By FEMI ADESINA
What’s the deal for youths in the country, particularly from the Muhammadu Buhari administration? That is a question that often comes from different quarters.
Well, the deal for the largest demographic composition, representing about 65% of our population, has been encapsulated under the acronym DEEL. And it’s a big deal, standing for Digital Skill Acquisition, Employability, Entrepreneurship, and Leadership.
Unfolding the deal behind DEEL last week at the State House Press Briefing was Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, who disclosed that his Ministry has the mandate to promote the physical, mental and socio-economic development of the youth through the advancement and protection of their rights within Nigeria.
But is the job being done? How, and to what end? The Ministry has the duty of developing the youth, and also sports. But let’s focus on the youth component in this piece, as it is quite a germane issue, which often sends those involved into dangerous and illegal migration, in which they dare both the Sahara Desert, and the Mediterranean Sea, all in the bid to get to ‘greener’ pastures in Europe, and other parts of the world.
A few survive the misadventure, while the larger number perish in the famished bowels of the Desert, or the watery enclave of the Sea. But why should our youths stay at home? Minister Dare unfurled the reasons.
DEEL. Digital Skill Acquisition. Entrepreneurship. Employability. Leadership.
Under D, the Minister says a minimum number of 6523 of our youths have been trained in robotics and artificial intelligence. Others have been tutored in mobile device repairs, 30,000 have benefited from what is called Digital Youth Nigeria through the IBM Digital Nation Africa, and 10,000 Youth Corps members benefited in Digital skills training.
There are also trainings in youth entrepreneurship for vulnerable youths, and applicant recruitment across the six geopolitical zones in the country, with a budget of N5.2 billion.
Under E, Entrepreneurship, the sum of N75 billion is to be spent over three years, 2020-2023. Called the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF), it is an initiative of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, and is funded by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The aim is to invest in the innovative ideas, skills and talent of our youths, thereby turning them into entrepreneurs, wealth creators and employers of labour, contributing to national development. The intention is to generate 500,000 jobs between 2020-2023.
According to Minister Dare, the sum of N2.9 billion has been disbursed so far under the CBN/NIRSAL arrangement, while 25,000 applicants have been evaluated and are undergoing final stage of training before funds disbursement.
Hear testimonials of some beneficiaries of NYIF: “I will like to send my appreciation to Mr President and the Ministry for the good job done to make sure the fund got to the right people.” Suleiman Abdulkadir.
Yemi Kemi Borisade: “Thank you Mr President for approving this fund through the Ministry of Youth and Sports. God bless Nigeria, God bless Mr President.”
And another beneficiary: “I thank the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports for the opportunity to benefit and scale up my business.”
About 5,258 youths have already benefited from the MSME loan.
In a digital age, the onus is on literate youths to apply online, to become beneficiaries. They need not look for godfathers to help, as it is available for all and sundry. Our youths need to eschew cynicism and skepticism, and step into what has been provided for them. The saying that “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” still rings true. The testimonies are from different parts of the country under the scheme.
There’s the Nigeria Online Youth Assembly (NOYA), which is a purpose-built portal by the Ministry to enable youths get job opportunities, scholarships for personal development, and it presently has over 98, 300 youths signed up.
Instead of joining NOYA, we have millions of youths who are online, spewing hatred against their country, its leadership, and being purveyors of fake news, and hatred. It’s surely not the way to go.
There are series of opportunities for our youths to improve their employability, and acquire leadership skills. There’s the Work Experience Programme (WEP), designed to provide opportunities for them to obtain technical and work readiness skills that will increase their potential for employment, through placement in various organizations for a period of three months.
Under President Buhari, stipend payable to NYSC members has been increased from N18,000 monthly to N33,000. Over 3000,000 youth benefit from this.
Opportunities abound for our youths to benefit from different provisions under DEEL. But they have to go for what has been provided, and not just bemoan their fate, lamenting that nothing is being done for them. Leadership is taken, not given on a platter. They asked for the Not Too Young to Run law, they got it. Let them use what they now have.
The truth is that the focal points of the Buhari administration have been designed to give our youths a future and a hope. When insurgency and banditry are being robustly fought, it is so that the youths can have a country. When efforts are made to retune, diversify and make the economy robust, it is for the youth. And when corrupt people are jailed and their loots recovered, it is for the youths to have a future.
Let there be no disruptive tendencies from our youths again. Let them know that they are stakeholders in the country, their country, and they have roles to play in salvaging Nigeria. It’s a big deal, and DEEL is a good way to get there.
*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity