BusinessDay

The support Nigerian youths need

During a recent event where a marketing expert taught branding and digital marketing, President Muhammadu Buhari’s comment at the Commonwealth Business Forum in Westminster, London on April 18 about Nigerian youths was described by the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON)-certified facilitator as an unfortunate effort to de-market Nigeria, a path only few presidents would toe.

President Buhari had said “a lot of” Nigerian youths, comprising about 60 percent of the country’s 180 million population, “have not been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria has been an oil producing country and therefore they should sit and do nothing and get housing, healthcare and education free”.

To be clear, the Nigerian National Youth Policy (2009) defines youths as those between the ages of 18 and 35 years. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that 29 million Nigerians under labour force were unemployed, and more than 80 percent of them were youths.

The Youth Empowerment Scheme, part-time menial jobs introduced by some state governments, it was reported, had almost 2.5 million graduate applicants out of which an estimated 152,000 youths were eventually employed.

In 2014, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) recorded 125,000 applicants from Abuja and Lagos alone for 4,500 job vacancies at NIS offices. Many youths lost their lives while hundreds sustained varying degrees of injury in a stampede that ensued in the application process.

But even a lot of Nigerian youths who cannot find paid jobs are engaged in different forms of productive ventures, many of which have gained international recognition and attention. For instance, the Yaba tech hub and many other tech hubs across the country have gained international recognition. This was what attracted Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, to Nigeria.

The above examples do not depict a youthful population unwilling to work and waiting for oil money. Sadly, Nigeria has not been supportive of the thousands of youths struggling to make ends meet. Young tech entrepreneurs are harassed daily by the Nigeria Police because of their instrument of trade, their laptops and phones.

Nigeria’s youthful population is a huge blessing. A responsible government should provide them all the necessary support, not de-market them.

 

STEPHEN ONYEKWELU