The Minister of Youth and Sport Development, Mr Sunday Dare, has appealed to the youth to embrace dialogue in order to move the country forward.
Dare said this on Sunday in Abuja at the maiden edition of the National Youth Day celebration with the theme ” Invest in the Youth, Secure Our Future”.
He said that with the protests the country had witnessed in the past three weeks, there could be no better time than now to celebrate the youth and validate their contributions to national economic development.
According to him, the Youth Day celebration is an opportunity to reflect, take stock and chart a new youth action plan that will tackle head-on the issues that confront our teeming youth population.
He quoted the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) , Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, as saying that the establishment of Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks would help to fully unleash youth potential through technology and entrepreneurship.
“Adesina’s assertion made in September 2020, first validates the strength of our youth and secondly demands from government and the private sector direct investments in the youth population with a de-risking mentality,’’ the minister said.
He said many of the youth could achieve a lot but for the lack of opportunities, inadequate education that was unsuitable for available jobs and a huge unemployment market caused by a struggling and sluggish economy.
Others, he said, were lack of relevant skills, lack of credit and access to finance for youth enterprises and businesses and low investment from the public and private sectors,” he said.
Dare said that it was time to change the trajectory to one that was capable of lifting millions of youth out of unemployment, under-employment, frustration with the system, dearth of opportunities and stunted growth.
“The dreams and careers of our youth must receive a new burst of energy and renewed hope so that as a country our future can be secured,”’ he said.
The minister said that the theme was apt as it would enable the country to invest more and deliberately in the innovative minds, skills and talents of the youth.
He said it would equip them with needed and relevant technical, digital skills and also make them wealth creators, self-starters, employers of labour and leaders in their own right.
“Globally, there is a paradigm shift from merely empowering the youth to directly investing in them,” Dare said.
Dare said that without investments in the youth today, there would be no returns either now or in the future.
He said that the country was blessed with a growing youth population that could turn out to be the country’s greatest resource if Nigeria made the right investments and in a timely manner.
Dare said that President Muhammadu Buhari, since the inception of his administration, had never taken his eyes off the ball when it comes to youth developmental issues.
According to him, the president believes that when the youth are given to hard work, they should also be provided with opportunities.
Dare said the government had initiated many multifaceted youth-focused- programmes.
“Wherever a youth group is found, these programmes target them. Indeed, on July 22, the president and council approved the establishment of the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund, (NYIF).
“It was a culmination of all efforts geared at giving our youth access to funds needed for enterprise.
“The president, through the NYIF demonstrated that Nigeria was in sync and agreement with the new thinking in youth development and that sees investing in the youth as a condition to unleash their potential,” he said.
According to him, the NYIF has been over-subscribed for the 2020 half year funding provided for. More than one million applications have been received with more expected to come.
Dare said that with the recent protests Nigeria was taking measures to change the narrative by investing in youth development.
He said that change has begun and that what was needed was to deepen the youth initiatives and accelerate the onboarding of beneficiaries in a transparent and effectual manner.
Dare said that Nigeria must license youth investment banks that would give loans at single digit.
“Through the NYIF, the Federal Government has set the tone and leading the way,” he said.
Dare said during the celebration that 10 winners of the 60-day APP challenge competition and five young innovators in different fields received N12.5 million.
He said that Buhari had faith in the youth and was committed to his meeting the demands of the protesting youth.
Dare said Buhari was convinced that the acts of brutality against the youth and the larger Nigerian population needed to be addressed.
He said that the president had activated all necessary levels of government to deal with the demands of the youth.
“These protests had earned the youth a well deserved place at the table. So, take your seat in order to continue the progress and reform you have called for.
“From the protest, it is time for the next phase which is dialogue, identify trusted leaders and have them come forward.
“Any movement without leaders becomes rudderless and susceptible to being hijacked by people with agenda inimical to the very reasons behind the protests.
“The youth have a unique opportunity to help write a new chapter in our journey to a more compassionate society and a greater nation.
“Don’t let this historic chance pass through your hands. You deserve this moment, as does the nation we love,” he said.