By Ekemini Simon
The youths of Akwa Ibom State have come together to express commitment towards demanding for accountability and transparency from relevant Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) handling youth development related projects.
The youths made their commitment known in a communiqué issued at the end of the public hearing on ” Enhancing Youth Participation in sustainable development”.
The public hearing which was organized by Connected Development (CODE) with support from Actionaid was conducted based on the outcome of researches, advocacy visits and community engagements carried out at various levels of the communities and with the various MDAs coupled with needs assessment of young people in the state on three priorities areas of primary health care services, education as well as the youth sustainable development framework called the Akwa Ibom State Youth Development Fund Bill, (AKYDF).
According to the youths which were drawn from various youth Organizations in the State, besides demanding for accountability and transparency in youth development projects, other action plan of theirs include tracking and monitoring of projects that are targeted at their communities as well as constituencies.
They said they will ask the right questions by probing the budget process and releases, refuse to become political thugs and fighting the change that is meant for them.
The youths resolved to get necessary knowledge in building their capacity to know the amount of power they wield and how this can be rightly utilized.
The communiqué notes that the youths have resolved to develop political will to engage government and vie for political offices to help join in the decision making process, harness data skills in tracking and analyzing projects that are carried out by government through fact checking.
They expressed commitment to advocate from the point of knowledge, develop the capacity of other youths by extending the knowledge gained from the event and also develop alternative skills to become more economically independent.
The MDAs on the other side resolved to collaborate with civil society organizations to foster development processes in the state, hold town hall meetings with community youth leaders so as to get their opinion and direct findings to appropriate authorities.
The MDAs also resolved to engage the youth positively by executing projects meant for them in an accountable and transparent manner.
On the part of the legislature, the Chairman, House Committee on Education, Hon. Godwin Ekpo made a commitment to take up the concerns on AKYDF bill with the speaker to enable better engagement.
The Chairman said the delayed assent to the bill establishing college of Science and Technology will be reviewed towards assent. The youths on their part made the commitment to follow-up on the key issues thus ensure Implementation.
Earlier in his welcome address, the State Lead of Connected Development (CODE), Ubong Ekpe noted that CODE has worked with a cluster of youth development Organizations in the State towards participation on developmental issues for sustainable development.
He said the organization has analyzed the successive Appropriation Act of the Akwa Ibom State Government, highlighted projects and items that speak to youth development especially as it concerns key developmental sectors and then engage with State actors for improvement in budget Implementation.
While decrying the poor level of priority given to youth development in the State, Ekpe said there is urgent need for more attention to be given to primary healthcare development and education. He however commended the State Government for the response given to their advocacy on the need for attention at Special Education Centre in Uyo and asked the government to do more.
In her goodwill message, Lucy Abagi, Senior Programmes Manager representing the Chief Executive Officer of Connected Development (CODE), Hamzat Lawal charged the youths to gun for knowledge and use it rightly. She said that the right application of knowledge will not only enhance youth participation in governance but has the potential to shoot them up to also become State actors.
She said “I believe that Government is about young people especially as young people are those that are higher in population. The youths wield the power to influence the desired change.
“The problem is that most youths do not understand their role and the powers within their rank. That is why politicians use this lack of knowledge against us. Sadly, youths who should be the agents and instrument of development are used against fellow youths especially during election. That narrative must change and it begins by being adequately informed. So, youths, ask the right questions and make your voice count.
Earlier, the Programme Officer, Governance of Actionaid Nigeria, Blessing Ifemenam noted that Actionaid is holding the event in implementation of Youth Organizing and Leadership (YOL) project aimed at enhancing young people’s power to influence public expenditure towards gender responsive public service delivery and facilitation of youth participation and influence in public finance management.
Ifemenam offered insight into the fact that they have a target to mobilize 2000 young people across six states of Akwa-Ibom, Borno, Enugu, Kaduna, Lagos and the FCT under the context of the Youth bulge, Youth and Poverty in the Midst of Plenty, Failing Social Service Provision, Economic Exclusion and Sustainable Youth Employment, Democracy without Democrats, Insecurity, Youth and Waning Resilience, and Theory of Change.
The Programme Officer said it is the understanding of her Organization that collage of issues is interwoven by the failure of the state to meet the needs and aspiration of the youth population.
She pointed out that the failure of social services that empowers young people is also one of the primary drivers of inequality as young people are unable to appropriate the needed skills to break the cycle of poverty.
Ifemenam added “Social service provides one of the most potent ways of re-distribution of the collective wealth and empowering citizens. Young people are wholly dependent on the availability of such services in shaping their future and ability to live a life of dignity”.
The Programme Officer said the Programme approach of Actionaid Nigeria is to build on sitting knowledge, broadening perspectives, and building actions on local capabilities and realities.
She stated that they are poised on trying new approaches and organizing ideas that can inform their work in the future with young people.
Ifemenam pointed out that already a mix of local organizing approaches and new forms of organizing that leverages technology has been deployed even as they are attempting organizing approaches unique to each of the project locations to drive the learning curve further.
The Youth Organizing and Leadership (YOL) project is a multi-country intervention under a strategic partnership agreement between ActionAid Nigeria with ActionAid Denmark and Funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) which runs from 2018 through 2021.
The Organization works through different youth platforms, such as Activista, AAN to deepen public accountability, influence public policies and advocate for social services. The Organization says her partners include: Connected Development (CODE), Yiaga Africa Initiative while collaborators are the Nigeria Labour Congress, Tax Justice and Governance Platform, Activista Network, Youth Networks and organizations and the Media.
Highpoint of the event was panel discussion with State actors from the legislative and the executive arm of government.