Challenges and solutions to Nigeria’s Youth Policy

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The Problem Statement

The 2019 National Youth Policy became necessary due to the urgent need to review and update the 2009 National Youth Policy which expired in 2014 and with a provision of a 5-year periodic review.

The 2019 NYP aimed to narrow down the target population covered by the policy by reducing the age bracket from 18-35 years in the 2009 NYP to 15-29 years.

This is in line with the UN’s youth age bracket of 15-24 years but contrasts with that of the African Youth Charter of 15-35 years.

Also, the 2009 NYP derived its priorities and guidelines from the National Economic Empowerment Development and Strategy (NEEDS), the defunct Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the African Charter.

Consequently, the 2019 NYP is guided by current National, Regional and International policies and conventions such as the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Youth Charter.

The Policy Solution

In order to have a robust policy that caters to the needs of Nigerian Youth, the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development anchored the 2019 NYP under 5 Strategic Thrusts/Policy Benchmarks, 11 Thematic Areas and 23 Objectives.

These Policy Benchmarks are developed in alignment with the vision, mission, and goal of the 2019 National Youth Policy stated below:

Vision: to develop Nigerian Youth with equal opportunities to realize their dreams and aspirations, irrespective of their background, and living in a safe and secure environment that would optimize their contributions to National Development.

Mission: to provide stakeholders an all-inclusive framework that will ensure the realization of the full potentials of all Nigerian young men and women irrespective of their ethnic, religious, and socio-economic background

Goal: To provide a framework that protects the Fundamental Human Rights, promote optimal development and well-being, enhance their participation in every sphere of national development.

In order to be precise and effective, the 2019 NYP categorized Nigerian Youths into 3 Broad Target Groups (this is a departure from the 2009 NYP’s 14 Target Groups, though all 14 groups and more are covered within the 3 broad groups classified by the 2019 NYP) namely:

Low-Risk Youth: these are young people who are transitioning appropriately to healthy and productive adulthood with minimal challenge and have the appropriate supportive environment

Especially Vulnerable Youth: These are youth who are socially and economically disadvantaged or those who are in challenging social and economic circumstances, based on limited development opportunities, social exclusion, family circumstances, inadequate education, unemployment or precarious employment and other social, cultural, political, legal and economic factors which may threaten their development trajectory or compromise the attainment of their potentials.

Most-at-Risk Youth: Refers to youth engaging in behaviors or practices detrimental to their health, well-being and development and whose activities may also put the larger society at risk

As mentioned earlier, 5 Key Policy Benchmarks/Strategic Thrusts formed the pivot on which the 2019 NYP is to be implemented as follow:

  1. Productive Workforce and Sustainable Economic Engagement
  2. Health and Health Promoting Lifestyle
  3. Participation, Inclusiveness and Equitable Opportunities for all Youth
  4. Promotive and Protective Environment for Youth Development
  5. Partnership-Building and Effective Collaboration

The 2019 NYP covers almost all facets of the life of the Nigerian Youth ranging from Education, Entrepreneurship, Agriculture, Health, Capacity-building, ICT, Economic empowerment, to Political inclusion and Security.

This Policy is to be driven by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development in collaboration with other key MDAs and Civil Society. It is expected to be in force between 2019 and 2023.

NIGAC Constructive Position

The 2019 NYP is a detailed document (with 111 pages), more detailed than the 2009 version of 80 pages but the issue is never in the content of the policy but in implementation and execution.

To implement the beautiful goals in the policy, the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development requires the active and effective collaboration of several key MDAs like Education, Budget and National Planning, Health, Agriculture, Interior etc.

With the intrigues and bureaucracies in government circles, it will be a daunting task for the FMOYSD to implement the 2019 NYP.

Some of the vital parts of the policy are either domiciled or will be a replication or duplication of other Ministries’ core responsibilities and such MDAs will never allow themselves to be usurped of their core functions for relevance sake.

Another salient factor is the budget provision for the implementation of the policy.

For instance, in the First Strategic Thrust (Productive Workforce and Economic Engagement), the FMOYSD aims to, among others, provide 100,000 bursaries to STEM undergraduates annually; train 295,000 Education Personnel….; establish Study Loan Schemes for Tertiary students, establish 500,000 learner-friendly mass literacy centers etc.

These are all core responsibilities of the Federal Ministry of Education, it is, therefore, pertinent to ask whose budget will cater for the above in the appropriation bill, Youth & Sports Development or Education?

Similar clashes of core functions are encountered throughout the 2019 NYP which may spell doom for its effective implementation.

There is also the perennial problem of continuity that may hamper the successful implementation of the policy.

The priority of succeeding government or minister may shift so as to allow the incumbent point to his own achievements rather than building on the predecessor’s project.

This factor may lead to a haphazard implementation or non-implementation of the policy’s strategic thrusts.

Of importance is the constitution of the Ministry saddled with the task of managing Youth affairs. Bundling Youth with Sports has made Nigerian Youths to be largely under-catered for in favor of Sports, especially Soccer.

One may argue that Sports cater effectively to the age-category of Youth but we can attest to the fact that the percentage of Youth in Sports pale in comparison with those in other endeavors.

To have a Youth-focused policy implementation, the Ministry of Youth Development may need to be unbundled from the Ministry of Sports.

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