6th Anniversary Of Future Assured Project Themed: Securing The Future Of Women & Children For National Development
SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE 6TH ANNIVERSARY OF FUTURE ASSURED PROJECT THEMED: SECURING THE FUTURE OF WOMEN & CHILDREN FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT ON THE 21ST OF OCTOBER, 2021
Your Excellency, thank you very much for the kind invitation to be here to celebrate 6 years of Future Assured. How time flies! I remember the launch of Future Assured and of course, the many programmes including “Get Involved” where we had to get involved and all of us had to carry our placards and take photographs on our chest. Even Mr. President was forced to take his own photograph with his placard. But more importantly, the happy faces of women and children, flood victims in Kogi, Kebbi, Niger States who received food and other relief materials from the Get Involved Initiative.
There are also educational initiatives, especially the Youth Education Empowerment Programme (YEEP), where a number of youths were given and plans also in place to give them tutorials in WAEC, NECO, NABTEB and JAMB. And of course, the support for girl-child education. Support to IDPs that returned to their communities with relief materials including foodstuff, clothing, beddings, and building materials, the building of schools and Orphanages in Maiduguri.
Also, the distribution of Future Assured Packs here in Abuja, and in Abuja Hospitals. Free Health Screening in Kogi State especially in conjunction with the Kogi Women and Youth Advancement Foundation. I can see Governor Yahaya Bello is clapping more than everybody else today.
In Nassarawa, there was free health screening for men, women and children, also in Oyo State, Ogun State and in Lagos, it was the commissioning of Mobile Clinics for Medical Outreaches and the Women Empowerment and Training.
The distribution of Maternity Kits also in Lagos, collaboration with the celebrities, and I remembered that particular occasion where Abuja was flooded with celebrities. They worked with industry captains to support malnourished children and of course, with the wives of Diplomats in the Clean Water Initiative also, aimed to provide clean water for communities with no access to water and also to achieve SDG goals as set by the United Nations. It has certainly has been an exciting 6 years.
Your Excellency, I am sure that of all the children that the Aisha Buhari Foundation has given birth to, Future Assured must be the favourite child. And this is as it should be, the very future of Nigeria, the very future of our communities depends on how well we address the many concerns of women and children in our communities. Especially in the three focal areas identified by Future Assured, health, education and economic empowerment. We agree with Future Assured’s belief that all social indices can be influenced if the health, education and economic status of the population are improved upon.
And that is the case clearly, women constitute at least half our population and the youth are at least 60% of our population. Women especially, young girls, continue to face problems of every kind and these problems mutate as the social pressures increase every passing day.
For example, since the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns, it’s been shown by empirical studies that the rate of dropouts, especially of girls, have increased, child marriages increased, adolescent childbearing, and gender-based violence, all these indices increased.
The sharp drop in income for most families here in Nigeria and in most economies of the world would mean families would make choices that almost always would disfavour the girl-child and of course, female children have suffered disproportionately from the displacement caused by the insurgency and conflict in the Northeast and of course, in parts of the Northwest.
Unemployment of course which has also taken a dive since the COVID-19 pandemic largely affected young people, who make up the majority of the workforce. For the Federal Government of Nigeria, the President has prioritized the solutions to these issues. Since 2015 we have ensured that government social and entrepreneurial programmes have an affirmative component for women.
So, of the 2.4 million beneficiaries of the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, 1.2million were women – that is 56.4% of beneficiaries were women. So, a total of N38billion in loans has been disbursed over the last 4 years. And of the 1.1million beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfers, over 98% of beneficiaries are women. Youth employment programme – N-Power, of the 526,000 employed, 40.4% are female. And of the 106,074 cooks in our Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, 97% are females.
We implemented a payroll support programme which was designed to mitigate income losses in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and of the 307,173 employees that have benefited, 130,880 – that is 43% of beneficiaries are female-owned businesses.
So, we have continued to emphasize female-owned businesses and continued to emphasize affirmation actions for females. For instance, the Artisan Scheme also, beneficiaries of the support programme after COVID-19, of the 94,318 artisans, 40,386 are female – that is 41% of beneficiaries. And so, it is also with the MSMEs scheme. With respect to MSMEs, over 35% of all the MSMEs grants are female. All of these are deliberate affirmative actions to ensure females benefit proportionately and where they are not able to benefit proportionately, at least they benefit fairly in the distribution of these programmes.
