“No greater injury can be done to any youth than to let him feel that because he belongs to this or that race he will be advanced in life regardless of his own merit or efforts”.
--- Booker .T. Washington
Distinguished am so glad to be part of this gathering and be chosen as a guest speaker on this sensitive theme so germane to be one of the most contemporary national issues in the country. More so, that it concerns the most active segment of our demographic statistics, and most capable, amongst others, to advance the course of our nationhood.
The Nigeria Youth Policy document defined youth as persons between ages 18 to 35 years. However, for the purpose of this paper and in line with international practice, ”YOUTH” is defined as person between the ages 18 & 24 years. In Nigeria, any person who reaches the age of 18 is legally considered an “ADULT” with voting rights. These are persons who normally would have completed secondary education, and would either be in tertiary institution such as university, striving to secure employment, or be already employed.
Using the Nigerian age bracket as a yardstick for knowing who a youth is, there is a probable consensus that people who fall within the age of 18-35years are youths. More over, in our African cultural milieu, youth is regarded as someone that is yet unmarried and in the prime of his life, who still has the biological make-up intact to a great extent.
Whichever way the argument goes, the underlying factor in knowing who a youth is, is that youth are those in the society that are still young in terms of age whether they are married or not.
Youth constitutes not only a formidable demographic force, but also make up the next generations of parents, workers and leaders. Their well being therefore, has implications not only for their own lives, but also for the societies they will build and maintain. Their ability to play these rules effectively depends on the support of their families, communities and on the commitment of their government to their development.
Meeting their needs is a major continuing public policy challenge, which calls for constant re-thinking of policies, re-assessment of priorities, commitment of adequate financial resources and effective implementation of programmes. More effective and equitable resource allocation and improved policy formation and implementation can only be achieved with a better understanding of their needs.
For didactic purpose, your environment is not just your surroundings, but also the sum total of the material and spiritual influences that affect your growth, development, and existence as a living being.
To commit a crime against the environment, or what you call environmental crime then, is to violate the law of, or, engage in an ill-considered action against the environment.
In Nigeria today, environmental crime by the youth has steadily been on the rise, fed by decades of under-investment in the social sector, together with deficient poverty alleviation and ineffective un-employment reduction initiatives. Over the years, billions in annual oil revenue flowing into the country hiked the bar of its economic and social aspirations, resulting in a climate of criminal productivity.
For a nation with millions of jobless youths, the concomitant implication has been the surge in environmental crime by the youths, including frequent smoking, vandalizing of public properties, apathy to sanitation, conspicuous indifference to their environment, et al. The worry for survival has occupied the largest and better part of their minds, with no time to think about their environment, needless to say, its sustainability.
At a time when the global policy frame work, amongst other pressing issues of concern, is revolving around the panacea to climate change implications and environmental sustainability, our youths should stand out relevant to this noble course to save mankind and his environs.
For a youth to stand for a safe and green environment for human habitation is the satisfaction of all righteousness, the reverse is obviously an environmental crime.
Since youth crime in Nigeria is most likely functional to poverty, bad governance, eroded social value, ineffective corporate-community relationship, underdevelopment, environmental degradation among others, ameliorating it would have to entail capacity building for the Youths. This will include implementation of community orientated developmental project and participatory approach in resolving issues and problems among stakeholders in any region.
At this juncture, permit me to say that our present administration in Amuwo Odofin Local Government places premium on challenging the youths in the community into creative endeavors & promoting their all round mental, moral & emotional development as leaders of tomorrow, in order to curb youth restiveness and environmental crime.
For instance, we have beamed our search light in meticulously selected areas of youth development and constructive engagement. Areas like, education, sports, entertainment, and other skill acquisition, and capacity building initiatives have received priority by our operational and implementation-backed policies.
Few weeks back we gave out free 500 JAMB forms to indigent students of community, and went ahead to engage the Nigerian Union of Teachers to organize free tutorials for the beneficiaries, in order to avail them the opportunity of tertiary learning, and on the long run guaranteeing a blissful future for them.
We also have our annual Amuwo Odofin Music Fiesta where we indentify young and raw talents and give them mentoring from established stars and celebrities from the community.
There is also the time-to-time skill acquisition and capacity building workshops for our youths.
In the area of environment I dare say we have planted well over 4,500 trees of various species, pursued a green environment with unprecedented vigour, continually clear and desilt our drainage, created a special climate change unit in the local government, the first in Lagos state local government administration. Embarked on continuous sensitization exercise on environmental maintenance and sustainability, participated in various international conferences on climate change like Cancun conference in Mexico, Durban conference in South Africa, and a whole lot more.
Of course our efforts have not gone unnoticed as in 1999, our local government was a proud recipient of the Federal Ministry of Environment’s award as “The Most Environment Friendly Local Government in Nigeria.” Just last year we garlanded with another, this time around by the Lagos state government as one of the local government with the best nurtured trees.
The Federal Government needs to go beyond putting in place palliatives measures and constituting agencies or commissions. The development needs of the youths can be met through planned intervention policies, programmes and project which are true reflection of the desires and needs of the people particularly the restive youths who should be empowered so that they can make a decent living from their environment.
Repositioning the youths for the eradication of unemployment, require that we transform them into confident and purposeful individual. The biggest change our youths need to make is in their mindset: Shifting from job seekers to job creators: from writing bios to writing great business plans. It also means transitioning from being provincial to thinking nationally and yes, even globally. From waiting for change to becoming the drivers of change. We must all aim for nobility of character and eschew ignoble wealth acquired by dishonest means.
What is more, our youth must be ready to be a custodian of environmental law and not an environment criminal. Let us not forget that Almighty God, in his wisdom, created the world perfect. It is the activities of man that has distorted the perfect balance. Lets fight to save our environment for we have no other.
Thank you and God bless’
Eko oni baaje o!!!
Comrade Ayodele Adewale
Executive Chairman, Amuwo Odofin Local Government