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The lingering industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities has remained a bigger threat to the economic growth of Nigeria compared to COVID-19 pandemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine, Nigerian youths said on Friday.

According to them, the strike action by the lecturers would slow down Nigeria’s economic recovery and growth plan, should the crisis continue unresolved.

The youths stated this in Abuja during the event jointly organised and convened by Oxfam Nigeria and the Nigeria Youth SDGs Network to celebrate the 2022 International Youth Day with the theme, ‘Intergenerational solidarity: creating a world for all ages.’

The Head of Programmes and Influencing in Oxfam, Abdul-Aziz Musa, said Nigeria cannot solve its major present and future challenges without considering the input of the young people.

He called on the government to address challenges of incessant strikes by ASUU.

Musa said, “Nigeria is the largest black country in the world and the population of young people is much. If we have a population that is doing nothing, then that it is a time bomb and we are beginning to see the implications of that from increase in insecurity and crime rate.

We are just recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had a global crisis of Ukraine, all that already is a strain. But for us, we even have another bigger one on top of all of this which is now this ASUU crisis and the implication is that we are going to take a much more longer time than this for us to recover as a country.

Well, looking at our young people, we really believe that the future is for the young people. That means we are denying them that future. If we deny them that future, then what future are we trying to create as a country for ourselves and prepare for the young people?”

He stressed the need for youths to participate in decision making, especially as the 2023 general elections draw closer.

We regard the young people as a critical constituency that we need to work with us partners, as stakeholders and as our targets. Also in essence, we believe that if we cannot solve tomorrow’s problem without the input of the young people today and if we want the future we have to create it for ourselves”, he emphasised.

The Convener of the Nigeria Youths SDGs Network, Diezani Ototo, expressed worry that ongoing strike by members of ASUU would not end until the Federal Government comes to agreement with the university lecturers.

She said: “The strike is very worrisome, and the government has to do something about it; the truth is that this strike will not end until the government (either) agrees to come to a consensus.

“I believe that one of the things that is very important is for the government and the Universities to come to a consensus as regards the amount that is bein asked for, it’s not too much.

“I just believe that the government needs to do more for the Universities and the professors – people that work so hard.”

Ototo observed that this year’s 2022 Youth Day highlighted the importance of leveraging the full potential of all generations and fostering equitable intergenerational relations and partnerships across all age groups.

“The 2022 International Youth Day will further raise awareness on certain barriers to intergenerational solidarity, notably ageism, which impacts young and old persons, while having detrimental effects on society as a whole.

“In Nigeria, young people continue to experience age-related barriers in various spheres, including institutions, justice and relationships. Ageism in political participation limits young people’s opportunities to contest, and contribute to the decision-making process,” she added.

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