The federal government has declared that it is committed to its youth empowerment programmes and is considering adopting capacity to create jobs as one of the criteria for awarding government contracts and extension of other incentives.
The Budget and National Planning Minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, gave the indication at a forum with members of the 25th Regular Course on Policy, Strategy and Leadership of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), in Abuja.
A statement released by the Media Adviser to the Minister, Mr. Akpandem James, said Udoma disclosed that the federal government views the unemployment situation in the country with great concern and has made job creation one of the major objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
The minister said the Plan aims to create jobs by developing labour-intensive sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, housing and construction and is also launching a number of public works programmes as well as encouraging private sector participation in the economy.
Government, he said, is developing infrastructure in sectors with the capacity to create demand for labour and will sustain the N-Power programmes as well as continue to support small scale enterprises to maximise their potential for job creation.
According to him, there are other policies in place to encourage job creation including apprenticeship programme, supporting and patronising Made-in-Nigeria Initiative to encourage local manufacturing.
To further give impetus to the drive, he said government would give necessary support to institutions that focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as a veritable foundation for building a knowledge-based economy.
In his remarks, the leader of the team, Alhaji Asipata Umar, said NIPSS was very much interested in the successful implementation of the ERGP, pointing out that the interest shown by Course 25 in the ERGP was the main reason for the visit.
Meanwhile, in a bid to improve Nigeria’s position in the International Budget Partnership (IBP) index, which currently remains at a low range of 24 out of 100, Udoms has assured that the government would soon put in place all necessary mechanisms including launching a citizens budget portal to ensure openness and transparency in the budget process.
The mnister of stated this at a workshop on budget transparency and accountability, organised by Collaborative Africa Budget Research Initiative (CABRI) in conjunction with the Budget Office of the Federation (BOF) for select directors from Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs), civil society groups and other stakeholders.
” A citizens budget portal would soon be launched so that Nigerian citizens can access budget information as well as engage government effectively on budget issues on-line. This technology-based platform will provide reliable, timely, easily understandable and accessible budget information to Nigerian citizens and other interested parties,” Udoma, said.
Udoma, who said that the present administration was committed to engendering greater transparency budget preparation process and participation, regrettable that Nigeria is still ranked lower than some of the African countries in budget openness and citizens participation.
“According to the 2015 Open Budget Survey for Nigeria, published by the International Budget Partnership (IBP), Nigeria’s Open Budget Index Score is 24 out of 100.
This is a measure of our transparency level, and is regrettably quite low when compared with other African countries like South Africa which scored 86, Malawi 65, and Uganda 62, ” he stressed.
The Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze also noted that having joined other countries in the Open Government Partnership (OGP), it underscored that Nigeria was fully prepared to depart from the past for more transparency and accoutabilty.
He added that joining the OGP, a global coalition and multi- stakeholder initiative, with focus on improving transparency, accountability, citizens participation and responsiveness in the budget processes was a positive signal needed to boost government’s fight against corruption.