When the bill seeking the establishment of Youth Entrepreneurship Development Trust Fund was first mooted, it came as a respite for many Nigerians. If anything, it meant young, enterprising and industrious citizens would be armed against unemployment. However, the introduction of an identical bill, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Trust Fund, could ambush this development.
Like most developing countries, unemployment is a socio-economic problem in Nigeria. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2014 about 75 per cent of those who are willing to work cannot find gainful employment in the country, especially among the school leavers and graduates of tertiary institutions. As a result, many youths have taken to various crimes including robbery, kidnapping, drug and child trafficking and all kinds of armed banditry.
Things have worsened over the years. A recent figure published by the NBS puts the country’s youth unemployment rate at about 30 per cent while the youth underemployment rate stands at 21 per cent. It further revealed that the youth population eligible to work is about 40 million out of which only 14.7 million are fully employed and another 11.2 million are unemployed.
Skills acquisition and entrepreneurship have long been suggested as the solution. Consequently, entrepreneurship education was added to the curriculum of tertiary institutions in the 2007/08 session. Yet, the unemployment rate has continued to surge astronomically. Young Nigerians receive little or no support from the government. Enter Youth Entrepreneurship Development Trust Fund.
Sponsored by Hon. Doctor Farah Dagogo, representing Degema/Bonny Federal Constituency, Rivers State, the bill titled, “Youth Entrepreneurship Development Trust Fund (Establishment) Bill, 2021(HB. 1448)” aims to provide financial succour to young entrepreneurs. When passed into law, the legislation will establish a board to manage investments that will form part of the fund.
The federal lawmaker said the funding will not be less than a five per cent capital estimate proposal from the Federation Account approved as appropriation for the fiscal year.
Other sources of revenue as proposed are profits accruing periodically from approved investments made out of the capital in the Youth Fund; one per cent profit as declared by each private entity in the country; other revenue legitimately accruing to the fund by means not provided for in the Bill; and such other sums as may accrue to the capital in the Youth Fund from time to time.
Further insight into the bill showed that in Section 4 (1)) the youths will have a say on how the funds are to be administered by the Youth Fund Management Board, with its Chairman expected to be a youth appointed by the President on recommendation from the Minister of Youths and Sports and other recognized youth bodies.
“This bill, to me, is one of the catalysts that would stem the tide of some of the hostilities we are currently experiencing in this nation, especially from the youths of our great country, who represent about half of our entire population and over 40% of whom are currently unemployed or under-employed, but are no doubt referred to as the emerging leaders of the nation,” he said.
“This bill seeks to create a fund which shall be used to provide financial support for Nigerian youths with entrepreneurship skills, and provide a vehicle for assured socio-economic security as well as galvanise them to become self-reliant, employers of labour and captains of industry,” he said.
“There is no gainsaying that the youths have been obliterated. We have a colony of them suffering from unemployment or underemployment and the state is aware and not oblivious of this fact. Year in and out, thousands of Nigerian youths are churned out of tertiary institutions but the state does not have enough carrying capacity to empty them into. This is indeed a big challenge because the idle mind would always be the devil’s workshop. This fact has led to the pendency of crimes and criminality in society; this bill intends to cure those ills.
“We are also bringing in private entities to contribute to the youth fund. Consequently and mandatorily, they would contribute about one per cent of profit as declared and other revenue legitimately accruing to the fund by means not provided for in the bill.
“Importantly, the youth fund shall be managed by the youths. Thus, they would people the board. There would be fiscal responsibility that engenders transparency and accountability because relevant sections in the bill have been proposed to address these issues.”
In July, the bill was not debated by the lawmakers, voted for when it was put to a voice vote by Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Idris Wase. It effortlessly scaled through the second reading early in December. But barely one week later, another bill was introduced – the NYSC Trust Fund.
Both legislation share similarities too much to be a mere coincidence. They both aim to provide financial support to youths with entrepreneurship skills, serving as a vehicle for socio-economic security. They are potentially sure-fire ways to successfully address unemployment in Nigeria. However, the NYSCTF appears like a rehash of the YEDTF.
Among other things, the NYSC Trust Fund boasts of providing a sustainable source of funds for NYSC, Skill Acquisition training and provision of startup capital to Corps Members, training and retraining the personnel of the NYSC. What this means is that non-graduates won’t be captured.
Holders of NCE, NDE as well as National Open University graduates won’t benefit too. Never mind that young chap in the village without formal education but blessed with a particular skill. No wonder experts have termed the NYSC Trust Fund as discriminatory and not in the interest of the masses.
The Youth Entrepreneurship Development Trust Fund, meanwhile, is for all Nigerian youths irrespective of qualification, social status or tribe. If ever the NYSC wants a trust fund, it should be under it as a parent body. But is there even a need for another trust fund in the first place?
The NYSC is already generating revenue for the federal government and the same body doesn’t necessarily need a trust fund like the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Police Equipment Trust Fund and Petroleum Technology Development Trust Fund which have clear mandates.
It is being alleged that the NYSC fund is sponsored by some vested interests in the Armed Forces. According to reports, these top military officials perceive the fund as their retirement package and it is not targeted at young Nigerians.
The Youth Entrepreneurship Development Trust Fund seems like the best. The focus of the National Assembly and the entire nation should be here and not the other way.
Nwosu wrote from Unizik, Akwa.