Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly on Thursday took a bold step inline with the avowed commitment of the 6th Assembly to be the people’s Assembly. This time, the youths of Akwa Ibom state became focal point of the days deliberation at plenary.
A bill for a law to implement a sustainable youth policy framework that would see to the establishment of ‘Akwa Ibom youth development fund (AKYDF)) 2016 and for other matters connected therewith’, sponsored by the Member representing Ini State Constituency, and Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Emmanuel Ekpenyong and eight others, scaled second reading on the floor of the House.
The bill seeks to tackle youth unemployment in the state, and as reduce crime, and other social vices usually identified with the youths. It proposes for the setting aside of 10 percent of the revenue that accrues to the state into a designated fund that would be channeled solely for youth development through the funding of their human capacity development, education funding, funding for enterprise development, among others. Also, other sources outside government, including international donor agencies, corporate bodies, among others would would be harnessed to pull funds for the youth development activities in the state.
Canvassing support for the bill, the lead sponsor, Hon. Emmanuel Ekpenyong explained the bill intends to seek legislative backing for a law that would put in place a frame work that will guarantee a sustainable development policy for Akwa Ibom youths. He argued that the youth population constitutes about 80 percent of the state workforce, while about 37 percent represents the entire population of the state. The lawmaker regretted that about 50 percent of Akwa Ibom youths were unemployed, saying if 10 perecnt of State allocation was allocated to youth development, it would reduce the rate of unemployment in the state.
“We are the people’s Assembly. If we pass this bill, it would build upon the efforts of this administration in tackling unemployment. I appeal to my colleagues to support this bill”.
All the members of the House who were present during plenary including, the Deputy Leader, Rt. Hon. Barr. Ime Okon, Deputy Chief Whip, Hon. David Lawrence Udofa, Rt. Hon. Gabriel Toby, Hon. Otuekong Nse Essien, Hon. Otobong Jonathan, Hon. Idongesit Ituen, Hon. Mark Essen, Hon. Mfon Ekong, Hon. Samuel Ufuo, and Hon. Usoro Akpanusoh, agreed that the bill was timely, and that it should be supported by all to see the light of the day, as it would add value to youth capacity development in the state.
motion for the bill to be read the second time was moved by the member representing Itu state Constituency, Prince Idongesit Ituen, while Hon. Gabriel Toby seconded the motion.
Speaking in favour of the bill The member representing Ibiono Ibom State Constituency, Rt.Hon Barr Ime Okon, said he will always support anything that will enhance opportunity for the youths of the state and urged that when the bill is committed to the House Committee for further legislative action, the committee should look critically on how the funds should be managed.
“If there is anything that the governor should do for the youths of the state should be encouraged “Ime Okon noted
Hon. Idongesit Ituen, member representing Itu state Constituency said he support the bill in its totality because it will grant opportunities for the youths of the state for development.
On his part, Hon Nse Essien, said the bill when passed into law will encourage international donor Agencies to contribute funds which will be used to assist young people.
Otobong Jonathan Akpan , member representing Ukanafun state constituency and Hon Mfon Ekong, member for Nsit Ibom State Constituency, commended the lead Sponsor of the bill for bringing the bill to the House.
They noted that there is need to establish policy frame work for youth development. This they say will help the youths to access funds to do whatever type of but they want to venture into.
Hon Ufuo, member representing Mbo State Constituency was of opinion that the bill should be targeted at Technical Vocational training that will enable the youths to acquire skills that would enable them be self reliant and as well fit into the man power needs of industries that will soon spring up in the state.
Responding , Speaker of the House, Barr. Onofiok Luke, thanked the lead Sponsor of the bill, and co-sponsors for bringing up the bill which he described as youth friendly. He commended the youths of the state for their advocacy in support of the bill, saying they have conducted themselves in line with legislative best practices, and pledged the House commitment in expediting action in the passage of the bill.
“This is the beginning of the struggle by the youths for an institutionalized youth development in the state.”
He recalled Past efforts by former youth leaders in the state who struggled for the enlargement of political space for youths of the state in active politics during the administration of former governor Victor Attah, noting that their struggle paid off during the Godswill Akpabio regime, as the youths started occupying positions of responsibility. He reasoned that with the support of the state government, the bill currently being considered by the legislature in the 6th Assembly would greatly enhance the sustainable development of the youths of the state.
The speaker referred the bill to a joint committee on youths and Sports and that of Economic Development, and mandated committees to report to back to the House in a period of one month for further legislative action.
Meanwhile, Executive Director youth Advocacy clusters and Youth Alive Foundation, Dr. U Okon, has commended the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly for taking the right step in furthering the well-being of the youths of the state. Speaking with newsmen at the Assembly complex shortly after the day’s proceedings by the lawmakers, Dr. Uduak who watched proceedings at the gallery, expressed the hope that when is eventually passed into law, it will transform the youths of the state for the better.
Youth Advocacy Cluster is a body that comprises 53 youths groups in Akwa Ibom state.