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Published On: Tue, Feb 25th, 2014

Addressing threat of youth unemployment in the North

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Riots-aftermath.-Youths-g-007From Muhammad Ibrahim, Kaduna

The problem of chronic youth unemployment is very evident in Nigeria, but especially severe in the North. This situation is increasingly becoming alarming and now poses a great threat or danger to the development, security, stability of the region.

Presently, statistics has shown that approximately 24 percent of youth are unemployed across the country, meaning that arguably, almost 50 percent of youth are currently unemployed in the North.

Every year thousands of graduates are turn out for whom there are no jobs. Nigerian streets are littered with youth hawkers who ordinarily would have found gainful employment in some enterprise; or would have demonstrated their skills and resourcefulness if there are enabling environments and reliable management structures on ground.

Given the lack of sufficient employment opportunities in the formal sector, these young people in the North may be compelled to engage in casual work and other unorthodox livelihood sources, thus leading to underemployment

The danger posed by these unemployed youth is much because some of these youth are being used as tools by some selfish politicians to cause crisis and instability in the country; a good example is what occurred in 2011 elections crisis and what is presently happening in North-East.

Some of them due to lack of jobs that will help them earn money to keep souls and body together found themselves in other crimes such as armed Robbery, Kidnapping, insurgency, militancy among other social vises.

This particularly issue of unemployment among youth, especially northern youth is beginning to bother leaders in the region because some of these youths are very educated but are still roaming the streets without something doing worthwhile.

Despite various government programmes such as Youth With Initiative in Nigeria (YouWIN), Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), Graduate Empowerment Scheme (GEMS) among others to cub the situation there are still millions of employed youths roaming the streets.

It is an issue that bothered most of the guest speakers that attended the inauguration of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), among them Kaduna state governor, Alhaji Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, who publicly described the rate of unemployment in the region as a time bomb that is just ready to explodes if not addressed. The governor warned the Northern elders to find a solution to the rate of unemployment among teeming youths in the region before it will be too late.

According to him, the rate of teeming youth out of jobs shows that the region has lost it focus long time ago which is the reason why the region is trailing behind it contemporaries.

“The rate of unemployment is alarming, rate of uneducated in our zone is very high and it is a time bomb, the earlier we wake up the better for all of us. If we continue in this direction, we are going nowhere.

“Political leaders must work together with Northern leaders; they must involve the youth in the affairs of the region as past leaders like late Sardauna, Aminu Kano and others did during their life time.

“If you don’t involve the youths in matters that will concern them either today or tomorrow then we are building a chaos situation because you don’t shave a man’s head in his absence”, the governor warned.

The governor’s comment shows the reason why his administration is paying more attention to engaging youths in skill acquisition programmes, whereby a few months ago he decided to enroll a total of 7,600 youths in skills-acquisition scheme, as part of its SURE-P programme.

The youth are presently undergoing training on various skills-acquisition such as irrigation farming, fishing, poultry, soap making to mention but few all with the intention of making them self-dependent in future.

After their training the state government intends to provide them with capital to enable them set up their businesses so that they can also become employers of labour.

Yero’s comment on the need to find a lasting solution to youth unemployment came at the right time because so far the situation has since been disturbing residents of the state metropolis.

Virtually in almost every major street one passes within the state metropolis, youths are seen sitting by the roadside doing nothing rather than arguing about football; majority of them are either school dropouts or they have never been to school at all.

There are also those who are fortunate to have attended schools and were graduates but still are without jobs; and the problem is not only peculiar to Kaduna state but the whole Northern region.

Now that the country is heading towards 2015 election there are fears among every concern citizen of the country that these idle youth who on daily basis have no place to go to engage themselves may be used by selfish politicians to foment trouble during elections.

This is why many believe that other state governments in northern Nigeria must do their best to take off these youths from the streets, by engaging them in one skills-acquisition or the other, since white-collar jobs are not available these days or are hard to get.

Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) President, Mr. Abdulwaheed Omar, in a chat with an on-line media, FrontiersNews, was also quoted to have warned that if left unattended to, the youth unemployment crisis could undermine the peace and security of the nation.

“With an estimated 80 million youths in the total population, 30 to 40 million unemployed youths constitute a veritable army of the hungry, disillusioned and an angry that can undermine the stability, security and peace of any nation if left unattended,” he said.

This is why most of the guests at the ACF occasion applauded the Kwara state government, Abdulfatah Ahmed who in his paper presented titled: “Northern Nigeria Free of Oil Revenue” provided a solution to these problems, which is to engage these youths in agricultural sector which is the highest employer of labour not only in the country but the whole world.

According to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the national unemployment rates for Nigeria, between 2000 and 2009, showed that the number of unemployed persons constituted 31.1% in 2000; 13.6% in 2001; 12.6% in 2002; 14.8% in 2003; 13.4% in 2004; 11.9% in 2005; 13.7% in 2006; 14.6% in 2007; 14.9% in 2008 and 19.7% in 2009.

The figures above may not have captured in totality the youth unemployment situation in Nigeria, however, they are pointing to the fact that the phenomenon is a very critical issue with far-reaching implications for stability of democracy, good governance and socio-economic virility.

From all indications, youth unemployment poses a menace to the North, and indeed Nigeria and constitutes a real danger and a threat to Nigeria’s democracy. This is because these youths could be manipulated to undermine the stability of Nigeria’s democracy at any point in time.

Against this background, there is the need by government at all levels, international community and other stakeholders to embark on massive job creation to take these youths off the streets. Granted, there may not be a quick fix to this problem, but all the stakeholders must as a matter of fact do something urgently.

These teeming unemployed youths must feel the positive impact of democracy in their lives. The situation whereby only a few privileged persons in positions of authority benefit from this system of government at the expense of the impoverished masses portends a great and real danger that may incur the wrath of the unemployed youths in Nigeria if not addressed urgently.

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