The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila says the House will reconvene plenary to address youth-related bills next week.
Gbajabiamila made the announcement on Saturday in Abuja, at a national strategy retreat organised by the Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF) of the National Assembly.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the retreat was titled, “Rethinking Youth Development in Nigeria”.
Gbajabiamila said that the retreat was coming at a time of a new and intense wave of restiveness sweeping across every part of our country.
The Speaker said that there is a large majority of young people who are tired of the way things are going.
He said the youth want to see rapid and progressive change in the structure of the country and in the practice of democratic government.
“We all know the House suspended plenary to consider the Budget which is a yearly thing we do to give time to pass the budget to maintain our January to December budget cycle.
“But I do intend to reconvene the House to consider a couple of very important things that will affect Nigerians such as the Electoral Law, the PIB and more importantly the Bills that are already in the system concerning the development of the youth.
“So we will hopefully by next week take one or two days to consider those bills and others.
“I will also want to encourage the young parliamentarians that we will give you all the support necessary.
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“You will agree with me that many times when we talk about the constitution, the makeup of Nigeria when we talk about the structure, when we sing the National Anthem when we talk about the pledge, we always refer nostalgically to our founding fathers.
“Many of them were not even fathers at that time, they were extremely young in their 20s.
“So I think it is time we stopped making reference only to our founding fathers or let those references be few.
“But let’s start talking about our modern fathers and mothers, those of us here the young people out there, this is your time, this is your moment, it is important that we seize it,” he said.
Gbajabiamila said the lawmakers should consider an amendment in the Constitution to the definition of Federal Character.
According to him, when we talk about Federal Character within the context of appointments, infrastructure and the rest of it in the Constitution, Federal Character as it is, is limited to where you are from, like your ethnicity.
“I think it is time that we expand the definition of Federal Character because the character of a Nation is not just based on your tribe.
“It is based on religion, it is based on where you are from, it is based on your sex, it is based on your age.
“So when you are talking about Federal Character you look at all those things and they are what make up the Federal Character.
“You talk about so so percentage of women, percentage of youth, that is the true meaning of Federal and I think that is what should be reflected in the constitution,” he said.
Gbajabimila said that the youth would be given more representation in the Special Committee on Constitutional Reform in the House.
He pledged to liaise with the Clerk, Mr Amos Ojo, to get a Secretariat for the YPF in the House.
The Chairman of the YPF, Rep. Kabir Tukura, said following the #ENDSARS protest the forum took some steps to ensure that the demands of the youth were met.
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He said that the demands are genuine saying that there is a need for a general overhaul of the way things are done especially in the security sphere.
Tukura said that the forum visited the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and it was agreed that the YPF should come up with a white paper to be submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to him, young persons deserve a voice in this country, they deserve to be heard and treated fairly.
He said that treating young people fairly is to treat the citizens fairly as the youth constitute 70 per cent of the population.
He said the YPF had taken it upon itself to see that police brutality is brought to an end and to see that the ever increasing need for youth inclusion is addressed.
Tukura said that the house would reconvene to address the bill that seeks to establish the National Youth Development Commission.
According to him, another one is the bill that seeks to amend sections 171 and 208 of the Constitution; these sections give powers to the President and Governors to make appointments.
He said that the forum wants the sections amended to ensure young persons, women and people living with disabilities are considered for appointments.
He said if the youths make up 70 per cent of the population, such appointments is not too much to ask for.
The lawmaker said that the house had been very youth focused and the speaker had been very youth friendly.
The Director of Programmes, YIAGA-Africa, Ms Cynthia Mbamalu, congratulated the young parliamentarians for organising the event.
She said young Nigerians were fanning their office of the citizens and are demanding for a better Nigeria through the #EndSARS protest.
Mbalamu said that this was the time to collaborate with the National Assembly to deliver a new Nigeria to the youth.
According to her, we want to see the National Assembly champion this cause, the budget is a tool and we are looking forward to seeing the 2021 budget to be very youth inclusive.
Mbalamu said that Nigerians want to see compensation for victims of police brutality and prosecution of any police officers involved.
She said that the Nigerian youth and women were looking up to the National Assembly to speak for them and ensure their participation in government.
Also, the Country Director of ActionAid, Ms Ene Obi, described the meeting as very important at this point in time.
Obi said that over the weeks, Nigeria had some challenges which she blamed on the historical exclusion of the youth from political and economic spheres.
She expressed hope that the event would open the birth of legal framework that would enhance youth inclusion in the country.
Also, the Country Director, Westminister Foundation for Democracy, Mr Adebowale Olorunmola, said that more than ever before, it was time to rethink youth development in Nigeria.
He said it was time to create conducive environment for quality and affordable education for Nigerian youths.
According to him, with about 13 million young Nigerians out of school, there was an urgent need to address education sector.
He said that 70 per cent of the population which the youth represent was looking forward to the forum for a new Nigeria.
Olorunmola urged the parliamentarians to use their oversight powers, allocation and lawmaking powers to address the demands of youths.
He charged the lawmakers to create a clear path for youths to participate in governance saying they must not wait until they are old to participate.