Budgeting for the Youth in Nigeria

Youth Hub Africa's picture
Tier of Government: 
Federal
Budget Sub-Sector: 
Youth Development
Description/Story: 

On July 29, 2006 more than 500 young people drawn from the 36states of the federation gathered at the Banquet Hall at the State House for what was termed the ‘Presidential Youth Forum’. A month earlier, the President, Olusegun Obasanjo while meeting with about 100 youth leaders had promised to convene a larger forum to allow his economic team present the achievements of his administration and plans for the future. While the Banquet hall slowly filled up, youth leaders gathered in groups to discuss an advocacy agenda. On top of that agenda was the demand for a full youth development ministry.

Before then, the youth development portfolio had been bandied and attached to any ministry based on the whims and caprices of the Government in power. By 2006, the youth development portfolio was an extra responsibility added to the job of the Minister for Inter-Governmental Affairs and special duties.

The Presidential Youth Forum was  one of such rare moments when young people spoke with one voice and demanded for a full fledged Youth Development Ministry. President Obasanjo acceded to the request and promised that a Youth development Ministry will be established and will take effect from January 1, 2007.

Some of us who participated in the Forum were overjoyed. We felt that young people of Nigeria will now have a ministry which will work in rythm with the yearning and aspirations of the growing youth demography especially in the areas of skills, human capacity development, jobs,youth participation in governance and particularlyworking to place youth at the centre of Government planning and resource allocation in order to groom and equip an emerging workforce that can compete at the global level.

Fast-forward to 2013, we are today saddled with a not-so-youthful 47-year old Minister and the Ministry of Youth Development has continued to play second fiddle even in matters that directly relate to youth in Nigeria. It is important to note that core issues such as youth participation in elections and youth input into the on-going constitutional reform process have been conceived, organised and led by youths and youth organisations without any significant input or support from the ministry which is tasked with the development of youths in Nigeria.

We could discern the priorities and directions of an organisation through a review of where it invests its money. If that is true, for the Financal Year 2013, the Ministry of Youth Development will commit a princely sum of 78.09billion Naira to the National Youth Service Corps out of a totalbudget of 85.42billion devoted to the Ministry. This amount voted for the NYSC represents a whooping 91.4percent of the total Ministry of Youth development’s budget. Perhaps the Ministry of Youth Development could therefore be simply renamed the ‘Ministry of National Youth Service Corps and Sundry Issues’. The trouble with this prioritisation is that excessive emphasis is placed on the NYSC scheme even though there are many youths who do not participate in the scheme and even youths who have completed the service still require policy attention.

Unfortunately, the NYSC scheme is currently at a stage where it appears that the Federal Government is paying graduates to do nothing for a one year period. More than 50-70% of corps Members are posted to places of primary assignment where they cannot function or where there are no jobs for them to do. In many cases, there are allegations that corps members could spend their time as they wish and share their stipend with their supervisors and some rogue officials of the NYSC system. With an annual wage bill for corps members in excess of N30billion, the Return on Investment for this wage bill is almost non-existent.

The conversations around the reforms of the NYSC program during the last minister has currently hit the rocks and the calls for the scrapping of the NYSC scheme has become louder with Government not providing a clear outline on how it intends to rejig the NYSC, established 40years ago via decree No 24 of May 22, 1973 under the Gejneral Yakubu Gowon led administration. It is difficult for the Ministry of Youth Development to silence the calls for the abolition of the NYSC scheme without a total overhaul of the system to ensure that the resources committed to it yield the best return for the country and for the good of the youth. The former Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi had commenced an overhaul of theNYSC program by reviewing its posting policy, his reforms agenda were shortlived as a result of his redeployment to the sports Ministry as a Minister. I wrote about this in an earlier article on a review of the former Minister’s tenure

Besides the NYSC, an analysis of the 2013 Federal Ministry of youth development’s budget throws up some curious items and figures. With a 5 billion Naira bill for capital expenditure, the ministry will commit N3.57billion towards the ongoing construction of 33 youth development centres nationwide. I am aware that 6 of the youth development centres been built has been completed, till date however, there are no records to show the number of young persons that have been trained at these centres. It is crucial that the Ministry ascertains the extent of use and maintenance of the completed centres before embarking on the construction of 33 more such centres if they will not make any difference in the lives of the youth.

Furthermore, the ministry will commit 1.12 billion Naira into what is called ‘youth empowerment programmes’. Since there is no breakdown attached to this, we can assume some of this resources will go to the traditional training programs inclusing soap making, tie-and-dye production and bead making among other training programs that have become so common place that there is no significant value that can be derived from such trainings. The ministry also intends to spend the sum of 110million Naira towards upgrading the National Youth Index and Data Bank. The existence and usefulness of such an index need to be further explained.

The youth ministry intends to spend 7million Naira to fuel and maintain an aircraft while maintenance of seaboats and railway equipments is expected to cost 11.2million and 1.2million Naira respectively. To the best of my knowledge, the ministry of youth development does not own an aircraft, I might be wrong. However, if they do own one, there is need to identify why it is needed and how it has been used in the previous years before new monies are devoted to it. The same question needs to be asked of the seaboats and railway equipment. It is inconceivable that every government department should own its own air, land and sea transport systems. That is not all, office stationaries and computer consumables will set the ministry back by 100million Naira while satellite broadcasting access charges will gulp 5million Naira.

To maintain its motor-vehicles and transport equipments, the youth ministry budgeted 71.5million Naira while maintenance of office furniture will cost the sum of 35million Naira. The Ministry’s training budget both local and International is valued at 104million Naira. It also budgeted 104million Naira for for training of youth in Agriculture and also providing start-up capital for the youth trained. How this training in agriculture differs from the youth empowerment line item discussed above is not at all clear.

With this kind of budget for Financial year 2013, it is unclear how the ministry of youth will contribute towards realising Nigeria’s vision2020 or optimise its resources to reduce youth unemployment which is growing in Nigeria at an alarming rate. Many of the programs of the ministry are shrouded in secrecy and not openly advertised nor publicised to give advantage to young people from far and near to apply and participate.

Despite the achievements recorded by young Nigerians in the ICT sector and the numerous opportunities and potentials that abound in that sector, the youth ministry has devoted ZERO budget to support, build capacity or provide seed capital for young people in that sector. If this practice in budgeting continues in Nigeria, Nigeria will lose its competitiveness in the ICT sector and discourage innovation and private investments in the sector. Looking at the budget of the youth ministry in Nigeria, it is no wonder that Kenya is seen as Africa’s silicon valley while Nigerian Government continues to run empowerment programs that empowers only the contractors and their friends in Government.

It is high time that young Nigerians pay more than a cursory attention to budget development process as a whole, specifically the budgets for the Ministry of Youth development which hasn’t received any significant attention from youth stakeholders. If the Ministry of Youth Development is to continue to serve the purpose for which it was created, then it is crucial that it supports and encourages youth dialogue on all matters of public policy and that its programmes are developed directly from what is known as the concern and priorities of the youth. Yet there is more that the youths could do, we could devote our time to developing policy blue prints that could make a difference in the lives of the Nigerian youth.

 

by Rotimi Olawale

State (If Applicable): 
Abuja
Budget Period: 
2018
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