By B.C Obilor
Recently, there have been some agitations and expressions of grievances and displeasure all over the country over hunger, poverty, unemployment and police brutality caused by bad governance , which has led to the death of innocent Nigerians. It is also no longer news that majority of Nigerians have expressed their grievances through a massive protest which witnessed a massive turn out as a result of the accumulated provocative conducts of some members of the Nigerian Security services , particularly, the disbanded SARS.
However, the peaceful protest which was by no stetch of imagination, unlawful, became unlawful when it was hijacked by some hoodlums who decided to turn the peaceful protest into an avenue of looting and wanton destructions of properties of law abiding citizens and that of the government.
The consequences of the activities of the hoodlums led to the alleged unjustifiable attack unleased on the innocent protesters by the Nigerian Army. It must be noted that , there is no legal justification for the alleged shooting and massacre of innocent Nigerians. Thus, this is condemnable and the perpetrators should be fished out and made to face the full wrath of the law. No body is above the law.
It is worthy of note that, the protest, and the recent happenings have been attributed to the youths. Infact, there is a current news going viral over the internet stating the various demands of the Youth from the government of Nigeria. Also, I had a heated argument with some group of persons recently over the definition of a youth in Nigeria. Thus, I decided to go into a voyage of discovery to ascertain, whether all those fronting the said agitations, the leaders of the protest and those making demands, are youths strictly speaking or not. Who is a Youth Nigeria join me below in that voyage!
WHO IS A YOUTH GENERALLY.
There seems to be no standard global definition of a youth. Africa and the global south and of course many countries of the world, have long insisted that youth is not a range of ages but defined by a diversity of culturally defined social processes that mark the transition from child to adult. It is against this background that the writer finds it pertinent to look at some notable and popular definitions of a youth and to examine the impacts of the narrow definition of youth in Nigeria.
According to the UN “Youth” is best understood as a period of transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood’s independence and awareness of our interdependence as members of a community. Youth is a more fluid category than a fixed age-group.”
The Commonwealth defines youth as 15-29 years of age.
The African Youth Charter defines youth as “any individual between 15-35 years of age and seeks to resolve longstanding debates about defining youth within the African context and based on Africa’s development realities.”
WHO IS A YOUTH IN NIGERIA.
In Nigeria, prior to the emergency of the NATIONAL YOUTH POLICY 2019, The Nigerian national youth policy (2009) defines youth as between 18-35 years. However, the 2019 National Youth Policy has changed the above classification. By the new Policy, a youth in Nigeria is a person between 18-29 years.This explains why NYSC is limited to graduates under the age of 30years.
It must be noted that most African countries have a wider definition of a youth than Nigeria, the supposed giant of Africa. For instance, by virtue of the National Youth Policy of Ghana 2010, the age bracket for youth is 15-35, an obvious adoption of the definition by the African Youth Charter, the Cameroonian government also adopted the 15-35 years definition of a youth by the African Youth Charter in their National Youth Policy 2006.
On the other hand, some educational psychologists have tried to be specific by defining the age of youth in terms of number of years. According to them, youth is an age between about thirteen (13) and forty (40).
THE NARROW DEFINITION OF YOUTH IN NIGERIA AND ITS NEGATIVE IMPACTS:
First and foremost, I do not see the reason why the Youth age bracket of 18-35 years which was contained in the 2009 National Youth Policy was changed. The new revised National Youth Policy 2019 does not reflect the political reality in Nigeria. How can the definition of a youth be limited to 18-29 years? What is the rationale for such narrow and restrictive categorization?
The worst part is that, the said policy is not even followed strictly. The various youth leaders in Nigeria are more than the so called age baracket. Regrettably, the current minister of Youth and sports is over 50 years. How can a non youth be heading a group of youth? Is’nt it a mockery and a departure from the said youth Policy?
The negative impacts of this restrictive categorization of a youth in Nigeria are numerous to mention. It is the major cause of unemployment in Nigeria. Infact, it has encouraged numerious discriminatory practices in Nigeria. For the a avoidance of verbosity, let me outline some of the negative impacts of such age restriction of a youth in Nigeria, briefly;
- NYSC scheme is open to only those below the age of 30, when majority of Nigerians graduate from the University above that age due to the incessant strike by ASUU, poverty, limited number of intakes by universities and the corruption in Nigerian admission processes.
- Most employment opportunities in Nigeria, especially from the government instututions have age brackets requirements which are usually below 30 years.
- By the definition of a youth in Nigeria, no youth can be a senator, governor or president. The age requirement is within 30 and above.
The list in inexhaustible.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION.
Considering the definition of youth as contained in the Nigerian National Youth Policy 2019, can we really say that the protesters, the hoodlums and those making demands are youths? It is the opinion of the writer that the current definition of youth in Nigeria, does not represent the present realities. Infact, the practice in Nigeria is a clear opposite of the said Policy.
The definition of a youth in Nigeria is departure from the present realities. One of the cause of unemployments and hadship experienced by majority of Nigerians can be traced to the restrictive categorization of youth in Nigeria. This unrealistic definition of youth in Nigeria, has some economic and political implications. Many Nigerians can not be gainfully employed and not allowed to benefit from most governmental schemes due to this restrictive definition of Youth in Nigeria.
I hereby propose the following recommendations.
- That the definition of youth should be reviewed to extend to 40 or 45years.
- That every appointment concerning youth activities in Nigeria, should be restricted to the Youth. No body above 40 or 45years should lead the youth.
- The age requirement for NYSC should extended also, and made optional rather than compulsory.
- Every government organization should have no employment age limit that is contrary to the age limit of a youth.
- That every executive cabinet, both at the national and state level must have at least 30percents of it’s members as youths. This should be backed by law.
- There should be strict adherence to the National Youth Policy in making appointments.
BY: B.C OBILOR, is a human Right Activist and a public Affairs Analyst. ( BCOBILOR@nigerianbar.ng)