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.