The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, has said the National Assembly will continue to support policies that aim to empower the youth in Nigeria.
He said this in a keynote address at the first African regional conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, IPU-Young Parliamentarian forum, held at National Assembly Complex, Abuja.
The conference was organised to bring together young parliamentarians across Africa to address global issues collectively.
Mr. Saraki said the National Assembly’s target was to optimally exploit the initiatives and positive energies of the youth to achieve global peace.
He said this was the reason that the lawmakers passed the law to reduce age qualification for elective offices as clamoured for by the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ movement.
Mr. Saraki said the law would reduce the minimum age for most offices to 25 years, a step he said would increase the population of young persons in political positions.
“Part of our institutional support to youth inclusiveness in politics reflected in the establishment of the Nigerian Youth Parliament (NYP) by providing funds and offices for their operation, a step by NASS to prepare youth for future leadership,” Mr. Saraki said.
He, however, lamented the finding in the Africa Development Bank’s survey that over 25 per cent of African youth are illiterate, and called for measures to redress the situation.
In his opening remark, the Secretary-General of IPU, Martin Chungong, also called for inclusion of young persons in mainstream governance to enhance achievement of the United Nations 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Mr. Chungong noted that only 1.9 per cent of world parliamentarians are under 30 years, and that the percentage in Africa is even lower owing to high age requirement into elective positions.
He said Africa, despite being the youngest continent with over 70 per cent of its populace being youth, has no market for youth empowerment, a situation he said has raised concerns of marginalization among young persons in the continent.
He applauded the Not Too Young To Run movement in Nigeria, saying it has inspired the rest of the world to make similar advocacy.
Mr. Chungong commended the Nigerian parliament for passing the Not Too Young To Run bill and urged parliaments in other part of the world to emulate the model created.
He reiterated the importance of synergies with adults, saying addressing issues affecting the youth must be viewed as a collective responsibility of the young and old.
He said youth participation in mainstream governance is the core objective and work of the IPU.
“Youth participation, not consultation but contribution of young persons having impact on the policies of their counties through parliament makes youth feel a sense of belonging in country development process.
“Youth are leaders of today and therefore must contribute and participate in mainstream governance.
“To meet today’s challenges, all hands must be on deck as violent extremism isn’t only caused by exclusion of youths from political participation, but poverty and lack of educational opportunities are also causes of violent extremism.”
He warned that marginalisation of youth lead to inequality capable of inciting them to initiating violence, adding that prolonged conflicts lead to violent extremism.
“We need to address violent extremism upstream and on occasions when security measures are used to settle violent extremism, human rights must be upheld,” he said.
He advised the youth to look beyond parliamentary process and see themselves as role models and good examples, and that they should help shape the mindsets of others towards achieving positive change.
“The task of building stable society and achieving sustainable development goals is outreach, we must propel a new course. Youths must turn radicalism for violence to that of radicalism for political inclusiveness and empowerment,” he concluded.