A Short Review of The Nigerian Youth Policy 

All the stakeholders  I spoke to said the same thing about the policy – its not popular and lacks buy in from youths and groups that work with youth. One respondent, a civil society professional said that she participated in a consultation forum in Enugu but the final document was written by consultants without acknowledging other input.

Another respondent, a youth leader and youth development professional said the policy does not represent the wishes and aspirations of Nigeria’s youth.

Long gone are the days when an elite group of patrician gentlemen wrote, propounded and implemented long winded theories about how to help the less fortunate. Best practices include wide spread consultation, participation and inclusion.

The policy did provide some insight into why it defines youth as being being 18 to 35.

“In many countries in Africa, for example, the male transition to adulthood, in terms of achieving the economic and social stability that comes with steady employment, may extend into late twenties and mid thirties.”

Obviously transition to adulthood for women in Africa is assumed and probably tied to their reproductive functions.

Of particular interest to me was the section on female sex workers which focused rehabilitation as a response to HIV infection rates and seems to emphasise that and not workers personal development, their rights as citizens, their economic and social contributions to the country. In which case what is the rationale for treating female sex workers as a separate category from young men and women living with HIV/AIDS?

In section 5.2 gives irrelevant data on youth and education.

The section on gender equality in education ignores completely the special needs of young women in tertiary institutions.

Is this positive youth development?

Despite the claim in the introduction that young men and women should not be seen as a problem but as a force for change, despite the nod to recognition of the positive youth development there is a complete divergence in the rest of the policy.

A comparison with the American and British youth policies reveals the differences in approach and outcome. These documents give SMART goals and provide specific metrics.  Youth and youth group were involved in the process of policy development and are active partners in its implementation. Implementation is dispersed among stakeholders.

Overall implementation of the Nigerian youth policy is too heavily centralised with the Ministry of Youth Development. Meanwhile the Ministry of Youth currently spends over 90% of its annual budget on the NYSC scheme. Its bureaucracy is heavy and prone to abuse and delays.

The 2nd Nigeria Youth Policy 2009 -2012 is due for a review. Efforts to initiate a review of the policy in 2012 were frustrated when the Ministry of Youth Development and the Nigeria Youth Council NYC could not convene a broad base of youth groups to participate.

The NYC has long been politicised. A Commonwealth journalist wrote about them in 2013.  It is unlikely that they or the Ministry can led a participatory and open process.

Commonwealth Youth Policy PAYE here. African Union Youth Charter here.

What Is Wrong With Nigeria’s Definition Of Youth?

What is a youth? The UN, the Commonwealth, The AU and Nigeria’s National Youth Policy give different definitions of what is a youth.

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.”

The Nigerian National Youth Policy defines youth as anyone between the age of 18 and 35.

The various definitions of youth can be problematic when designing youth programs. There is no standard global definition. Africa and the global south 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.

However psychologists propose that there are distinct stages in human psycho-social development that can be used to guide the design of necessary age specific interventions providing support at each stage in life. While they recognise that there is no specific and set age when each stage occurs it offers a coherent guide for programming.

Including a 30 year old in programming for a 20 year old is unlikely to produce equal results for a number of reasons not least of which is the fact that the wide age disparity is likely to distort power relations within the group.

I also think Nigeria’s very broad definition of youth infantilises our young adults and how we treat them. I cannot and should not expect the same behaviour, ability, emotional intelligence or cognitive capacity from a 24 year old and a 30 year old.

It is common to meet western trained youth of 18 or 23 who have a very clear sense of purpose and direction whereas this is a lot less common in Nigeria. Our young are encouraged to be dependent much longer with excuses like the country is ‘hard’ or otherwise ‘not what it used to be’.

A program manager with the British Council told me that many young people are choosing to remain students dependent on parents longer because there were no jobs for them even though it does not improve their chances of a job.

This trend seems strange among people who culturally and historically had elaborate ceremonies to transit teenagers into immediate adulthood with the associated rights and responsibilities.

A downward review of the age range of youth in Nigeria will not only improve program design it will also encourage youth to take on adult responsibility sooner as well as acknowledge them as contributors and a resource for national and global development.

What I’ve Learnt About Nigerian Youth Sector In The Past Few Weeks – Part I

Currently, I’m setting up a youth leadership foundation for a client. As part of my pre-planning activities I did an extensive review of the youth development sector in Nigeria.

I learnt a lot. Lets see how much I can capture in 500 words.

According to the National Youth Policy, a youth in Nigeria is anyone from the age of 18 to 35. Before that you are a Child according to the Child’s Rights Act and the Nigerian Constitution. There is a lot of debate about this age in Nigeria.

Some people say that its too old, others insist that age is not the appropriate criteria but when the person actually becomes independent, and in much of Africa they insist that is later than the western average of early 20’s.

Everyone I spoke to said the age definition is political and was more about access to opportunities including travel and leadership development than anything. One of my respondents said that  African delegates were always the oldest at global events.  And I think Nigeria’s PDP infamously made a 75 year old ‘youth leader’. My personal views are here.

