On Tuesday, 12th January 2016, a group of civil society organizations met with the Minister of Youths and Sports at the Minister’s Conference Room, Ministry of Youths and Sports, Abuja. The meeting was facilitated by the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA). Over 12 youth organizations working on different thematic areas of youth development attended the meeting.
Some organizations represented at the meeting included, Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), Mind the Gap Foundation, Youth Hub Africa, Education as a Vaccine, Eyes on the Mandate, Centre for Political Education and Development, Project Pink Blue, Next Generation Summit, Mind Capital and the International Republican Institute.
The meeting was premised on the ardent need to understand the youth development agenda of the ministry as well as pledge civil society support to the new leadership of the ministry. The meeting availed the youth organizations the opportunity to highlight key priority areas for policies and programs targeted at youth development.
The Head, Research, Policy and Advocacy of Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), Samson Itodo, presented the position paper on behalf of the delegation. He congratulated the Honorable Minister of Youth and Sports, Barr. Solomon Dalung on his appointment as the Honorable Minister of Youth and Sports of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He informed the Minister of the one-day Pre-Summit Youth Consultation convened in Abuja on August 11, 2015 where 130 youth leaders from youth organizations, political parties, religious and traditional institutions and development partners converged to adopt a youth declaration presented to President Muhammadu Buhari during the 2015 International Youth Day celebration. The Pre-Summit was organized by the Federal Ministry of Youth Development, Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), Youngstars Foundation and Mind the Gap Foundation. The International Republican Institute (IRI) financially supported the pre-youth forum. The Nigerian Youth Declaration was presented to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari at the 2015 International Youth Day celebration.
Mr. Itodo further commended the Minister on the steps taken by the Minister towards the reform of youth institutions especially within the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) and pledged to provide support to the Ministry of Youth and Sports in strengthening its interface with youth organizations. He called on the Minister to unveil his agenda for youth development in order to provide a template for engagement between the Ministry and young people.
In his response, Barr. Solomon Dalung, expressed his gratitude to the youth civil society organizations for their support to youth development. He expressed delight at the proactive measures taken by the youth CSOs in constructively engaging the youth ministry. Dalung stated that youth development is cardinal to social development, hence its priority on the development agenda of the Buhari administration. Drawing examples from traditional societies, he stated that young people were trained to be leaders by exposing them to all spectrums of social systems. He added that modern societies also provide platforms for youth political participation hence the need to cultivate active citizenship amongst the youth. In Nigeria, for example, he identified the National Youth Council of Nigeria as one of such platforms. The Minister however decried the rot in the National Youth Council of Nigeria, which led to the Ministry’s withdrawal of the Council’s recognition.
Barr. Dalung also stated that the Ministry of Youth and Sports belongs to the Nigerian youths, adding that the Ministry will insist on the definition of youth as contained in the National Youth Policy of Nigeria. Shedding light on the issues the Ministry will focus on, Dalung mentioned providing an enabling environment for youth development; providing job opportunities and empowerment for youth; leadership orientation to assume future leadership roles and partnership with youth development organizations.
The Minister emphasized the concern of the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration about youth unemployment. He restated that the meeting was an indication that Nigerian youths were prepared to take their pride of place in Nigerian society. Underscoring the critical importance of youth development, he called on state and local governments to also take responsibility for issues relating to youth development.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Mr. Rotimi Olawale of Youth Hub Africa, called on the Minster to meet with a larger group of youth organizations as part of his consultations on issues of youth development. He further raised questions on the review of the National Youth Policy, Youth Development Centres and the UN Junior Professionals Programme.
The Minister promised to review the agreement for counterpart funding for the UN Junior Professionals Programme, inspect the Youth Development Centres to obtain firsthand knowledge of their state of affairs as well as activate machinery for review of the National Youth Policy based on previous experience and to ensure a more encompassing Policy that is reflective of current realities.
In conclusion the Minister called on the youth organizations to partner with the Ministry to develop an agenda that is in line with the agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration. The group offered to support the ministry in hosting a town hall meeting with wider participation from youth groups to deliberate on the youth development agenda for the ministry. The Minister accepted the offer and pledged the support of the Ministry in hosting a national town hall on youth development.
The Minister received a copy of the International Youth Day Declaration that was presented to President Muhammadu Buhari at the 2015 International Youth Day celebration.
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