Coping with challenges of youths unemployment and provision of social welfare security for Nigerians have been one of the greatest challenges of successive administrations in the country.
With over 60 million population, Nigerian youths are the bedrock for progress and economic prosperity as the future of the country hinge on their shoulders.
But ironically, youths are the worst hit in terms of provision of social security, gainful employment and representation in the three tiers of government.
Consequently, to address this imbalance, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress has planned and made provision for in the 2016 budget a social security payment scheme of a monthly stipend of N5000 to 25 million vulnerable Nigerians to lessen their hardship.
However, following this proposal, Nigerians have continued to react differently to the effective nature of the scheme as a veritable tool for economic empowerment and poverty alleviation.
While the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), an umbrella body for youths in the country argued that the scheme is a wasteful venture, others are of the view that it could achieve the desired objectives, if it is not politicised and it is executed with honesty of purpose.
The president of the council, Barrister Ikenga Ugochinyere asserts that considering the economic hiccups the country is facing, the programme cannot have any meaningful impact in the lives of vulnerable Nigerians.
The youth leader recently disclosed this in a telephone interview with The Daily Times, where he hinted that President Buhari needs to focus on sustainable means of empowering the unemployed youth and the extremely poor rather than temporarily spending a huge chunk of money as monthly allowance on them.
Outlining those that fall within the vulnerable class, he said, “They are the category of people that are economically disadvantaged by virtue of not having finance to fund their businesses or to survive on a daily basis. They could also be considered as the class of Nigerians that are extremely poor. However, during the last general elections when the president promised to take these classes of people out of their sorry state, I don’t think he and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC considered the enormity and sustainability of the scheme.
“For us at the council, our view has been, what positive impact would N5000 stipend makes in the lives of the vulnerable youth considering the economic challenges Nigerians are facing? How far can N5000 go in taking care of the need of these people? I think it would make more sense, if the government could channel the amount budgeted for the scheme to promote free and qualitative education, develop small scale businesses, boost agriculture and create access road for rural farmers to transport their farm produce to major cities in the country.
“However, it is our collective view at the council that the scheme cannot be sustainable because it cannot solve the economic challenge facing the vulnerable young people in the country. Having said that, the solution to our immediate challenge is for the president to discourage importation of goods into the country. Also, the National Assembly needs to enact laws that would promote consumption of locally made goods and improve on electricity generation. Importantly, the president has to draw a small scale business revolution master plan that would ensure the growth of small businesses and productively engage young people”.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts towards empowering and advancing the cause of Nigerian youth and ensure maximum representation at the three tiers of government; the National Youth Council of Nigeria has sponsored a bill at the Senate to that effect.
The bill according to Barrister Ikenga, is to guarantee 30 percent representation in all appointment positions for Nigerians between the age of 18 and 40.
Commenting on the aims and objectives of the bill and the need for adequate youth representation at the three tiers government, the youth leader said “Permit me to say that, Nigerian youth are disappointed in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. The president has betrayed his contract with the Nigerian youth. He has reneged on his electoral promises to the youth.
If you could recall that during his election campaign the president hinged most of his campaign promises on young people as he promised that the youth are going to run his government and that he would build the youth into strong future leaders.
“He also promised that he would bridge the gap between the youth and the government in terms of having more youth represented in the decision making process of his government. But contrary to this, Nigeria youth has zero representation in President Buhari’s government.
In over 240 appointments he has made so far, the youth has not gotten any position in his cabinet. Among his ministers, the youngest is 50 years of age whereas the only appointment that was given to a youth is SA on social media and on youth and students’ matter which to the council is inconsequential.
“The vulnerable Nigerians among whom are the youth deserves more than the N5000 stipend they are being offered. The great Nigerian youth have a whole lot to offer than the government allowing their talent and skill waste away.
Our country has a prosperous, disciplined, law-abiding and focused youth population which remain a vital segment of the society and has the ability to create a great future for the nation.
“What stops Nigeria from tapping into these human resources and have a young person as a minister when in Dubai they have a 22 year old as a minister for youth while in Nigeria, our youth minister is 59? If the UAE could have a 22 year old female as minister and another 31 year old as a Chief of staff, why not Nigeria.
We are disappointed and feel betrayed that the president couldn’t keep the promise he made to us during his campaign. This fact among other reasons is why the council wants the president to genuinely promote the cause of Nigerian youth by supporting a bill that is sponsored by the council at the senate.
The aim of the bill is to address the issue of youth marginalisation and empowerment once and for all. It is also aimed at guaranteeing 30 percent of all appointment positions for people between the age of 18 and 40.
If it is enacted into law, there will not be any need for the youth to be begging for appointment. If the youth are given 30 percent, we can make change in every sector of the economy and make necessary contributions to the growth of the nation”.
Contrary to the standpoints of the NYCN, a Lagos resident, Ishola Kayode, an unemployed graduate believes that the social security payment policy of the Federal government is worth commending.
According to him, if the project is honestly executed both the unemployed and the extremely poor could do a whole lot with the N5000 allowance.
Ishola however expressed his fear “As laudable as the social security payment policy of the federal government is, my fear is for the programme not to be politicised and hijacked by politicians. With the manner politicians do their thing, the scheme might end up being a means of settling their constituents not minding either they qualify to benefit from it or not. On the identification and compilation of data of extremely poor, I think this is going to be another huge task for the government. For instance, since I graduated from the university about six years ago, I have been engaging in menial jobs to survive while I hope for a better one. Now, since I live daily on the paltry I earn, I believe I am qualified for the social investment payment plan but then how am I sure that I will benefit from the scheme? A stable monthly stipend of N5000 for an unemployed and the extremely poor is something but my advice to the federal government is to ensure that the payment gets to those that truly deserves it while they fashion out permanent solution to the problem of unemployment and poverty in the country”.
Sharing similar thought with the youth council on the issue, a trader in Balogun market on Lagos Island, Mrs. Olufunke Oluwo believes that as much the payment scheme is commendable, the Federal government needs to urgently address youth unemployment and the inflation that is on the increase on daily basis.
She said, “The economic hardship is getting tensed day after day. We, the poor masses need an urgent bailout. Trading is no longer profitable as it ought to be; our children are out of school with no job while the take home salary of those that are working is not enough to cater for their family needs. Over the years, previous administrations in the country have failed the masses but it seems there is hope in the horizon as the administration of president Buhari is thinking towards the direction of the masses. With the proposed N5000 stipend, something could be achieved because it is better than nothing. However, I want to appeal to the government to address the economic crisis bedeviling the nation and come up with policies that would ensure that the naira is stabilised. Inflation is killing us. It is killing our businesses and it is affecting our families. Nigerians are anxiously expecting the change that we voted for and I believe regardless of the obstacle, I think the APC government and our president are up to the task of taking the country to the dreamland”.