Senate warns: Ignore protesting youths at your peril

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The Senate warned on Monday that leaders will face a huge challenge should they ignore genuine protest by the youth.

The lawmaking body canvassed massive job creation, poverty reduction and food security to prevent another youth uprising similar to the #EndSARS protests.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the interest of the youth should be given consideration.

He said: “Recently, we had some of our youths protesting genuinely. They were seeking the attention of leaders and they got the attention of leaders.

“So, our budget, especially for 2021 should be mindful of what we do to provide employment opportunities for these youths.

“They demonstrated and protested because they could do so; there are so many other people who may not be youthful but are also in the same need and they didn’t protest.

“Let’s meet them where they are. We don’t have to wait until they also start to grumble or protest.

“We should be proactive, we should reach them and most of them are in rural areas and give them what we can and what they need to some extent within the limit of our resources and keep them there to live a productive life.  “That is the only way that we can make a  difference in the lives of the people.

“And for us, elected people, we are going to be accountable. If we escape this one (#EndSARS protests), the other one is inescapable and I am sure people will know what I am saying.”

Lawan also insisted that agriculture is enough to turn around the fortunes of Nigeria.

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“This sector can do something that oil has not been able to do. But why hasn’t it been able to do so? We need to be very practical and radical.

“I believe that the way we are going, will not take us to the El-Dorado but there is every potential, every possibility and other countries have made it through the sector.

“Every time we talk about the diversification of the Nigerian economy, the first sector they mention is the agricultural sector.

“So it means this sector needs to be given all the support that is possible. Oil cannot give jobs to the youths that we have, only a few people and mostly white-collar jobs but we know that this sector can give everybody a job.

“And it has all the potential to create the wealth that we need to have a fairly meaningful life for everyone. So we need to apply ourselves fully to operating this sector.”

Lawan spoke at the 2021 budget defence by Minister of Agriculture Sabo Nanono in Abuja.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture Abudullahi Adamu, decried low budgetary allocations to agriculture over the years.

He said while the Maputo declaration provides that 10 per cent of national budgets should go to agriculture, the 2021 allocation to the   sector is less than two per cent of the N13.8 trillion appropriation.

Adamu said: “In 2021, the sector (agriculture) witnessed a slight increase with a total allocation of N139,458, 322,208.00.

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“Over the years, the sector’s allocation has been abysmally low.

While Nanono, admitted that budgetary allocations for the sector have for a long time been low, the sector  remains one of the fastest-growing   in the country.

Also yesterday, President Buhari   advised Nigerian youths to protect the peace of the nation.

According to him, meeting the demands and satisfying the needs of the youth would only be possible in a peaceful Nigeria.

Buhari  spoke while hosting the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) and a former   Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, at the   Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He added: “Our own generation is on the last lap. We are exiting,”  Buhari said in response to the recent #EndSARS protest  and the destructions that came in its wake.

“It is in the interest of the youth to keep the peace. They want jobs, infrastructure and development. I have sent a team led by the Chief of Staff (Prof. Ibrahim Gambari) to go round the country, talk to traditional rulers, who will then talk to the youth. The views of the youth have been heard,” the President added.

He said   his administration inherited severe infrastructural deficits, “and that is what we are fighting to correct. We can’t just sit, fold our hands, and do nothing. We are doing our best within the limits of resources.”

Buhari also rued the fact that COVID-19 has shrunk the global economy, noting that “this is something you can’t see, smell, or hear,” but which has wrought devastation on lives and livelihoods around the world.

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