1.Good morning and a warm welcome to you all. I wish to thank my Distinguished Colleagues, Honourable Ministers and Heads of Departments and Agencies, our civil society partners, our international partners, and members of the general public joining us at this all important forum.

2.Today’s Special Public Hearing on Youth Development and Empowerment has been a long time coming, and is intended to focus attention on job creation and entrepreneurship. It is a follow-up on, as well as an expansion of, the Youth Development Roundtable convened by the Senate on the 9th of October 2017.

3.The 8th Senate holds these events for a purpose: to directly engage the youth advocates community and hear their views and perspectives on how government interventions can have a greater impact on the problems facing Nigeria’s youth.

4.A Special Public Hearing such as this is also an opportunity for the Federal Government agencies responsible for implementing job creation and entrepreneurship initiatives to share with us the successes and challenges they experience in delivering programme services.

5.I should emphasise something that I have stated very forcefully to the coordinator of this project: which is that I do not wish for this to be a mere talk shop. We all know that if care is not taken, talking can last a whole year without any tangible results or action. That should not be the fate of this Special Hearing. We must have results.

6.Therefore, I have directed my team to work with the CSO community to develop a Roadmap that can be used to bring about programmatic change for greater impact, either through executive action or the legislative process. It is my hope that the round of activity that will yield such a Roadmap will be completed in the earliest weeks of the new year.

7.I believe that one of the biggest challenges faced by those of us in government is: how to create the enabling environment for today’s youth to develop and prosper. This challenge, as it currently manifests itself, is without precedent in our nation’s history.

8.Our population growth continues to outpace GDP growth, which in turn means that more Nigerians are likely to be born into poverty, with little hope of pulling themselves out.

9.As we move to diversify the economy and place more emphasis on investing in those sectors that can create mass employment, it is important to remember that tomorrow’s labour force are the same young people we are launching intervention programmes for today. In short, today’s proceedings have a direct bearing on the future.

10.As such, government needs to be sensitive to the need to do things differently. This means including young people and their interests in the discussion about Nigeria’s national economic development planning.

11.Ladies and gentlemen, it is palpable in the air – you could almost touch it – that there is a deep yearning in our youth.
12.Young Nigerians are restless, impatient and indeed frustrated. Much of the anxiety stems from the feeling that rapid change is taking place in the rest of Africa and other parts of the world, but only comparatively slowly in Nigeria.

13.Young Nigerians understand that education and learning are tools for shaping their futures, and that technology is the key to that future. And yet, our education system and curriculum are failing to adequately prepare our youth to fully exploit either avenue. Instead, they are labelled ‘unemployable’ and are left to eke out a living in the best way they know how – which usually does not amount to much in this globalised world.

14.Too often, the lack of opportunity transmutes into hopelessness and desperation. Or, is it not an act of desperation when our young people risk life and limb to traverse the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea in search of jobs and a better life?

15.Already, all too many of our young people have turned to illegal narcotics and abuse other substances in their joblessness and hopelessness. And the problems only multiply when we lose a promising youth to vortex of drugs. Although largely hidden from view, the truth is that the global scourge of drugs is well entrenched throughout Nigeria. Many parents are currently enduring private agony as they struggle to cope with their children’s addiction.

16.It is precisely for this reason that, next week – on December 18 and 19 in Kano – the Senate will convene a town hall style meeting on substance abuse. Government officials, traditional rulers, religious leaders, civil society organisations and others will come together so that we can begin to publicly address the problem of drug abuse in our communities.

17.It is my hope that the Kano event will start a national discussion on drugs in our society; and help us to begin a process of healing and assistance for many families that feel ashamed and isolated that this affliction has visited their homes.

18.Illegal migration and drug abuse can be mitigated through concerted action on behalf of young people. This is why today’s gathering and a Roadmap are so important. We need cooperation and solutions, not capitulation.

19.Government, civil society, the private sector and our international partners all have a role to play in helping to figure out how Nigeria can create economic growth with jobs, to absorb the millions of graduates that look to enter the workforce each year.

20.Furthermore, there is need for vocational and technical training, entrepreneurship training and skills acquisition opportunities for those who – for whatever reason – do not proceed to higher education, but need assistance to develop themselves for trades or self employment.

21.We are often criticised for not sufficiently preparing our youths for leadership. I would say that, part of doing things differently now, is providing youths and youth advocates a seat at the table in the decision making process, on actions that impact their future. So, that is one way of seeing this event: a seat at the table.

22.This way, young people can learn early that politics is a process of dividing scarce resources, and better understand the difficulties in determining what gets chosen and what does not.

23.We in the Senate are pleased to work with civil society and to bring all sides together for the benefit of Nigeria youth and our future.

24.I wish to thank all the Federal Government MDAs for your attendance today. We look forward to hearing your submissions.

25.Finally, we should all bear in mind that the responsibility of meeting the needs of Nigeria’s youth rests with all of us; and that this is a responsibility we must do our best to honour and fulfil.

Thank you.


Abubakar Bukola Saraki MBBS CON (pronunciationⓘ; born on 19 December 1962) is a Nigerian politician who served as the 13th president of the Nigerian Senate from 2015 to 2019.[1][2] He previously served as the governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011; and was elected to the Senate in 2011, under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), representing the Kwara Central Senatorial District, and then re-elected in the 2015 general elections