‘Youth empowerment schemes critical to crime reduction’

By Kingsley Jeremiah, Abuja

Impactful empowerment schemes that are tailored for youths especially sport, will help reduce anti-social vices, a group of sports enthusiasts has said.

Speaking at Power Forward Basketball Championship, which brought together teenagers from across schools in Abuja, the General Manager, Public and Government Affairs, ExxonMobil Nigeria, Nigel Cookery-Gam, said sport, particularly basketball remains a critical avenue to improving the lives of young Nigerians.

Also present at the event were Nigeria-born National Basketball Association (NBA) players, Festus Ezeli and Tunde Adekola; Africare Nigeria Officer, Dr Patrick Adah; and Senior Basketball Coach, Maureen Ameh.

The speakers stressed the need to educate youths on personal development, career choice, healthy lifestyle, and the need to shun social vices.

Cookery-Gam said ExxonMobil will continue to support the event, adding that it will also intensify the fight against malaria, for which it had distributed more than 14 million bed nets, nearly three million diagnostic tests, and over four million anti-malarial treatments to fight the disease.

Ezeli on his part said the programme was aimed at using basketball as a tool to get the attention of teenagers, and thereafter impact them with life-changing skills.

He also urged young Nigerians to focus on their careers in the face obstacle, adding that it seemed impossible for him to get into the NBA before he eventually broke through.

“These kids need life-changing skills that they can use later in their life. I love being a part of this, and that is why I am here. My message is that nothing is impossible, and we are using basketball to tell that story,” Ezeli said.

Similarly, Adekola noted that sports development is necessary for the growth of the country, adding that while football remains a great sport across the world, the development of basketball must be prioritised considering that Nigeria has been doing very well in the game.

Also speaking, Adah said beyond sport, the programme will enable the participants to become decisive about their life, and engage in meaningful activities that can help in addressing key national issues.

To him, the key objectives were to educate the mind of the youngsters, especially letting them know that they can become whatever they want to be, and become responsible citizens in the country.

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