The UN defines a youth as anyone between the age of 15 and 24. The Commonwealth uses 15 to 29 years.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics Nigeria’s population reached 167 million people in 2012 and about half of the population are youth, which NBS defined as individuals between 15 and 34 years of age. Half of them only have a primary school education or none at all. An analysis of regional demographics in youth population is in another post here.

The implications of Nigeria’s youth bulge are well articulated in the Nigeria: Next Generation Report here. We can either go boom or bust and the window of opportunity is here and closing. The youth population needs urgent intervention.

Nigeria’s Youth Policy suffers from a lack of buy-in, measurable outcomes or appropriations. While it acknowledges positive youth development defined here  it does nothing to actualise it in the policy and still treats youth as  problem to be solved, read a look at the policy here.

The policy is supposed to be developed with the National Youth Council, the Federal Ministry of Youth and a wide representation of youth . Unfortunately the NYC and the Ministry are hobbled by corruption and politics.  Attempts to review the current youth policy in 2012 fell apart.

A number of youth led or youth focused youth organisations emerged as leaders in the Nigerian youth development space. We’ll look at who they are and what distinguished them here. They are regularly partnered and funded by a handful of foreign funding organisations find more about them here.

More Nigerian individuals and corporations are implementing youth focused programs through philanthropy and CSR that address urgent issues of unemployment and conflict resolution. More about them and their models here. read more about the youth development sector in the global south in the Restless Development Mapping Report here.

I guess there must be a part 2, 3, 4 etc. Links will be activated asap.

Things We Learn Along The Way About Ourselves

Sometimes you come cross something that brushes up against a tender spot somewhere in you. It might be someone talking about being violently rejected by his lover and asking you for help.

He says he is depressed and suicidal.  You tell him that what he needs to do to start feeling better – exercise, get out with people, appreciate that you will hurt, stay busy, love your work and try try try not to get in touch with your abusive ex-lover.

You explain that love is its own addiction, you tell him about seretonin. You explain that love is an obsession and all about dopamine.

You would know, after all you are going through your own recovery.

Still you know the words are flat, you hurt and he hurts and all both of you want to do is scream and rail against someone or something. But you don’t, you implode.

Your feelings are too intense to express. They would make a melodrama look mild. But you need to do something with them. Energy needs to be dispersed.

May be a good time to take up boxing? Or karate? What a cliche.

Why is it never that easy?

You wonder whether its better to leave well enough alone. Let him go solve his own problem. You got plenty of your won to deal with. Whether you should be in this field in the first place considering your personal history.

You decided to work with violence victims and survivors because you were a survivor. As a child you witnessed spousal abuse so horrific you came home one day to find your mother lying in a pool of blood and your father calmly mopping up her blood. It was so bad you called the police once. You got beaten up that night and the phone was disconnected the next day.

It felt grown up and powerful to be able to say you would never let it happen to anyone else. But it did happen, everyday. And after a while you found yourself running to hide like you did once upon a time and you realised you were still a victim.

Till one day you make the association.

Nature is what makes you love the way you love, nurture makes you love who you love. 

So you help him anyway because you know what its like – to lack and not have, to want and not receive, to search and not find, to be down with no one offering you a hand up, to be scared and not have anyone to turn to, to be misunderstood and alone.

And you feel a deep gratitude for the opportunity to grow a little bit more.

What I Hate About Religion

First of all you can’t talk back and you can’t question what some one else – another living-breathing-shitting-pooping-fucking human being just like you – is telling you about ‘God’ and how to serve worship or believe in Her. Everything must be accepted ‘by faith’ in God’s mouth piece.


And they’re all men. Every dominant religion today was proposed, interpreted and headed by men! The Bible – written by a bunch of men that could have had schizophrenia for all we know. Isn’t hearing voices a symptom?

The Koran; written entirely by one man who also said his is the last message of God. Ever again. Like after him She can’t possibly have anything else to say. Him don talk am finish. No more prophets. Ever. Are you trying to muzzle God?!

The Catholic Church, the Pope, the Dalai Lama. You catch my drift right? Oh sure, women are being allowed into the ranks of previously exclusively male priesthood’s. So what?

All the dominant religions speak and practice exclusion and domination. The ‘us’ versus ‘them’ dynamic. What happened to love and compassion? Even the ones that preach love and compassion! We need safe spaces for enlightened discourse, community and worship! Not training centres for intolerance and guilt!

And all this fire and brimstone talk about going to hell and sin. The righteous should be gleefully happy that us sinners are going to hell to burn forever but no they chase us up and down trying to save our ‘soul’. I mean what arrogant bullshit! Abeg save ya self first!

You want me to buy your BS that you care for my immortal soul? Na so. Na you good pass.  Surely if I have the right to choice my husband and how many children I have and where we live I have the right to decide where my ‘soul’ goes when I’m dead

Not that I sit around worrying about where I may or may not be going after I die. I got my hands full creating my heaven right here on earth and getting out of the hell intolerant religious extremists people make it. Religious bunkum! Its not the homosexuals making it hell.

