Yiaga Africa has called on government at all levels to ensure that its policies and decisions are youth and gender responsive saying there is need for consistent engagement with government at not just the federal level but at the state level. Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, said this during a Live Virtual Studio Citizens Town hall on Youth Responsive Service Delivery and Development organized by Yiaga Africa calling on all stakeholders to play their roles to build a Nigeria that Nigerians can be proud of and call their home.

She said, “Democracy is about the people at every level of government. State assembly play a very important role in governance at the local level because they make laws that operate within the state level. If development is not happening at the state level, it cannot happen at the national level. Thus we need to start engaging the state assembly to deliver on their mandate to meet the needs of the people and providing oversight to ensure that the executive is delivering on its mandate”.

The Live Virtual Studio ‘Citizens Town Hall’ focused on conversations around youth and gender responsive service delivery and development with an overall goal of identifying clear strategies for mobilizing young people and insights to harness the creative energy of youths towards youth and gender responsive development and accountable governance in Nigeria. The program supported by Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) through Action Aid Nigeria played host to arrays of stakeholders from State Assemblies, Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Civil Society Organizations and Youth groups.

Speaking on the opportunities explored by state lawmakers for youth and gender responsive service delivery, Hon. Musa Iyimoga – Chairman, Nasarawa State House of Assembly Committee on Youth and Sports said the assembly is doing its best to ensure young people have a space in decision making process. According to him, the Nasarawa State Assembly will pass a bill to establish a commission to empower young people and make them self-reliant. He said, “We will continue to reorient the young people on the process of becoming a leader. For instance, I organised a program where resource persons talked to young people on leadership in a contemporary Nigerian system. We also empowered those young people to be self-reliant, by urging them to come up with business ideas development strategies so we can finance it.”

Also speaking during the program, Chief Executive Officer of Connected Development, Hamza Lawal reiterated the need to have informed data in order to plan for a gender and youth responsive service delivery. He said “I believe that if we can leverage on the power of young people in sharing information and knowledge. For instance, we were able to get data by invoking the Freedom of Information law and we took this data to some of the communities. In doing this, we built capacity of young people who became champions and now asking the right questions’’, he said.
Speaking on the Nigerian Youth Investment Program, Ibrahim Faruk, head of Governance and Development at Yiaga Africa said, we always ask a question around how far young people have been consulted around areas to empower them. Some of the current empowerment programs by lawmakers revolve around buying animals, wheel barrows, motorcycles but the skill of the 21st century that responds to the need of young people is more around technology, entertainment. He said, “Lawmakers need to answer the question about how budget and policy processes respond to the need of young people as it fits our needs not just what they come up with in their chambers”.
In her reaction, Amina Muhammed Director, network and social mobilization department from Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development said, young people’s voices count and their participation matters in every intervention, because the youth are the constituency managed by the ministry. She said beyond the NYIF, there are leadership empowerment program through the National Youth Council of Nigeria and the Nigerian Youth Parliament that serves as training ground for young people across all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Another panelist, Nana Nwachukwu, a researcher and a strategy team member of the Not Too Young To Run movement encouraged lawmakers to develop some sort of mentorship or leadership program for young politicians at various communities from secondary school levels and universities in relation to Nigeria’s current situation. She also reiterated the need for young politicians to learn fundraising and political financing rather than depending on godfathers.