Afolabi Imoukhuede, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Job Creation and Youth Empowerment, says job creation is a global challenge, considering the problems confronting various countries in offering employment to youths.
Imoukhuede, who made this assertion when he featured on the News Agency of Nigeria Forum in Abuja on Tuesday, said due to the enormity of the challenge, there had been a global conversation to confront the problem.
He said: “It is a global conversation for now; but for us as a country, it is something that is of a greater concern because we are a youthful country.
“In Nigeria, about 68 per cent of the country are under the age of 35 and that tells us that we are a youthful country.
“We have to disaggregate our unemployment numbers, we see that the youth, between the ages of 18 years to 35 years are therefore in the 37 per cent to 28 per cent of our unemployment rate.”
According to him, the global youth unemployment rate is about 16 per cent.
He said: “So, that already calls for concern and that was the concern that President Muhammadu Buhari had four years ago exactly when he was campaigning round the country.
“He then made specific promises to Nigerians and particularly to the youth to say that if voted into office, he would confront that challenge.
“And that is what we have done in the last three and half years of being in government.
“There is no day that has gone by that it has not been a topic of conversation.
“Beyond conversation, it is something that we have worked assiduously to address and broadly speaking through the Social Investment Programme.
“It is one of those direct interventions of government to tackle some of our perennial issues.”
Imoukhuede stated that what the administration did in NSIP was not the only response of the administration to job creation, noting that MSMEs were a greater core of our youth.
He said: “That is where you can rightly say that any youth who you can call a hustler would be playing as a micro player, a hustler in some legal business or the other.”
He stated that in looking at job creation, the government realised that just like in any other economy, the MSME is the engine of any formidable economy.
According to him, the MSME clinics which Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, championed in many states and the Presidential Enabling Business Council are targeted to unlock what has hampered the successful entry of businesses as micro enterprises.
He said that another area of intervention was on innovation technology with the creation of six innovation hubs in the country, one in each geo-political zone.
He said each hub was focused on championing and addressing local problems around specific areas of the sector.
Imoukhuede said that the hub in Abuja (North Central) for instance, was focused on agriculture and government solutions.
He said that the NSIP was the last of the interventions and appropriately tagged the most ambitious programme of the government.
He said: “I am glad to say that three years down the line, we have not just delivered on an ambition but we have tangible results.’’
He stated that besides other interventions aimed at putting capital in the hands of peasants and petty traders the N-Power spoke directly to youth unemployment.
He explained that while 500,000 youths were in the graduate component, about 50,000 others were in the non-graduate component.
He said the non-graduate part had the vocational, where beneficiaries were learning the skills for construction, automobile and hospitality.
He said that 20,000 of them were recruited in the last budget cycle while another 20,000 were ready to begin their training and apprenticeship in the new budget cycle.
According to him, about 6,000 have been trained in technology hardware repair and maintenance across the geo-political zones.
The presidential aide remarked that N-power was not the only job creation effort of the administration.
He recalled that the National Directorate of Employment had empowered thousands of youths in skills component just as the Industrial Training Fund and SMEDAN were doing a lot of training and business development services.
He said: “If you aggregate all of that, it would be wrong to say that N-Power is the only response. In terms of job creation, I think that we have been frontal in confronting that challenge.
“I am satisfied with that which we have been able to do.’’
Imoukhuede commended Buhari for the N-Power initiative as “pan Africa, N-power is the largest tertiary intervention’’.
He noted that the scheme, with its large participants, was “a job creation employability enhancement programme for the unemployed youth’’.
He said that each of the volunteers earned a tax-free monthly stipend of N30,000 amounting to N6 billion monthly.
He said: “With the addition of another 300,000 in August our stipend is about N15 billion monthly.’’
He added that in the non-graduate programme there was a direct investment of exit tools or starter packs relevant to their trade/skill with other components valued at about N250,000 per individual besides N10,000 subsidy.
According to Imoukhuede, when all the programmes of the Buhari administration are placed side by side, it will be obvious that his re-election in 2019 will be an easy sail.