The lack of specific meaning and clarification further compounds the process of identifying who is actually a youth. While some authors describe youth as those within the age bracket of 20-40 years, others specify the ages of 18-45 years. Thus, the definition of youth is relative; depending on one’s perception and situation.
Youth is best understood as a period of transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood’s independence and awareness of our interdependence as members of a community. Youth is a more fluid category than a fixed age-group (United Nations, 2007). However, age is the easiest way to categorically capture those individuals or group of individuals that can be referred to as youth. UNESCO uses different definitions of youth depending on the context when carrying out its youth development strategies. For activities at international or at regional levels, such as the African Youth Forum, UNESCO uses the United Nations’ universal definition.
The UN, for statistical consistency across regions, defines ‘youth’ as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, without prejudice to other definitions by Member States (United Nations, 1985). All UN statistics on youth are based on this definition, as illustrated by the annual yearbooks of statistics published by the United Nations System on Demography, Education, Employment, and Health.
The Federal Ministry of Youth Development was created in January 2007, in realization of the growing significance of Youth to national development and the fact that Nigeria has a large youthful population. About 32.4% of the total population is below the age of 18 years and given a total population of 140 million people (National Population Commission, 2006) this is quite a large number. The National Youth Policy defines Youth as a person between the ages of 18 – 35 years (Ministry of Youth Development, 2009).
Between 1991 and 2006, the youth population in Nigeria grew from 22.5 million to well over 30 million (National Population Commission, 2006). If these two groups are taken together, the population of Nigerians below the age of 35 years comprises 60% of the entire population of the country and this is the highest youth population in Africa. In absolute terms, there are more young people in Nigeria today than any other segment of the population with its peculiar social and economic implications.