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National Youth Employment And Development Agency  Bill Passes Second Reading

National Youth Employment And Development Agency Bill Passes Second Reading

The Bill for an Act to Repeal the National Directorate of Employment Act Cap 28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, and to establish the National Youth Employment and Development Agency Act 2017 to provide for the promotion, coordination and Employment of youths in Nigeria and for other matters connected therewith today,  Wednesday, 7 June 2017 passed through second reading in the  Senate. 
The Bill is sponsored by Senator representing Akwa Ibom North East senatorial District and chairman, Senate committee on Gas resources. Senator Bassey Albert Akpan. Below is the lead debate on the bill presented by Senator Albert. 
SPONSOR: Senator Bassey Albert Akpan
Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, permit me to lead the debate on the general principles of this important Bill for an Act to repeal the National Directorate of Employment Act, CAP 28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, and in its place  enact the National Youth Employment and Development Agency Act, 2017. This Bill was read for the first time in this hallowed Chamber on December 9, 2015.
This Bill primarily seeks to expand the scope of the existing National Directorate on Employment Law to accommodate poverty eradication/ creation of employment related plans and programmes of government and incorporate issues of youth development/empowerment and strengthen its operations for optimum performance. 
The objective of the Bill is to:
generate employment and entrepreneurship and ensure greater opportunities for youths to secure decent work and income over the life circle, thereby contributing to a virtuous circle of poverty reduction, sustainable development and social inclusion,
protect their rights and civic engagements by ensuring that the inherent rights of the youths are recognized and upheld to enable the engagement of young people in all aspects of their development,
To ensure the progressive/substantive inclusion of young people in political and decision making process at local, State and national levels,
Limitations of the current NDE Act
Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) was created to combat unemployment in the country arising from the global economic recession in the 80’s. The Directorate carries out this mandate through various programs such as skills acquisition, self-employment schemes and labor intensive programs. (See sec. 2 of the NDE Act)
However, much as these employment schemes by the Directorate are relevant and important, there is a limit to which they can be relied upon in this 21st century to provide a lasting solution to youth unemployment and development. This is because the NDE Act has become obsolete and is replete with deficiencies which have so far jeopardized or hampered its operations and execution of its mandate. Similarly, poor funding (the Directorate relies mainly on annual subvention from the federal government for its sustenance), low productivity and low morale of its employees have also hindered its performance in the past years. This is why the unemployment rate in the country has not abated but has been on a steady increase over the years with the resultant high rate in social vices.
Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose for the seventh straight quarter to 13.9 percent in the third quarter of 2016 from 13.3 percent in the previous period. This is the highest level since 2009. Recent figures from the National Bureau of Statistics reveal that the unemployed labor force now stands at 75.9 million Nigerian youths. This is a national calamity! The various intervention funds of over two trillion naira expended by the federal government in the past few years has had no commensurate impact in terms of job creation  as most of the funds were diverted to other uses due to lack of an enabling legislation. The multiplicity of entrepreneurial/skills acquisition centres across the country without adequate funding and sustainability of programmes has further deepened the unemployment crises in the country.
Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, the extant NDE Act does not capture or address sufficiently the challenges or issues affecting youth development, empowerment and employment which has now taken a global dimension and has attracted resolutions by international organizations. For example, the United Nations Development Program, UNDP Youth Strategy, the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment have all drawn up elaborate strategies to assist and empower the youths while at the same time calling the attention of member nations to take concrete steps to address the problems of the youth employment and empowerment for a sustainable and better future.
Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, across the globe and Nigeria in particular, the economic recession has had a dramatic impact on the challenges facing young people seeking jobs. Apart from the challenges in terms of access to equal opportunities to jobs, the youth also have challenges in having a voice on decisions that affect their lives as well as their future.
Majority of our youths today are faced with the following problems; Inadequate parental care, none availability of suitable sports and recreational facilities, Morale decadence in the society, religious fanaticism, cultism, political manipulation of youth organizations, unemployment and underemployment, poor education, breakdown of family values, militancy, kidnapping activities, etc.
