UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, on Saturday called on stakeholders to empower youths for Nigeria to enjoy peace and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Kallon also called on youths to take advantage of vast opportunities available in the country to engage in positive activities that would bring development to the nation.
He made the call at the 2017 International Youth Day organised by UN Information Centre in collaboration with Strategy for Mentoring Initiative and Leadership Empowerment (SMILE), a mentoring NGO.
Kallon said that youths accounted for 60 per cent of the nation’s population and that their potentials as future leaders could properly be harnessed for speedy development.
He said that the Federal Government had identified 17.6 million unemployment and underemployment deficit for the youths which gap must be filled to avoid youth’s restiveness.
He noted that political, religious and ethnic sentiments were further causing divisions, violence and terrorism which had negatively afflicted several victims with hardships like rape and other gender-based violence.
Kallon, however, called for the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 of 2015 set up to prevent crisis and deal with issues of youth restiveness.
“Agenda 2030 recognises that the challenges to peace and security are rooted in developmental deficits, and that making progress on the 17 SDGs is the path toward not just development, but sustainable peace.
“But these ambitious goals will not be attainable unless we fully include our youths in the process.
“As we take steps in Nigeria toward realising Agenda 2030 in Nigeria, we must identify and tackle obstacles that inhibit youth from playing active and empowered roles in development and peace building.
“The lack of economic opportunity is rendering too many Nigerian youths without access to constructive livelihood opportunities,’’ he said.
The UNDP official said that youths who had experienced various forms of violence needed counselling to champion the course for peace in their communities.
“Nigeria stands at crossroads. With a population growth of 3.2 per cent, its population is expected to exceed 289 million by 2050. This can either pose a major challenge for the country or a major opportunity.
“To unlock this dividend, we must empower our youth to play constructive, unifying and innovative roles and fully include them in the country’s development process.
“In so doing, we will build peace with and for today’s youth.
“I call upon all stakeholders to take matters of youth in this country with utmost urgency to enable Nigeria enjoy sustainable peace and also achieve the SDGs by 2030,” he said.
He also condemned negative comments and hate speeches by some youths in the social media, adding that it could bring catastrophic consequences on the nation if left unchecked.
Mr Kayode Ayeni, Head of Project, SMILE, lamented negative comments by youths on social media and urged the youths to use social media responsibly for issues that unite the nation.
Dr Ndidi Nolly-Edozie, SMILE Private Sector Advisory Group on SDG, however, commended feats being made by youths both in Nigeria and across the globe.
She said that companies like Google and Facebook were established by youths.
“Wherever your voice is, let it be resounding,” she urged the youths. (NAN)