A Bill for an Act to Repeal National Directorate of Employment Act 2004 and establish National Youth Employment and Development Agency scaled through second reading at the Senate on Wednesday.
The proposed agency is intended to handle promotion, coordination and employment of youths in the country.
Leading debate on the bill at plenary, the sponsor, Sen. Bassey Akpan (PDP-Akwa Ibom), said when passed, the bill would encourage the generation of employment and entrepreneurship.
Akpan said it would also ensure greater opportunities for youths to secure decent work and income over their life circles.
According to him, this will help to tackle the virtuous circle of poverty reduction, sustainable development and social inclusion.
Akpan also said that the bill would protect rights and civic engagements by ensuring that the inherent rights of the youths were recognised and upheld.
He added that the bill would ensure the progressive and substantive inclusion of young people in political and decision-making process at local, state and national levels.
“The NDE was created to combat unemployment in the country arising from the global economic recession in the 80s.
“The directorate carries out this mandate through various programmes such as skills acquisition, self-employment schemes and labour intensive programmes.
“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 the 21st century to provide a lasting solution to youth unemployment.
“This is because the NDE Act has become obsolete and is replete with deficiencies which have so far jeopardised or hampered its operations and execution of its mandate.
“Similarly, poor funding, 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.
“Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose for the seventh straight quarter to 13.9 per cent in the third quarter of 2016 from 13.3 per cent in the previous period. This is the highest since 2009,’’ he said.
The lawmaker noted that the extant NDE Act did not capture or sufficiently address the challenges or issues affecting youth development and empowerment.
According to him, majority of Nigerian youths face inadequate parental care, non-availability of suitable sports and recreational facilities, moral decadence in the society and religious fanaticism, among others.
Akpan that said one of the critical components of the bill was the establishment of the National Youth Development Fund, meant to finance the execution of the programmes of the agency.
He said that the fund would 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.
He added that membership of the board would be drawn from relevant ministries, parastatals, the private sector, youth organisations and relevant non-governmental organisations.
“The funds of the agency shall consist of initial take-off grant, monies accruing from two per cent taxable dividends of multinational companies, banks, corporate bodies and other financial institutions.
“Others are two per cent youth development tax on contracts of N100 million and above awarded by the Federal Government.
“Also, 10 per cent of the annual budgetary expenditure of states and local governments to be allocated to youth employment and development programmes is part of the funding.
“Other sources are annual budgetary allocations appropriated by the National Assembly and interest on investment of the agency.
“Equally, monies lawfully received from any other source, and which must be disclosed not later than 90 days, donations and contributions lawfully received from any other source are also part of the funding,” he said.
The lawmaker said that the bill was anchored on the belief that young people were a force for peace, democracy, equality and good governance.
Contributing, Sen. Chukwuka Utazi (PDP-Enugu) said that the bill was fundamental to youth development.
Utazi said that the bill was important because it was private sector-driven, adding that “if we do not do anything about the unemployment rate, it will do something to the nation.
“If we had put half of the money in ‘Defence’ to employment, the country would have gone a long way; instead we have been looking at effect instead of cause.
Sen. Gbenga Ashafa (APC-Lagos) supported the bill, but raised concern with sources of funding for the agency, saying “as much as I agree with all the points in the bill, l have problem with the funding of the agency.
“I am seeing a situation where we will run into constitutional problem. The bill is beautiful but we have to look at funding.’’
Sen. Foster Ogola (PDP-Bayelsa) said the concern about funding raised by Sen. Ashafa would be tackled at the public hearing stage and should not call for concern.
He said, “this is a bill which will solve the problems of Nigerians and I urge us to support it.
“Every family has unemployed graduate and if there is a bill that raises funds to make it better than what it was in the past, it deserves our support.’’
The President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, after subjecting the bill to a voice vote where it was passed, referred it to the Senate Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity.
Saraki gave the committee four weeks to work on the bill and report back. (NAN)