By Angela Atabo
Abuja, Oct. 7, 2020 The European Union (EU) has called on the Nigerian youth to contribute their quota toward deepening the nation’s democracy.
EU Ambassador, Mr Ketil Karlsen, made the call on Wednesday at the Orientation and Induction Programme for Legislative Interns organised by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), in Abuja.
Karlsen said that the National Assembly organised the internship programme to educate the youth to ensure a participatory and inclusive process for democracy in Nigeria.
“Looking at the growing population of Nigeria, about 60 per cent are young; it is really strange to see how the national assembly is opening up the doors for the youth.
“ Another set of youth ambassadors from different states are taking part in the process of what is the bedrock of democracy of any democratic society.
“So, this is a really vital signal of engagement from the parliament, one example of how we work together to support democracy in Nigeria.
“The consolidation of democracy must not be taken for granted anywhere not within the European borders, certainly not in Africa or Nigeria either; it is something that must be developed.
“So, more women and persons living with disabilities are selected into office in the future while working on consolidating democracy in Nigeria. ’’
Karlsen said that it was important to increase the participation of the youth in governance building on the momentum of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run campaign.
He urged political parties, civil society organisations, the legislature as well as the executive to see to the increment of youth participation in politics.
According to him, women and persons with disabilities should be included in the participatory process for the nation’s democracy.
He said that EU had been working in Nigeria to support its democracy and other vital areas as well as supporting the fight against COVID-19.
Mr Clement Nwankwo, Executive Director, PLAC, said that the centre selected 38 youths across the country to engage with the legislature in order to understand how the democratic process works.
Nwankwo, who said that the internship programme would run for 10 weeks at the national assembly, added that it would help the youth to know Nigeria’s democracy.
According to him, the programme will assist them how to strengthen and defend democracy.
“A lot of these people are qualified to run for elections, a lot are going to be inspired by the experience they have with the national assembly.
“A lot are very educated and can provide services and knowledge that the national assembly needs; so I think there is an opportunity for them to contribute as young people.’’
Nwankwo said that interns who graduated from the programme previously became lawmakers.
“Some were heading different organisations and some were working in strategic offices because of the knowledge they gained.
The Clerk to the National Assembly, Mr Olatunde Ojo, expressed the National Assembly’s commitment toward conducting its legislative responsibility.
Ojo, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Media and Labour, Mr Adesoro Austine, urged the interns to be great ambassadors of their respective states.
Mr Prince Agba, Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, commended PLAC and the EU for giving the youth the internship opportunity.
Agba, who was represented by Mr Johnson Bareyei, Deputy Director, International Cooperation, said that the programme was critical to the development of the capacity of the Nigerian youth in legislative affairs.