Mr. President, my distinguished colleagues, we are all aware that Nigeria is globally acknowledged to be a country of diverse opportunities with a population of over 170 million people, it is supposed to be an entrepreneurs paradise. It is however a paradox that as an economic giant, Nigeria has instead created a hostile environment that is unfavorable for youths to achieve their entrepreneurial success in the midst of an array of entrepreneurial programmes. Although government has tried to encourage entrepreneurship by implementing programs aimed at aiding young Nigerians create jobs for themselves or support their businesses, such programs have only assisted a selected few in the past in comparison to the large population of Nigerians and these programmes are not sustainable enough to achieve its aims.
Take for instance the “YOUWIN” (the National Master Plan to encourage entrepreneurs), has celebrated only 1,200 awardees since its inception three years ago. The program stipulates 400 awardees per year of which just a little percentage are below 30 years of age. There are around 80 million youths in Nigeria today, with about 80% of them unemployed. If the government carries on at this pace, it will probably solve the problem of unemployment in the next 50,000 years, assuming there are even 60 million unemployed youths in Nigeria.
Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, it is in response to this national phenomenon of young men and women agitating for a meaningful civic, economic, social and political participation that informed the imperative for this all important legislation.
The new Bill identifies development challenges and issues confronting the Nigerian youth today and offers forward looking recommendations for strategic entry points and engagements of a broad spectrum of partners including the young people themselves in addressing youth employment and empowerment issues in Nigeria. The Bill further takes cognizance of the National Youth Policy and Strategic Plan of Action of the federal government and other international conventions on youth employment and development. It also offers a systematic and sustainable action to support the youth in the increasingly complex development context for the social, economic and political transformation. This Bill when passed into law will harness all efforts of the government and the private sector to promote self-employment at the grassroots through sustainable facilitation of entrepreneurial skills.
Funding of the Agency
A critical and important aspect of the new Bill is the establishment of the National Youth Development Fund to finance the execution of the programs of the Agency.  The Fund is to be managed by a Board of Trustees to be headed by the Minister in charge of Labour, Employment and Productivity with the oversight power of the National Assembly while its membership shall be drawn from the relevant ministries, parastatals, the private sector, youth organisations and relevant NGOs.
The funds of the Agency shall also consist of—
initial take off grant for the Fund,
monies accruing from 2% taxable dividends of multinational companies, banks, corporate bodies and other financial institutions,
2% youth development tax on contracts of N100 million and above awarded by the federal government,
10% of the annual budgetary expenditure of States and Local governments to be allocated to youth employment and development programs,
annual budgetary allocations appropriated by the National Assembly for that purpose, interest on investments of the Agency,
monies lawfully received from any other source, and which must be disclosed not later than 90 days,
donations and contributions lawfully received by the Agency from any other source.
National Youth Employment and Development Advisory Council
Another important aspect of the new legislation is the establishment of an inter-ministerial council to be known as the National Youth Employment and Development Council to be chaired by Mr President. Membership of the Council shall include Governors of the Thirty-six States, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, the Minister of Labour and Productivity and The Minister of Youth and Sports. 
The functions of the Council shall include;
 to serve as a clearing house on all youth policy matters of national interest and to elevate concern for the problems and aspirations of the youth to a priority of the inter-ministerial level on the national agenda.
coordinate and streamline youth employment and development activities at the Federal and State level as well as the role of the private sector and NGOs in line with the provisions of this Act,
propose policy recommendations on matters concerning youth employment and development, including the utilization of the Youth Development Fund,
serve as a link between government, the private sector, NGOs to ensure that the provisions of this Act are implemented and their effect reach the intended beneficiaries, the youth of this country.
This Bill is therefore anchored in the belief that young people are a force for peace, democracy, equality and good governance, a catalyst for national consensus building, and an essential resource for sustainable development and poverty eradication and the hope for a better society.
Mr President, Distinguished Colleagues, as a youth centered Chamber I solicit your support and commitment towards solving one of the most significant national challenges facing our nation “Guaranteeing a sustainable future of hope for the Nigerian youth” I thank you for your support towards the speedy process and passage into law of this Bill and therefore move that it be read the second time. 

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