Why is so important to you that we sinners change our ways? Why is important to you that I believe in your god more than my own anyway? The world will go to hell? It is hell already! And Nigeria is the hottest part of it, after India and Pakistan that is.

I know you probably think earthquakes and epidemics are God’s punishment for sin but that doesn’t make it true you know.

Religion has become an indoctrination not an education.

My vision for a tolerant future?

A world where parents and governments aren’t allowed to indoctrinate children. Where children learn about all religions, including atheism (yes, I believe it is a religion) read their various texts and MAKE UP THEIR OWN MIND at graduation and whatever ritual that comes with it. That would be my ideal world.

Religions are cults!


Why I Participate in the Adult Sex Education Month Series

If you watch the news you’ll conclude the world is going to hell in a hand basket real quick and maybe it is. And Africa – north, East, South and West – is it.

I’m enjoying Ebony Life TV, great innovative programming, local storytelling and production. Reminds me of NTA in some forgotten past. Commercialization has brought great benefits to Nigeria, the only benefits actually.

The role of the private sector in development

Intimate Pleasures is a small enterprise. They sell sex toys online, the first in Nigeria. What gave the proprietor the idea to set up an online sex shop? Numerous requests for sex toys whenever she travelled abroad. 

But Iheoma Obibi is first and foremost a feminist and a social entrepreneur. So her company doesn’t only sell risqué sex toys, they provide an essential service helping Nigerian couples derive maximum pleasure from intimacy. And educating Nigerians, married or single about sex.

My favorite story is about a newly wedded groom, arranged marriage, who asked her to educate his new wife about sex and pleasure. Its not just about raunch and giggles. Its serious issues that have serious impact on relationships and marriage.

Of course in Nigeria we do not talk about sex if we can help it. Unless na beer parlour gist. It is ‘taboo’. Through her Adult Sex Ed Series, Sex Talk Naija, Iheoma is providing an opportunity and space using new media for real conversation and real education.

That’s why I participate every year. In my line of work I’ve heard it all, the ignorance and misinformation out there is scandalous. Even from people you would expect to know better.

If we leave sex education to the government….well….go figure

Investment Advice for Young Women (And Even Not So Young Women)

A young women asked me for investment advice.

This is what I told her.

Anything can happen. Have enough in your savings account to cover a minimum of 6 months living expenses. This could be for you alone, you and your child or you and your partner and offspring. Save 20% of everything you earn. Just sock it away and make do with what ever is left over.

Once you have reached your savings threshold invest any excess in shares and bonds. Shares and bonds are pretty liquid so if you have an emergency or if after 6 months you haven’t restored  your income stream you can raise cash pretty quickly. Get a qualified stock broker to advise you but also read the business news and know when to buy and when  to sell.

Set your own threshold for your share portfolio. When the opportunity arises or when you feel comfortable start diversifying into landed property holdings. You want to buy the type of land that is cheap now but could appreciate significantly in ten or even twenty years time.

Landed property is a long term investment and it isn’t liquid which means if you have an emergency you will not be able to sell it quickly at the price its worth. It can take up to a year or longer to sell landed property. As your income grows buy more Pall Mall and less Mediterranean Avenue. Your objective should be to hotels. Ever play Monopoly? Check it out.

Last but not least decide how much of your revenue/income/investment you want to save in gold. Gold is the baba of all value. Even if there is a nuclear holocaust or all the banking systems are completely distorted by a super computer virus your gold will have weight and value.

If you are buying gold jewellery as an investment buy it by weigh and not by designer. If you need to fling it in a hurry they will buy it by weight. It doesn’t matter if its Cartier unless its 100 years later at Sotheby’s.

In a hundred years your descendants may be able to sell your Rolex or your Phillip Patek  watch for a significant return at auction but these things also take time (ok, even you might be able to sell it for a profit it in your old age). The other brands don’t do so well and have lower investment value. Go follow Sotheby’s for a while and find out for yourself.

When you buy art to hang on your wall think in terms of investment too. Buy artists who you think will appreciate over the years and who may already have a track record at auction. While you are at it invest in African artists. A Diseye Tantua, who I invest in, has sold at auction for NGN2.5 million. It was originally bought for NGN500,000. Google it. Educate yourself. Decide. For yourself.

Don’t be in a hurry to repay mom and dad for their investment in you. Except it is an emergency. Wait till you have built some net worth before taking care of every body and the dog. The difference between financial security when you are older and constant crisis is those early investments. If you spend all your discretionary income when you are young you will suffer it later.

So my investment strategy –

  1. Build emergency savings
  2. Open stock portfolio with licensed stock broker
  3. Invest in gold – as jewellery or as coins
  4. Invest in landed property on the outskirts of urban developments
  5. Decorate your home with art pieces that appreciate in value. Picasso’s sell for outrageous sums for a reason.
  6. Invest in jewellery and watches that appreciate and resell well at return

Please Note: This advice is not meant to replace the expert advice of  your stock broker, banker, or investment adviser. Educate your self.