Honourable Ministers, representatives of Nigerian Youths, gentlemen of the press, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Please permit me to start by thank my colleagues Honourable Ministers for taking time off their busy schedule to attend this Special Town Hall Meeting. This is a clear indication of the importance that this Administration attaches to engaging with the people and carrying them along in the task of governance.
2. May I also commend the youths who are present here for honouring our invitation. This Special Edition of the Town Hall Meeting for Youths signals the first in a series of Sectoral Town Hall Meetings. Similar Town Hall Meetings are being planned for other important groups, including women. As you are aware, since its inception, the Town Hall Meeting series, which we evolved to close the communication gap between the government and the governed, has taken us to Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, Uyo, Enugu and Abuja.
3. Today, we are back in Abuja for this Special Edition for Youths. We are starting the Special Town Hall Meeting series with the youths because of the importance this Administration attaches to youth empowerment, youth development and youth engagement. We have no choice because, according to the National Population Commission, more than half of Nigeria’s population are under 30 years of age! No government can afford to ignore this important demographic group, plus the youths are no longer just the leaders of tomorrow, but today’s leaders too!
4. It is also in recognition of this fact that the Administration is investing massively in programmes that benefit our youths, among others. I am talking here of programmes like the Social Investment Programme that includes the N-Power Volunteer Scheme; the N-Power Job Creation Programme that provides loans for traders and artisans; the Home-grown School Feeding Programme, the Conditional Cash Transfers to the most vulnerable members of our society and the Family Homes Fund, a social housing scheme.
5. As many of you are undoubtedly aware, 200,000 jobs were created in the first phase of the N-Power Volunteers Programme. That is perhaps the highest number of jobs that have been created in one fell swoop by any government in the history of our country. Some 300,000 jobs are next in line, to bring the total to the promised 500,000 jobs. These jobs benefit mostly the youths who will be engaged the areas of education, health care and agriculture.
6. Also, the Home-grown School Feeding has already taken off in three states – Anambra, Kaduna and Osun. It is now being scaled up to 11 of the 18 states designated for the first phase. Already, some 25,000 cooks have been trained in 9 states. Concerning the Conditional Cash Transfer, the data of the beneficiaries in 9 states are now ready, and the payment process for those states is in top gear.
7. For the Micro-credit scheme, more than 1 million Nigerians are set to get loans at very low interest rates through the bank of industry. The loans range from N20,000 to N100,000. The pilot scheme is taking place in 8 states and here in the Federal Capital Territory.
8. There is more good news. In order to sustain this important Social Investment Programme, the N500 billion Naira for the programme has been retained in the 2017 budget, which was recently presented to the National Assembly by Mr. President.
9. On our own part at the Ministry of Information and Culture, we are leveraging on the Creative Industry, which is youths-driven, to create jobs and unleash the huge potentials of our youths. We have signed two Memoranda of Understanding with the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the British Council to train festival managers, build the capacity of our youths and link the Creative Industry with the Business World. Our imminent transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting is set to create 1 million jobs in 3 years, with most of those jobs going to the youths. These jobs are already being created as we speak. This is because as the Digital Switch Over train arrives in Abuja this Thursday and then proceeds to other parts of the country, we will need hordes of installers, retailers, repair technicians and marketers for the set-top boxes or decoders that will be required to meet the demand of the 24 million TV households. We will also need a huge quantum of content which you, our talented youths, will be required to provide. It’s the dawn of a new era for the creative mind and the technically-savvy! The opportunities are limitless.
10. Let me also say that the Administration’s ongoing massive investment in infrastructure, especially power, road and railways, will largely benefit the youths. The fight against corruption will ensure that funds meant for the common good are not salted away by a few fat cats but spent for the purpose they are meant for, to the benefit of all Nigerians, including the youths.
11. Honourable Ministers, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, this Government is unrelenting in its efforts to ease the hardship in the land, especially youth unemployment, brought about by years of poor or lack of planning, profligacy, mismanagement of funds, massive corruption and lack of investment in social investment programmes. We did not create today’s hardship, but we are resolved to end it and make life more abundant for our people. There is no question about that. All we ask is your undiluted support. We have no doubt that, working with you, we will achieve our set goals.
12. I will now yield the podium to the panelists, my fellow Honourable Ministers who are here, to make their five-minute opening statements each, after which it will be the turn of the Youths to ask them questions. I thank you most sincerely for your kind attention. May I now call on the Honourable Minister of …….to make his opening statement.