In 2001, when youth development policies and programmes of the Federal Government were still handled by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Youth Development, the Olusegun Obasanjo administration drafted a National Youth Policy that was the first of its kind and was quite comprehensive.
The policy had among its objectives the desire to ensure all youths are given equal opportunities and are guided to realize their full potentials, foster appropriate values and positive attitudes among youths, involve youths in decision-making at all levels of government, etc.
It was also comprehensive in the sense that it identified programmes and action plans in areas such as education, health, justice, etc. that will positively impact on young people.
However, 15 years after the policy was adopted and nine years since a separate Ministry of Youth Development was established, its implementation has been a mixed success. This is mainly because the ministry is yet to fully grasp its role is more of a hub or one-stop shop for all government initiatives targeting youths.
There is an excessive focus on the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme in the ministry, clearly evident in the fact that the scheme gulps about 70% of the ministry’s budget. The rest of the budget is spent on various projects of the ministry, of which there are no discernible impacts.
The 2001 policy was due for review last year, which was forgotten most likely in the flurry of activities that come with an election year, especially when the elections are the most competitive in the history of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic. Considering the fact that ministers assumed office in November, it was not realistic to expect that a new policy will be in place by now.
Now that the Minister, Barrister Solomon Dalong has settled in as the Minister for Sports and Youth Development, it is expected that the drafting of a new National Youth Policy will be his topmost priority.
This policy must take into cognizance the challenges that Nigerian youths face today, most especially those of job creation, employment and access to qualitative education.
It will be very important for the ministry to not draft this policy in isolation, but it should arise out of consultations and interfacing with various Civil Society Organizations that are youth-focused.
In 2001, the premier youth organization was the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) which today is crisis-ridden and heavily politicized- leading to the minister rightly withdrawing his right of recognition of the organization.
However, long before the NYCN politicized itself out of relevance, various youth-related and youth-focused organizations have sprung up, and have made a good showing of themselves in being focused on results and driven, working in concert with local and international partners.
It is important that the Minister for Sports and Youth Development identifies these organizations and partner with them in the drafting of the new policy, as their input will be crucial.
Lastly, it is not enough that a new policy is drafted – it should be backed by an action plan with deliverables and set dates.
It is important that the ministry identifies those programs undertaken by other ministries that will either help the National Youth Policy a reality or sink it, and interface with the ministries in achieving them.
These key ministries should include education, health, education, science and technology (for ICT-related programs), labour and productivity and sports.
As the year 2016 takes off, we anticipate the engagements that the ministry will have regarding the youth policy and the final unveiling of a new National Youth Policy.
– Editor’s note: The 2001 National Youth Policy was in-fact replaced by an updated policy in 2009.