The Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, on Monday in Abuja said that tackling youth unemployment in the country was top priority of the National Assembly.
The Speaker said this during an interactive session between members of the house and students’ representatives from universities across the country.
He decried the level of youth unemployment in the country, saying that employment opportunities were far below the growth in the population of youth.
“According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2015, Nigeria’s unemployment rate was 23.9 per cent, and 60 per cent of our population were youths, translating to about 80 million Nigerian youths.
“Youth unemployment rate is over 50 per cent; about 64 million Nigerian youths are unemployed.
“When one takes into cognisance the sheer number of young people seeking employment, it renders programmes of government and international agencies to mere tokenistic gestures,’’ he said.
Dogara said that while the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) could not provide needed succour to unemployed youths, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme was struggling to absorb recent graduates of the country‘s tertiary institutions.
He, however, expressed dismay that educated youths failed to acquire skills currently being demanded in the labour market.
“A weak vocational training sector means that, in spite of a large and growing construction sector, skilled construction workers are usually imported from neighbouring countries,’’ he said.
Dogara stated that the ongoing sectoral debates organized by the House would serve as a platform to identify and prioritize key issues of graduate unemployment to be addressed
“As part of the sectoral debates of the House of Representatives, we are vigorously engaging the executive on how to diversify the economy and create jobs for our people.
“The house has specifically scheduled debates and interactive sessions with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) responsible for job creation and employment in our next debates.
“The debate session taking place on the floor of the house, seeks to identify and prioritize key issues of graduate unemployment to be addressed.
“It will also develop a strategy to address these issues and develop potential legislative action plans and follow-up activities.
“It is our expectation that through the agency of this dialogue, key issues of graduate unemployment would be prioritized, and a framework and strategy to address these issues would be developed.’’
He added that the house would continue to support key youth policy initiatives targeted at young people such as boosting entrepreneurship, increasing investment in infrastructure in public schools, and supporting reform of higher education in Nigeria.
He said that issues surrounding youth employment were multi-sector and must involve many stakeholders.
According to him, governments, the private sector, educational and training institutions, employers and industries, employees, parents and families, communities, and of course, the youth themselves must be involved.
He commended the recent initiative of the Federal Government to address youth unemployment through graduate participation in small-scale agriculture.
Dogara said that the N400 billion agriculture project, which was being coordinated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), represented a right step in the right direction.
“May I therefore use this opportunity to encourage young graduates and 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 in each geo-political zone in the country to absorb the teeming unemployed youths.
“Each farm village may have targeted crops and poultry.
“If successful, this can be replicated in all states and will encourage farming as a business for youths,’’ he said.
Mr Tijani Usman, National President of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), said that the interactive session would empower students with skills needed for leadership roles in the future.
“We believe this will help and guide our students aright on how to legislate properly on our various campuses,’’ Usman said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the session was designed to deepen students understanding of the democratic process with special emphasis on the legislature.
It will also expose students to legislative practice and procedure as well as enable them to meet and interact with their elected representatives in the national assembly.