Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations (UN) Secretary General’s envoy on Youth, has urged Nigerian government to make room for greater inclusion youths in governance in order for the country to fully benefit from the dividends of the youth demography.
Ms. Wickramanayake, who made the appeal at a press conference in Abuja on Saturday, said although youths in Nigeria are ready to contribute towards the attainment of the country’s attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), their participation in policy making and implementation process are still fraught with structural and legal challenges.
She commended the National Assembly for passing the Age Reduction Bill aimed at ensuring youths are given greater opportunity to assume both elective and appointive positions in government.
However, the UN envoy urged more legislative houses adopt the bill in order for the country to surmount some of the barriers preventing youths from becoming leading political actors in the country.
On the issue of youth unemployment in Nigeria, Ms. Wickramanayake called for a review of the education curriculum to ensure that youths are taught with proper skills that will match the prevailing needs in the labour market.
On the issue of youth migration from Nigeria to Europe through Libya, the UN youth envoy disclosed that the United Nation is working on a document known as the Global Pact on Migration to ensure that safe and regular migration of young people across continents.
She, however, noted that it is not just enough for governments to invest in education and health but to also make deliberate efforts to eradicate poverty and hardships which force youths to seek greener pastures abroad.
Her words: “I was privileged to be at the civic innovation lab to listen to Nigerian youths talk in an inspiring manner about the opportunities and challenges facing them toward with regards to the attainment of the SDGs and I believe they are ready to contribute towards policy making and implementation in the country.
“I am convinced they have what it takes to become valuable assets in the governance process.
“But there are structural and legal challenges that prevents them from doing so. That’s why I urge the state legislators to adopt the Age Reduction Bill to open-up access for youths to participate actively in governance. I hope to see a youth overseeing the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development in Nigeria someday.
“I urge policymakers in Nigeria to review the curriculum and also scale-up investment in education not just in quantity but in quality as a means to tackle unemployment, because there is a mismatch between the skills most students come out with when they leave school and the demands in the labor market,” she said.