This young and pulsating lawyer, Timi Olagunju who I met for the very first time in July 2012 at The Future Awards online business master class event, has sued the Federal Government of Nigeria over excluding males from participating in the #YOUWIN program. #YOUWIN was launched in 2011. It was structured such that each year, 1,200 Nigerian youths would be given the opportunity to receive between one million and ten million naira to start up business. This implies that #YOUWIN in a space of three years would have successfully raised 3,600 entrepreneurs
I’m actually not kidding, Mr. Timi Olagunju has dragged President Jonathan and six others to the Federal High court on this issue.
Let’s hear Timi’s side of the story.
Lanre: Give us a short background of yourself.
Timi: I am Timi Olagunju, I provide leverage to your voice in two folds; in the Court of Law as a Legal Practitioner, and in the Court of Public Opinion as a public analyst and writer. I graduated from the University of Ibadan in 2009, and the Nigerian Law School, Augustine Nnnamani campus, Enugu.
Lanre: Is it all about gender discrimination or what exactly prompted you to do this?
Timi: As a lawyer who understands that my first duty is to God, to the community and to the law, I noticed the unconstitutional decision to restrict the “You Win” funds of about N50, 000, 000 to females, so my legal conscience and antenna could not go to sleep. I conducted research on the socio-economic and legal implication of such a policy and it dawned on me that it is not in any way favourable, because the road to hell can also be tainted with a public picture of good intentions.
Lanre: Was it that you partook in the first part of the #YOUWIN program without success and you were actually hoping for the next round?
Timi: Personally I didn’t, I only encouraged a couple of persons to take part in the program and two of them, a friend (www.xtramileclean.org) and a sister became awardees in 2011, although, they have been provided with only a marginal sum as I speak now. In a session we had with some young Nigerians, especially in Lagos, it became clear that the high hopes of many young men who had waited since 2011, I mean complete 365 days, for the second edition of the program to be launched on www.youwin.org.ng in 2012, turned into frustration.
Lanre: Considering that Young Nigerians don’t take their grudges with the government beyond twitter and other social media platforms, Timi, what do you actually intend to achieve?
Timi: The point must be made that we, young Nigerians, are not naive to the manipulation in the name of goodwill for the pockets of few. This case also seeks to make the point that every Nigerian has a right to demand accountability and due process from her government, whether young or old, whether in the courts of law or in the courts of public opinion.
Lanre: Was it that easy for you to file a case against the Federal government, or is it because you are a lawyer?
Timi: It is not in any way easy, because it involves serious research, consultations and particularly funds which I financed from my own pocket, time and brain. For instance serving the seven (7) parties (Attorney-General Of The Federation, Federal Ministry Of Communication Technology, Federal Ministry Of Youth Development, Federal Ministry Of Finance, Federal Ministry Of Information, National Youth Council Of Nigeria and the presidency) in Abuja from Lagos alone cost me a sum. It also carries a lot of psycho-social implications for me and my family being the only child.
Lanre: What do you think the Federal government aims to achieve by restricting the program to females only, and constitutionally how’s that wrong?
Timi: There is nothing positive in such restriction, or Lanre can you see any? Social-economically it is wrong, essentially when you consider the statistics which says that Nigeria has more males than females. Then constitutionally when you look into it it’s contrary to the constitutional. Section 42 of the Nigerian Constitution prohibits the Nigerian Government or any of its agencies or bodies from discrimination on the basis of sex or any of the grounds provided in the constitution. It’s clear from Section 42 of the1999 Nigerian constitution that any executive or administrative action of the government SHALL observe and follow the following constitutional guidelines: that a citizen of Nigeria of a particular sex SHALL NOT by reason that he is such a sex be subjected to restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other sex are NOT subject to.
Besides that, President Jonathan when he launched You WIN on www.youwin.org.ng in 2011, said “In line with renewed commitment to regular performance evaluation and measurement, this administration will monitor the program closely over the next three years of its implementation to ensure that it remains responsive to the NEEDS of young Nigerian MEN and WOMEN”
Lanre: Economically do you think a concept like #YOUWIN can actually solve the issue of unemployment among Nigerian youths?
Timi: You Win is an initiative targeted towards salvaging the current state of massive unemployment. The question here is this; can it provide the necessary leverage for entrepreneurs to build businesses that would provide the much desired employment to Nigerians? My answer is ‘No’, because in starting up a business or building a structure around an innovative idea, there are 8 key ingredients and money is below the ladder. In fact, analysts rank ‘The Environment’ as the third ingredient. In addition to direct funding, the Government needs to create the enabling environment, for example, alternative speed in transportation, regular and affordable power supply, funding of research and education (especially in science and technology) must be in place, to create a sustainable atmosphere for true entrepreneurs to emerge.
Lanre: There were several splashes of criticism that had to do with lack of transparency and favoritism with the first phase of the program what’s your take on that?
Timi: The first phase showed high level transparency, a friend (www.xtramileclean.org) and a sister became awardees in 2011 and they just applied ‘without any other hidden schemes’. But the problem lies in the disbursement of funds; the funds are to be released in 3 phases but as I speak to you now, only the first phase of the fund has been provided, which is less than one-quarter of what the applicants applied for to start the business. My friend, a Medical Practitioner in the East, who got less than N900, 000 till now for a business of N 6, 500, 000 (which the You Win organizers approved) had to use his own money to proceed on the business because he had rented a place with the N 900, 000 and waited for up to a year for the next phase of the remaining money, and you can imagine that the rent he paid for was already running.
Lanre: So far with the case, how has it been, are you pleased with the way things are been handled and is there any hope for justice or a reversal from the FG?
Timi: I instituted the case Monday, 17th September, 2012 to the Federal High Court, Ikeja-Lagos, Nigeria, with suit number FHC/ IKJ/ C8/ 205/ 12. Despite the pressure of time, we had its first hearing on Thursday, 22nd November, 2012 by 9a.m. At the first hearing, the case was only adjourned to 22nd January, 2012 because the president just ratified the promotion of the Federal High Court Judge in charge of the case to the Court of Appeal. I pray the justice system considers time as a crucial factor in constitutional matters as this.
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