Twenty million Nigerian youths are unemployed and are a security threat, the Federal Government has warned.
The Minister of Youths and Social Development Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi in a presentation to the Senate Committee on Youths and Women Affairs yesterday also lamented what he described as the negligible return on the annual N43 billion expended on the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme.
The Minister at an interactive session also revealed that security had become a primary consideration in the deployment of corps members even as he disclosed plans to redirect the scheme towards national priority areas as agriculture, education, rural health and infrastructure.
Abdulahi told the Senator Helen Eseune led committee that the unemployment figure estimated at 41.6% was about the highest in the world noting that the lack of employment opportunities coupled with a sense of hopelessness make the youth susceptible to violence, crime, and terrorism.
Abdulahi told the Senators that besides the medium- to long-term impact on national productivity that the high rate of unemployment portends real and present danger to the sanctity of the country. He asserted that the figure in Nigeria was well above the 25% average rate for North Africa and the Middle East which have been rocked by civil unrest largely spearheaded by unemployed youths in those regions.
He said: "there are clear intimations of this already, given the role of the youths in the 2011 post-election violence and the increasing incidence of religious extremism typified by the Boko Haram menace. But there is even a danger of escalation, at a high political, economic, social and security cost to our country."
The Minister who noted that there were developmental initiatives across various sectors and tiers of government aimed primarily to address the problem of unemployment in Nigeria, however, regretted that the efforts were hardly visible.
"Unfortunately, most of these initiatives fall short in terms of scope and scale. All put together, current interventions in the public, private and non-profit sector reach fewer than 100, 000 youth per year (out of more than 20 million unemployed youths).
"In addition, the subsisting initiatives are limited by not being youth-specific, by poor collaboration and cooperation across the sectors, by outdated and theoretical training models, and by distance from the grassroots."
Speaking on the NYSC programme, the Minister who disclosed that plans were on to reposition it, stressed that the focus of the service would now be on national priority such as Agric, Education, Rural health and infrastructure, adding that the greatest challenge facing the NYSC was that it was no longer possible to send corps members to states without first putting in mind, the issue of security.