And of course, there have been all sorts of all other activities directed specifically by the President to ensure that women are given a fairer chance and fairer opportunity. Child’s Rights Act, of course, we are all familiar with all that has been done with respect to the Child’s Rights Act 2003 and also the Violence Against Persons Act, all of these legislations are designed to address concerns that are especially affect the girl-child or women.
We have also committed in word and deed to education to ensure that no child is denied access to free basic education. And I’m sure many of us would recall the President statement on the 12th of June 2019, when he said: “that it was criminal for any government to refuse to ensure that all children of school age attend school compulsory.” Referring to the laws of the matter, he said that he would ensure that those laws are enforced. And this has happened at the National Economic Council level, where our meetings with the governors we have put forward a dashboard to ensure the President’s directives are complied with, with respect to the education of all children, especially education of girls.
We believe that the free and compulsory education of girls is game-changing in many respects. It has been shown that when female children are educated, it will positively impact the age of marriage, and even maternal and infant mortality would be affected.
In 2020 the Federal Executive Council approved a World Bank credit facility in the sum of $500million to finance the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment. This initiative is particularly important because it was meant to improve secondary education opportunities among girls in certain targeted States and these states which are participating States which includes Borno, Ekiti, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi and Plateau.
The project was aimed at creating safe and accessible learning processes, advancing an enabling environment for girls, and strengthening the institutional capacity of the Federal and State governments to support girl-child education. The project targets girls between the ages of 10 to 19 years with a strong focus on disadvantaged adolescent girls from poor Local Government Areas with low secondary transition rates and girls from some of the poorest households. This intervention is projected to benefit 6.02million girls and boys also.
On the issue of safety of children and especially girls in school in the wake of the criminal abductions we have seen lately, the President has constituted a committee to look specifically for safe schools, and especially to try and implement the safe school initiative.
We have worked at the committee level for the past couple of months and already, steps are being taken with the security agencies to ensure this is done in all of the schools with the support of our State governments.
Since 2016, the Rule of Law Advisory Team in the Presidency has been taking a range of steps towards achieving a strong justice response in supporting women and girls.
We have formed strategic partnerships with relevant stakeholders, local and international, including the European Union Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme, the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, the Cans Foundation and Ford Foundation, all of whose commitments have proven valuable in supporting our efforts to succeed.
To ensure effective coordination of responses to cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), the Rule of Law Team supported the establishment of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Response Teams across the country. Practically in all the States of the Federation, the rule of law team has established at least one gender-based response team.
In November 2019, in an effort to enhance access to justice, we secured a toll-free emergency number and Short Code for the FCT- SGBV Response Team, with the generous support of Airtel, the telecommunications company.
We also developed Referral Guidelines for Gender-Based Violence Response in Nigeria and a National Guide for the Establishment of Sexual Assault Referral Centres in Nigeria, to further enhance coordination.
Also In 2019, the President directed the National Human Rights Commission to set up a special panel to investigate cases of unlawful arrests, assault and sexual and gender-based violence in the Federal Capital Territory following complaints of raids of nightclubs and arrests of women by the Police.
The panel commenced sitting in the FCT and in the six geo-political zones, but hearings were truncated due to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. We are told that the panel resumed sitting in April 2021 and I am told all hearings have been concluded and will now submit their reports. We look forward to receiving the report from the National Human Rights Commission.
First responders like the Police and response teams are central to all of the efforts that we are making to address Sexual and Gender-Based Violence. As a result, we are currently supporting the implementation of projects aimed at strengthening the capacity of the Nigeria Police Force and the FCT SGBV Response Team to effectively receive, record and respond to violence against women and girls in Nigeria.
For young people and I think this is an important part of the work that has been done, especially by the Federal Government, Mr. President has directed that our focus must be on creating opportunities for good-paying jobs. He said that one of the concerns that he has is that the jobs that young people have should be the jobs that can sustain a family. I think this is an important guide of the sorts of things we then try to do.
