President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, on Wednesday, said that giving young persons the opportunity to partake in leadership was crucial to good governance and economic development.
Saraki, according to statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, made the remarks in his opening speech at the African Regional Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF) at the National Assembly, Abuja.
He welcomed the Secretary General of the IPU, Mr. Martin Chungong, members of African Parliaments and members of the global community to the conference and expressed the hope that they would relish the ambience of the Capital city of Abuja and its diverse mixture of Nigeria’s cultures.
He described the theme for the conference, “Empowering Youth: Enhancing Political Participation for more inclusive and Peaceful Societies” as strategic in enhancing the development of nations.
“I cannot agree more on the strategic importance of the theme of this conference in national development of our countries,” Saraki said.
He added: “Your presence to us, is an undeniable justification of the resolve of the Nigerian national parliament to take a confident walk on the trail of achieving socio-economic and political inclusion of the Nigerian youth, a collaborative effort that is crucial to achieving good governance and development.”
The president of the Senate stated that the effort of the 8th National Assembly is geared towards making the youth initiators of positive energies for global peace.
“Inclusiveness as it relates to the theme of this conference,” Saraki stated, “is a panacea to achieving peaceful societies, however where injustice, poverty and lack of political will for reform are paramount, political engagement and inclusiveness of youth will achieve very little or none at all.”
Saraki added: “The agitations of young members of the National Assembly, youth groups and civil society organisations for the inclusion of young persons in leadership and in the decision making process, is not just one of those instruments adopted by pressure groups to attract attention but a demand for initiating and sustaining good governance and development.
“Therefore, when these agitations were expressed in form of a request for the reduction in the qualification age for running for public offices, the leadership of the National Assembly saw it as an opportunity to change the leadership temperament in developing societies, an opportunity to prepare for the future of Africa as a socio-economically and politically developed continent.
“It gladdens my heart that the National Assembly reduced the age qualification for running for Public offices to as low as 25 years and we believe this will be enshrined in our Constitution after the entire amendment process must have been completed,” he said.
He noted that as members of parliaments, the National Assembly was more committed to enacting legislations and giving legislative backing to policies that would eradicate poverty, exhume and expunge injustice in our society and help in the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Saraki said: “Obviously in Africa, the concentration of political leadership must shift from playing ‘politics of perpetuation’ to developing the education sector, building a sustainable, localized and industrialized economy that can create jobs for the teeming population of Africa’s youth.
“It is shocking to note that according to the African Development Bank Report, over 25% of African youth population is still illiterate. Fellow parliamentarians we have an enormous task before us.”
He stated that in identifying with the ideals of the IPU, the leadership of the National Assembly had supported the YPF which had “remained very active and served as a strong platform of interfacing with youth constituencies of our country.”