SPEECH DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PRESIDENT, MUHAMMADU BUHARI AT THE OCCASION OF THE COMMEMORATION OF THE 2015 INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY 12TH AUGUST 2015 AT THE STATE HOUSE CONFERENCE CENTRE (OLD BANQUET HALL) STATE HOUSE, ABUJA.
It is a great pleasure for me to address you this morning at this important occasion as we join other nations across the world to commemorate the 2015 International Youth Day. I am aware that it is in line with the United Nations Resolution 54/120 (19th Dec. 1999) to observe 12th August of every year as a day to celebrate and appreciate the contribution of the youth to their various communities. The appointment of an Envoy on Youth by the United Nations Secretary General is a clear indication of the attention youth issues are accorded around the world.
2. The International Youth Day, therefore, constitutes part of the United Nation’s broader World Programme of Action for Youth. This is a laudable initiative targeted at promoting the general wellbeing and livelihood of young people with its priority focus on education, employment, poverty and hunger, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, inter-generational issues amongst others. This year’s theme tagged youth “Civic Engagement” is very apt. We strongly believe that the engagement and participation of young people is necessary in order to accelerate economic growth and sustainable development.
3. As we commemorate this year’s International Youth Day, let me use this moment to once again pay tribute to all the young people who played significant roles in making the 2015 General Elections a model for democratic governance in Africa. The role you played, individually and collectively, in not only being peaceful members of the electorate but also galvanising the social media platform and mobilizing your peers to make the right choice. Your role contributed in no small measure to having a credible election in an atmosphere that was hitherto tense and volatile. The outcome is today being celebrated worldwide. Your role is greatly appreciated.
4. I can assure you, my young compatriots, that you have written your names in history and you will be remembered as true heroes of our democracy and as architects of change.
5. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, you may wish to note that Africa is the most ‘youthful’ continent in the world. According to the figures I have been presented with, at least 20 percent of the continent’s population of 1.2 billion is between the age bracket of 15 – 24 years, with about 42% below 15 years of age. As the rest of the world gets older, Africa is getting younger. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It all depends on what we make of it.
Therefore, one of the greatest challenges facing governments and policy makers in Africa today is how to provide opportunities and meet the needs of young people, the vast majority of whom need to be empowered to enable them to lead decent lives and contribute their quota to the socio economic and political development of their countries.
6. Correctly harnessed, this tremendous labour force could propel us to take a quantum leap in developing our infrastructure so that Nigeria can join the 21st Century.
7. Some of you may recall that African leaders, at the Malabo 2011Summit, committed themselves to providing employment, whether directly or indirectly, for at least 3% of its unemployed young people every year. For us, the meeting in Malabo 2011, marked another turning point in the continent’s quest for development. The summit adopted that all member States should advance the youth agenda and adopt policies and mechanisms towards the creation of safe, decent and competitive employment opportunities. This would be achieved by accelerating the implementation of the Youth Decade Plan of Action (2009 – 2018) and the Ouagadougou 2004 Plan of Action on Employment Promotion and Poverty Alleviation. African leaders have since stepped up efforts to give voice, visibility and platforms to the youth to advocate for more investments in their future.
8. It is, however, an issue of serious concern that in Nigeria, so far, economic growth has not translated into commensurate and improved social outcomes, especially for our 60 million young people who made up the majority of the population. Consequently our youth migrate from rural to urban areas and from this country to other countries across borders, in search of greener pastures.
9. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen and my beloved youth, I want to assure you that the new Administration will place high premium in tackling challenges facing the youth sector.
10. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, unemployment remains a major concern in Nigeria, with rates rising from 6.4% in 2006 to 24.20% in the first quarter of 2015. The unemployment rate among youth is even more disturbing and considered to be over 50% due to the sheer number of unemployed graduates and a huge number of youth who have had no chance to go to school roaming about the streets.
11. It is worth noting that although educational attainment by Nigerian young people has increased significantly in the last decade, the relevance of curricula, quality of education and the fit with skills required by the job market, still remains a challenge for us as a country.
Unsuitable qualifications limit our young peoples’ employment prospects and potential to contribute to national development. Our new Administration is poised to providing an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive so as to ensure greater opportunities for jobs to be created for our young people.
12. This we believe will assist in reducing criminal activities and terrorism. We have resolved to provide adequate infrastructure and strengthen our job creation institutions in order to increase opportunities for our young people. For Nigeria to sustainably create jobs and ensure growth, we will pay special attention to the growth of our Small and Medium Scale Enterprises. This can be achieved through boosting the intervention funds as guaranteed by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
13. In order to ensure that young people are healthy, skilled and educationally empowered, we will strengthen our academic and vocational training institutions as well as significantly improve our healthcare delivery system.
14. Young Nigerians, let me conclude by reiterating that we are very much committed to fulfilling all our campaign promises. We, therefore, seek your cooperation and patience in this regard. Be assured that “change” for us is not a mere political slogan but the beginning of a new era desired by the majority of Nigerians. The youth must therefore be vanguards of this change and at the same time be the change that they wish to see. To this end and knowing that sustainable development cannot take place in the absence of peace, we must all work together towards the actualization of sustainable peace and harmony to enable this administration to build an enduring legacy. It is on this note that I wish the Nigerian youth happy 2015 International Youth Day celebration.
15. Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
I thank you all.