Consequently, we have worked on all available local and international opportunities to create these sorts of jobs that the President has in mind. Some examples include the AfDB led $500million i-DICE Programme – this is a programme that AfDB is coordinating to support the technology and creative sector, leading a process to raise $500million to support the technology and creativity sector.
The funds will be available to finance the ideas of young innovators and creatives and provide supporting infrastructures such as shared facilities, and skills training. This is quite important because the shared facilities are facilities that enable groups or innovators to come together to use facilities that individuals may not be able to afford. If it is equipment, we buy the equipment that one person may not be able to afford. All of those in that particular sector will be able to use it and we have been able to demonstrate that shared facilities work. Already we have one in Nnewi, in Oyo State, we have one, I believe in Adamawa State.
These are facilities that enable young people who are innovators, or those who work in a particular sector to share facilities that may be otherwise too expensive.
There is also the Nigeria Jubilee Fellows Programme (NJFP). This is a joint initiative with the UNDP. The programme will provide paid internships for 20,000 young Nigerian graduates for 12 months for the next 5 years.
This programme will ensure that these 20,000 graduates annually, will be attached to private companies, public companies where they can learn and gain some hands-on experience. And the payment for the programme will be made by the UNDP and I must say that it’s handsome pay for the 12-month period and after 12 months, these young people can go out and do other things for themselves as entrepreneurs or remain with the companies where they worked. This is 20,000 young people every year for the next 5 years. We expect that 100,000 young people would be trained and paid during the period of the training.
Then of course we have the Federal Government’s N-Power Programme, which is part of Africa’s biggest ever social investment programme. We deployed 500,000 young Nigerians who are paid as volunteers in education, health and agriculture. We started this in 2016 and continued until now. In 2019, Mr. President approved the increase of the number of N-Power beneficiaries from 500,000 to 1million. We expect to have a million young people.
Then we have the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) – a N75billion Youth Investment Fund. The fund was passed by the Federal Executive Council to support the activities of the young people. N25billion naira annually for investment in youth businesses for the next 3 years. Today, more than 5,000 young Nigerians have benefited from this loan with disbursement of more than N1.5billion.
The CBN’s Creative Sector Fund is also another fund. This is what the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is providing and this started in 2019, introduced also to support the Creative Industry and its Financing Initiative (CIFI) so that the creative industry can access long-term funds or entrepreneurship in this respect and also for those who are involved in information technology.
In addition to improving access to low-cost and sustainable financing for job creation, other objectives include harnessing of the entrepreneurial potentials of the young people within those industries.
What we have tried to do also is involve these young people and ensure they are part of policy formulation. Those in the technology and creative sectors are part of the policy group – we have a Creative and Technology Sector Policy Group where they contribute to making policies.
This is why before now, a lot of FinTech companies and financial type of businesses were running into trouble because they did not have banking licenses, but they were part of the formulation of policies eventually, which enabled the CBN to grant special licenses to them so that they are able to do certain types of financial services without being barged.
You find today that there are many small companies that are giving loans and using algorithms that determine whether a person is creditworthy or not. They can just give these loans seamlessly, so all of these efforts are what the Federal Government is making especially for youth empowerment.
For the young people, what we tend to find each time is that the young people are saying “well we hear about all these, but we don’t have access to them or find it difficult to access these facilities.” This is why we are at the moment, working in consultation with several youth groups to see how we can ensure these facilities are made easier to access. For example, accessing credit in many cases involves certain forms of collateral, but many young people don’t have collateral. We are looking at how to de-risk credit and we are working with the Central Bank, Bank of Industry and several funding organizations including the AfDB to see how we can reduce the possibilities of collateral and in many cases, be able to give collateral loans to young people.
It’s a huge effort, but I must say that the commitment of the Federal Government is not in doubt at all and at several fora, Mr. President has continued to emphasize that the future of this country depends on how well the young people succeed and the future of our country depends on how well we are able to take into account, the problems of the 50% of our population, of the female population of our country.
Again, I would like to commend the Future Assured and Her Excellency, the First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, for this incredible effort and to say in the years to come, we hope and pray that the Future Assured project would do even greater things.
I think that just as you assure the future for women, we men are also looking for some assurance that our future would be great
God bless you and thank you very much.