigerian Youth Parliament at its Second Sitting of the 3rd Session as this Parliament represent an authentic voice for Nigerian Youths and a mirror of the capabilities and involvement of our youths in nation-building.
- The Eighth House of Representatives after its inauguration on Tuesday, 9th June, 2015, hit the ground running with a Legislative Agenda, which has since served as a guiding document for the House of Representatives.
- As elected representatives, our duty is to make sure that our constituents’ voices are heard – that their needs are prioritised and that the difficulties which they face are confronted and solved. In a country with a youth population of over 60%, the fulcrum of our legislative activities must revolve around the youths.
- It is as a result that we committed ourselves in our Legislative Agenda to give priority to – ‘necessary legislative interventions to promote equality and inclusion, and entrench the rights of women, youths and vulnerable groups in the society’. This is in addition to other items in our Legislative Agenda which include tackling the high unemployment rate – an issue which concerns mostly young people – through legislative action and appropriate budgetary interventions and seeking to create employment opportunities, and regular dialogue sessions with stakeholders to articulate the needed legislative interventions.
- Staying true to the House Legislative Agenda, on May 9, 2016, the leadership of the House interfaced with student leaders drawn from higher institutions across the country, including private and public universities. It was in the course of this meeting that I first hinted at the willingness of the House to use all legislative tools at our disposal to correct the dismal representation of youths in politics and governance, and little over two weeks later – on May 26, to be precise – the House passed through first reading HB. 544, which seeks to alter sections 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, with the aim of reducing the age of eligibility for elective offices across board, and to introduce independent candidacy to our electoral process.
- This Bill, popularly known as the Not Too Young to Run Bill, has enjoyed enormous popularity as it has now birthed a global movement, and to prove our dedication to youth inclusion and equitable representation, the Bill was given speedy consideration as it passed Second Reading and was committed to the Ad-Hoc Committee on Constitution Review on June 7, 2016, exactly 12 days after it was introduced.
If we are able to get the proposed amendment across the Senate and 2/3 of State Houses of Assembly, the minimum age of eligibility for the following offices will be modified thus;
- Presidency – 40 to 30 years
- Governor – 35 to 30 years
- Senate – 35 to 30 years
- House of Representatives and State House of Assembly – 30 to 25 years
While the Bill will not immediately correct the marginalization of young persons in Nigeria, it will however open up opportunities hitherto unavailable to young persons in politics.
- In a similar vein, on June 1 2016, HB. 556 – Which seeks to secure appointive positions for young people at both state and federal levels – was introduced into the legislative mill. Two weeks later, on June 14, the Bill passed Second Reading. This shows, yet again, that when it comes to the rights and general progress of young people, the Eighth House will always give priority to legislation aiming at enhancing these. This Bill has also been referred to the Ad-Hoc Committee on Constitution Review.
- A major challenge afflicting Nigeria’s youth population is unemployment, and as your elected representatives, this gives us nightmares. It is also my strong view that creativity and innovation are critical elements in engendering economic growth and development. Indeed the world is open for the youths to excel, especially in the area of technological development. Nigerian Youths can compete strongly in the technological field in the new world economy. We only need better technological education, funding and exposure to best practices.
That is why I personally sponsored the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill which has been passed by the House. Some other Bills designed to facilitate a better business environment have also been passed in the House because without the support of the private sector, youth unemployment cannot be effectively tackled. Some of the Bills include Nigerian Railway Authority Bill; National Road Fund Bill; Petroleum Industry Bill; National Transport Commission Bill; Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Bill etc. We are working closely with the Senate to ensure concurrence and Presidential assent.
- At every opportunity, I have also used my office to promote the potentials of this country in order to attract investment into diverse sectors of the economy through legislative diplomacy promoted with leaders of various countries. We have therefore deliberately set up Parliamentary Friendship Groups between Nigeria’s House of Representatives and various countries to promote economic, legislative and political cooperation between our countries.
- Economic diversification is also key to job creation and the House has shown commitment to enacting laws which would enable this, through the introduction of “sectoral debates”, which we have leveraged on to invite selected ministers to give detailed accounts of what their various sectors need in order to attract investment and generate maximum revenue, thereby creating more opportunities and bringing economic prosperity to our nation.
