By Emmanuel Ekpeyong, Member Representing Ini State Constituency.
The 27th day of April, 2017 will remain memorable in the lives of many concerned youth of Akwa Ibom State as the State House of Assembly overwhelmingly supported the Akwa Ibom Youth Development Fund (#AKYDF Bill) otherwise known as #10percent4youthAKS. The Bill which passed the second reading at the floor of the House was supported by almost all the members present at the plenary. While we are still basking in the euphoria of that actions of our lawmakers, we need to educate our fellow youth and other stakeholders on what the Bill is all about and why it should receive legislative backing by the State House of Assembly.
WHAT IS AKWA IBOM YOUTH DEVELOPMENT FUND BILL?
Akwa Ibom Youth Development Fund bill is a bill for a law to implement a sustainable youth policy framework through the establishment of Akwa Ibom youth development fund. Most people emphasis the fund ignoring the sustainable youth policy framework that the fund is supposed to build. Both are necessary and go hand in hand. The bill crafts a legally established, independent and recognized institution saddled solely with the important responsibility of administering the programs of the fund. The youth program framework of #AKYDF Bill will empower youths who will stimulate economic growth, create more job opportunities, employ others, and pay taxes to the government thereby making significant contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the State. It will drastically reduce youth restiveness and anti-social activities like armed robbery, kidnapping, stealing, and prostitution.
Who manages the fund in the #AKYDF Bill?
The bill has created a 9-member Management Board comprising of:
(a) A private sector leader
(b) A finance expert
(c) Youth Entrepreneur
(d) A civil society representative
(e) Representative from the Directorate of Youth Development, Ministry of Youth and Sports
(f) A senior legal practitioner
(g) A representative of the Ministry of Investment, Commerce and Industry
(h) A representative of the Ministry of Labour, Productivity & Manpower Planning
(i) Civil Society sector expert on Monitoring and Evaluation
The Board is the decision making body for the Akwa Ibom Youth Development Fund. The board will choose which projects receive funding, and guide the strategic direction of the Akwa Ibom Youth Development Fund.
Does the bill say what the fund is supposed to do?
The bill is very loud about the program framework. It mentions Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Development, Research to determine areas of skills shortages, Technical and Vocational Education Training, Re-Orientation and Public Awareness, Transition to Work Programmes and Seed Funding Youth Cooperatives.
Where is the money supposed to come from?
The #AKYDF Bill proposes that the money for the fund come from 10% oil derivation fund, private sector contributions, grants, subventions from national and donor agencies. Akwa Ibom State has held and will maybe still hold in future the history of receiving the highest allocations from the federal government. Let’s acknowledge there are programs by the federal government for youths but why should Akwa Ibom allow its youths to scramble for very limited spaces in these programs. A research carried out in the state in 2015, revealed that 49.8 percent of youths sampled in the research survey were unemployed. The previous methods are not working, more youths are becoming disempowered and this is the greatest risk of a peaceful future.
Does the #AKYDF Bill state the beneficiaries and how they are selected?
Absolutely yes. The #AKYDF Bill states that beneficiaries of the Fund’s programmes/or projects shall at all times be drawn equally from all the Local Government Areas constituting the State with exception of oil producing communities who will have additional 10 % space for beneficiaries. Youths with disabilities are not left out as they shall always constitute a minimum of 10% of the total number of beneficiaries. Every female youth should support this bill as female youths within the age bracket of 18 and 45 shall constitute at least 40% of the beneficiaries in all projects, and activities of the fund. The bill is silent on how beneficiaries are selected, hence during public hearing it is important to close this gap to avoid nepotism.
Does the #AKYDF bill ensure accountability and transparency?
The #AKYDF bill demands that the Board maintain a standard Website where the quarterly and annual reports of activities, financial transactions and administration of the Fund are published. It places the board under obligation to spell out in the website the criteria to be used in the selection of beneficiaries at least one month before the selection is done.
#10percent4youths campaign has produced the result of #AKYDFBill in Akwa Ibom State. We expect young people from other states to rise up and take responsibility of working together with government and private sector to fight youth unemployment.
We need all citizens of Akwa Ibom state to see #AKYDFBill as a collective dream and a common goal which we should aspire to, share and realize together.