Youths from the northern part of the country have called on the federal government to put in place appropriate youth empowerment packages similar to the ones designed for ex-agitators in the Niger Delta region, as part of overall measures to tackle the twin challenges of insecurity and insurgency bedeviling the North.
The Arewa Youth Forum (AYF), which made the call during a visit by its national executive members to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in Abuja, said as part of its contributions to addressing the security challenge in the Northern region, it haddeveloped a strategy document titled: ‘Restoring the Security of Northern Nigeria ,through Youth Empowermentâ€, which it submitted to the Chief of Staff to the President, Brig-Gen Jones Arogbofa (rtd).
AYF President, Alhaji Gambo Ibrahim Gujungu, said the visit was to rub minds with the minister on issues of national interest, particularly the development of the northern part of Nigeria vis-Ã -vis youth unemployment as well as peace and unity â€œthat has divided the country, washing away the inherent brotherhood we were known for.â€
He said the visit was to see how the forum could key in and benefit from the activities of the ministry â€œunder your able leadership.â€
Gujungu said the position paper it presented recently to the Presidency through the office of the Chief of Staff dwelt on development issues affecting northern Nigeria. Issues highlighted in the paper, he said, â€œcentred around insecurity, total marginalisation, underdevelopment, federal government infrastructural decay, youth empowerment packages as their counterparts (ex-militants) in the Niger Delta area with a view to addressing the issue of insecurity and insurgency.â€
According to him: â€œIt is in this light that the AYF, as part of its contribution on the issue of insecurity in northern Nigeria, developed a strategy document titled, : ern Nigeria through Youth Empowerment’. We therefore advocate for the creation of a Northern Youth Empowerment Programme (NYEP). While we once again express our gratitude for giving us the opportunity to be with you today. The forum is calling on the Presidency through the Federal Ministry of Finance to redouble its efforts on the ongoing empowerment schemes for better result.â€
He described Okonjo-Iweala as as a thoroughbred professional, â€œastute, intelligent, strategic in vision, planning and implementationâ€ as well as meticulous and efficient in her approach to governance, adding that the minister remains â€œthe very best finance minister Nigeria has ever had.â€
Gujungu said the minister was gifted with the ability of thinking outside the box , a quintessential patriot, and a rare Nigerian heroine who has committed what could be described as a â€œprofessional suicide by resigning from the â€˜prestigious position of managing director of the World Bank to come back home and serve Nigeria.â€
The AYF said the ministerâ€™s insistence on doing what is right had earned her an undeserved bashing from â€those who do not wish Nigeria well,” vowing that the youths would stand by her and defend her at all times.
Describing the minister as the initiator of the SURE-P and YouWiN programmes, he said YouWin was the first initiative by any Nigerian government that is providing a potent window for youths to access funds to start up businesses or expand and run existing ones.
â€œWe must also commend the role played by your ministry, especially as it concerns various empowerment schemes such as YouWiN, and SURE-P programmes, among others,â€ he said.
To underscore the transparency of YouWiN, Gujungu said he could testify to the cases of some youths from the North without â€œthe so-called godfathers,â€ who benefitted from the programme, commending the minister for the â€œvisionary leadership to the good and peace loving people of Nigeria as well as piloting affairs of the country spanning many years.â€
He stated that the visit by the forum was to rub minds with the minister on issues of national interest, particularly the development of the northern part of Nigeria vis-Ã -vis youth unemployment as well as peace and unity that has divided the country washing away the inherent brotherhood we were known for To also see how it can key in and benefit from the activities of the ministry under your able leadership.
Responding, the minister expressed delight for the visit and thanked the group for appreciating her humble contributions to fatherland, adding that it was uncommon to receive such visits and appreciation.
The minister stated that the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration appreciated the enormity of the unemployment situation in the country, and had for the first time in recent history adopted concrete measures to tackle the problem, adding that although the problem had not been resolved completely, positive results were being achieved.
According to her, in demonstration of genuine concern for the problem, President Jonathan had early in his administration charged all the ministers to explore opportunities in their various sectors to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youth.
Okonjo-Iweala stated that the most potent way of tackling a problem was to uncover the magnitude, noting that this was why the president had also charged the Economic Management Implementation Team to measure the number of jobs created and the number of new entrants into the job market as well as the pool of unemployed.
According her, it was this challenge that for the first time, compelled the Statistician-General of the Federation, Mr. Yemi Kale, and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) to embark on a novel exercise which established that 1.8 million youths enter the job market annually while there is an existing pool of 5.3 million unemployed youths.
The minister said although the government created 1.6 million jobs last year, it was 200,000 short of the 1.8 million that joined the job market in 2013, adding that YouWin so far has 3,600 members with 27,000 jobs already created by the first two phases of the programme.
She also disclosed that SURE-P has also created 120,000 jobs, and expanding, noting that theses figures were verifiable from the NBS.
Okonjo-Iweala said the Graduate Internship Programme was another job creation initiative with 3,000 beneficiaries with another 2,000 soon, adding that the target was to raise the beneficiaries to 10,000 graduates soon.
The minister noted that the agriculture sector, with the giant efforts it is making, has also created 400,000 jobs, adding that it was a sector with great potential, which is increasingly creating jobs, propelled by governmentâ€™s unparalled support.
Okonjo-Iweala told the AYF that the federal government was desirous of empowering youths from the North, noting that a special programme was already being designed for the region, particularly the North-east.
While soliciting their support for the governmentâ€™s programmes, she assured that the government would look at their demands.