- There can be no marked economic progress without improved power supply, and in response to the complaints of our young entrepreneurs – who need constant power supply to thrive – the House, in collaboration with the Senate, organised the first ever dialogue summit on reforming the power sector, which had all major stakeholders in attendance, and will influence legislation and oversight of the sector. We have consequently stepped up our oversight of the sector to plug loopholes and improve performance.
- Agriculture has the potentials of solving the problem of youth unemployment. As I said elsewhere “Agriculture accounts for the bulk of GDP in Nigeria, and probably employs a higher absolute number of youth than any other sector. However, its full potential is rarely exploited. Much of Nigeria agricultural land lies fallow due to restrictions on land titling, state ownership of productive land and lack of incentives. Lack of supporting infrastructure makes production and transport of agricultural goods to markets, unviable. The recent initiative by the Federal Government to address youth unemployment through graduate participation in small scale agriculture is commendable. The N400 billion project which is being coordinated by the CBN represents a right step in the right direction. May I therefore use this opportunity to encourage young graduates and National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members to access this facility and halt the current cycle of endless search for jobs”.
“In addition to such initiatives, youth entrepreneurial villages can be developed at pilot level (one in each geo-political zone) to absorb the teeming unemployed youths. A pilot agricultural village could have: [a] a number of agricultural science graduates; [b] cleared farms; [c] solar power infrastructure for lighting; [d] tents or simple hostel and general bathrooms for housing; [e] bank loans guaranteed by government; basic farming equipment; and [f] assistance with marketing intelligence. The youth would be organized into cooperatives and supported by experts as advisors or co-investors. Government through international partnerships must provide technical assistance and grants. Each farm village may have targeted crops and poultry. If successful, this can be replicated in all states and will encourage further, farming as a business for youths”.
- In terms of the actual legislative process, that is, the sponsoring and passage of Bills and Motions, it is pertinent to note that the House of Representatives has without being immodest performed well above average in addressing the issues, challenges and prospects that directly concern and impact either negatively or positively on the youth segment of our population. Details of some Motions and Bills on youth related matters are attached hereto as Annex 1 and 2.
- Greatest Nigerian Youths! Because you, young people, are in the majority, all these are efforts which will impact on the youths than on anyone else. We, in the Eighth House, do not consider you leaders of tomorrow, but as our priorities today, and will continue to do everything within our power to ensure that you succeed in your chosen fields of endeavor.
It was Alvin Toffler who said “The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they — at some distant point in the future — will take over the reigns. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely… because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile.”
The youths are taking over the reigns of business and politics all over the world and Nigeria cannot be different. The Republic of France just elected a 39 year old President. The leading technological companies of the world were founded and led by young persons. Mark Elliot Zuckerberg Co-founder of Facebook was only 19 years when they started. He is now worth Billions of US Dollars. Same applies to Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Amazons Jeff Bizos, and Apples Steve Jobs and so many other entrepreneurs. They were all in their late teens and twenties when they founded their multi-billion Dollar businesses.
- I hope the Nigerian Youth Parliament serves as a training ground for some of you, who will join us in the State Houses of Assembly and National Assembly, in due course. The experiences you gain here will definitely be very useful to you all in any endeavor you may wish to pursue tomorrow. The House of Representatives will always be there to support you. Knowing full well that investing in the youths is investing in the future of this great country. We will be compromising the future and destiny of this nation today if we continue to allow our youths to waste.
- In conclusion, I wish to use the opportunity of this address, to implore on our youths not to lose hope. You should continue to dream big so as to achieve big. You should aspire for the best, and to be the best and the brightest this nation has. It is in your hands that the renaissance which beckons on Nigeria lies. I am sure you can do it, as it only requires commitment, sacrifice and leadership to propel all your energies, enthusiasm and creativity to blossom. Life itself is not difficult, obedience is. The freedom you enjoy today must not be mistaken as freedom to be irresponsible, as disciple is the only key that will release your creative and innovative prowess and bring us to the future we seek.
Benjamin Disraeli, one of the greatest Prime Ministers of Britain once said “We live in an age when to be young and to be indifferent can be no longer synonymous. We must prepare for the coming hour. The claims of the Future are represented by suffering millions; and the Youth of a Nation are the trustees of Posterity”.
- I wish you all fruitful and memorable deliberations in this session of the Nigerian Youth Parliament.
- May God bless you all and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.