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Creating spaces for youth empowerment



Creating spaces for youth empowerment

The International Youth Day celebration has brought to the front burner some of the factors militating against the full realisation of youthful opportunities and potentials. CALEB ONWE reports


Every society has peculiar factors which the youths contend with as they grow into adulthood. They are usually true reflections of the environment, cultural diversity and in some cases, political climate. In Nigeria, most of the factors holding the youths down include, unemployment, drug trafficking and abuse, illegal migration, and many others. Some of these issues were brought to the front burner during the International Youth Day celebration held on August 11, 2018



At one of the events organised by a Non-Governmental Organization, Helpline Foundation for the Needy, to commemorate the day, stakeholders drawn from different fields brainstormed on some of these factors and proffered solutions to them. The discussants were of the view that the youths needed a conducive environment where their minds could be configured towards self development.


It was also their views that lack of both socioeconomic and political safe spaces have robbed the youths of the capacity to participate effectively in governance and other activities that promote nation building.


Founder of Helpline Foundation for the Needy, Dr. Jumai Ahmadu, disclosed that youth restiveness and vulnerability to social vices were direct products of their alienation from processes of nation building. Ahmadu, an advocate for the youth participation in governance and community development, argued that the youth needed safe spaces where they could engage in activities related to their diverse interests and participate in decision making processes in the society. She said that when there were many safe spaces, they ensure the dignity of the youths. “Safe spaces such as civic spaces enable the youths to engage in governance issues; public spaces afford the youths the opportunity to participate in sports and other leisure activities in the community.


“Digital spaces help the youths interact virtually across borders with everyone. Similarly, without the existence of safe spaces, the youth from different race, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation or cultural background may feel intimidated to freely contribute to the community. When youths have safe spaces to engage, they can effectively contribute to de  velopment, including peace and social cohesion,” she said.


Ahmadu said that in the build up to the 2019 general elections, the Nigerian youth needed to be involved in the process to enable them have a voice in governance. She expressed delight that the present administration has signed the Not too Young to Run Bill into law which means the youth of Nigeria have the opportunity to participate in elections without age limitations as it used to be in the past.


“The only snag to this beautiful development is the high cost of electioneering campaign and the cost of picking nominations forms, which we will like to call on political parties to review downwards,” she said. Illegal migration The celebration dovetailed into a campaign against the menace of illegal migration and human trafficking in Nigeria. Inside Abuja’s interactions with some of the stakeholders during the celebration, revealed that when safe spaces were created for the youths to express themselves, they would achieve satisfactory self development that guarantee socioeconomic empowerment within their immediate communities; thereby reducing their chances of embarking on illegal migration to other parts of the world.


One of the participants, a Libyan returnee, who came to   share his story with the youths, urged them to shun the temptation of illegal migration. Chris Obinna, who survived the heat of the Sahara desert, the hostility and socioeconomic castration which African migrants are subjected to while seeking to illegally cross over to Europe, said that the adventure was not only dangerous, but a suicide mission.


He said that out of 32 immigrants that left Nigeria with him, 16 of them perished on the way, while those of them who cheated death were forced to drink their urine for four days just to survive. Obinna, who has since his return to Nigeria became a social crusader, and the Chairman of the Association of Libyan Returnees, said that having come too close to death but escaped by divine providence, he has resolved to join other stakeholders to discourage the suicide mission by Nigerian youths. He noted that the human traffickers who prey on unsuspecting youths to lure them into the  illegal migration would never disclose the inherent dangers and can abandon their victims at any point to die.


According to him, the human trafficker who took him and his colleagues from Kano via Agades, eventually abandoned them in the desert where 16 of his colleagues died after the trafficker who disappeared, leaving them for days without water and food.


“The major thing that forced us out of Nigeria was the bad economic conditions. The jobs were not coming and there was no hope of survival. The only option left for us was to travel abroad and I thought travelling through the desert would be easier but what I saw was not what I thought.


“I have said I would not sit down and watch our youths travelling through land to Libya. So, I had to start the organization to stop the suicide mission. We want to see how we can stop people from travelling from Nigeria to Libya, having seen what is happening there,” he said

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