globally, youths are not only seen as essential part of an emerging society, but also an integral and instrumental workforce that must be carried along in the scheme of nation building. In fact, it comes to reason that no country can survive politically, economically and technologically without vibrant youths, given their pride of place as the productive working class. Over the years, statistics have shown that youths are the prop of modern economy and the most proficient and efficient in service delivery.
Unfortunately, youths in Nigeria have not been adequately empowered in the true sense of the word. Instead, they are being used by affluent and desperate politicians to rig elections and commit all sorts of vices. In most cases, these able-bodied youths end up as political thugs to these politicians.
Undoubtedly, tens of thousands of graduates are being churned out by the nation’s tertiary institutions yearly. Sequel to this fact, the rate of youth unemployment in the country has assumed a disturbing dimension. This, perhaps, explains the rising incidence of cultism, armed robbery, kidnapping, drug peddling, prostitution and a host of other anti-social activities youths indulge in.
National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, puts Nigeria’s unemployment rate at about 24 percent; 60 percent of the country’s population are youths, translating to about 80 million Nigerian youths. According to the Statistician- General of the Federation, Dr. Yemi Kale, “76, 018 new jobs were created by the formal sector in Q1 of 2014; informal sector recorded 158, 894 new jobs, while the public sector recorded 5, 959 new jobs. The total new jobs for Q1 of 2014 was 240, 871, representing a decrease by 10.3 percent from the previous quarter, which recorded 265, 702 jobs and lower than the 431, 021 jobs created in the corresponding quarter in 2013.”
However, as no nation can sufficiently provide all the jobs needed by her populace, the youths, who roam about the streets in search of white-collar jobs after service could be empowered to be self reliant. In agriculture, for instance, one could go into fishery, poultry or small-scale farming. Thus, in reviewing the scheme for self reliability-cum-sustainability, agriculture, which is the mainstay of any economy, should be given priority attention.
Therefore, spirited and holistic efforts should be geared towards youth empowerment via the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC. The scheme, which was envisioned
to produce youths that are self-reliant, should be revisited with the right policies and programmes.
Nevertheless, the huge financial assistance from the World Bank could be used in establishing farm settlements in the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory. Interested corps members could be mobilised to work in these farm settlements as part of their Community Development Service, CDS, to acquire requisite skills.
Better still, they could be empowered to start their own after service by giving them soft loans, especially those of them that studied agriculture and agro-related courses. However, this could be achievable if adequate and continuous budgetary allocations are made available to the Ministry of Youth Development.
Moreover, in order to key into the Vision 20:2020 properly, youth empowerment cannot and will not be overemphasised. As the country strives to be among the 20 most industrialised nations by the year 2020, government should be mindful that without empowering the teeming unemployed youths to be self-employed in small-scale ventures, its efforts would be tantamount to nothing. If China, for instance, with the largest population on earth, could empower her youths in the agricultural and industrial sectors, Nigeria could do much more if the right attitude is adopted and implemented by her leaders.
Basically, as we strongly advocate youth empowerment through the instrumentality of NYSC scheme, it is pertinent and expedient to x-ray some of the challenges bedeviling the scheme, which has produced eminent Nigerians.
First and foremost, the issue of late and perhaps, hasty mobilisation of qualified graduates for the three-week orientation is something that calls for concern. The case whereby schools are not given ample time for the mobilisation exercise is not acceptable.
Bad enough, only few states have permanent orientation camps while others make do with what is available to them. Most of these camps have no provision for convenience and the few that have cannot vouch for their hygienic state. In other words, corps members resort to going to the bush to answer the call of nature.
Moreover, the meager monthly allowance of N19, 800 being paid the corps members has not helped matters. As a result of that, many feed from hand to mouth owing to the current economic realities.