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Published On: Fri, Sep 26th, 2014

Evaluating Nigeria’s soaring unemployment rate

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Okonjo-Iweala_Ngozi (1)Unemployment is one of the most serious problems facing Nigeria. However, there is also a growing level of security challenges, which calls for serious concern. The rising level of unemployment in the country can be attributed for the increase in security challenges. Many employable and productive adults are unable to secure jobs and the government seem not to have solution to this problem. Ochiaka Ugwu writes.

No one can pretend not to notice the staggering and alarming rate of unemployment in Nigeria today. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in its latest labour force statistics released last April, by the Statistician-General of the Federation, Dr Yemi Kale put the nation’s overall unemployment rate at 54 percent, however, the composition by age group showed that unemployment affected the younger age group.

It is unfortunate that the most populous black nation in the globe and the largest economy in the continent with a population of over 150 million are endowed with diverse and infinite human and material resources. Sadly, however, years of unbridled corruption, mismanagement and sheer waste have hindered economic growth in the country. Consequently, the nation’s resources have been left underutilised leading to unemployment and abject poverty, the twin evils which experts believe may scuttle the attainment of the Vision 20-20-20.

According to a recent World Bank statistics, youth unemployment rate is 38 percent, but realistically, 80 percent of Nigerian youths are unemployed, with secondary school graduates mostly found among unemployed rural population accounting for about half of this figure, while university and polytechnic graduates make up the rest.

The Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, recently said she is losing sleep over the issue of unemployment in the country. It has been said that Nigeria may not be able to meet the requirements for the attainment of the MDGs by 2015 due to the challenges posed by unemployment. This view was equally corroborated by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs, Mrs. Precious Gbeneol, while making a submission at the World Science Day for Peace and Development held in Abuja.

However, speaking on the topic, Mr. Musa Abdulaziz a public Affairs Analyst and commentator on National issues said that what seems to be more worrisome is the fact that the nation’s universities and polytechnics continue to churn out more than 100,000 graduates annually and available jobs remain inadequate to keep pace with the ever-expanding army of jobseekers.

His words, “Annually we are churning out over 100, 000 graduates from various universities and polytechnics across the country. If you look at the federal government’s efforts towards employment, the highest they do is just to employ 10, 000 or there are about.

“Yes, intervention programme like youWiN and SURE-P Programme could have been the part of the solution, but the slow pace of implementation is not helping matters. In specific, the graduate internship scheme is expected to absorb about 50, 000 graduates every year but they hardly employ up to 10, 000 and you can hardly understand why it is happening”.

Musa who said that the soaring unemployment rate gives him concern as a Nigerian due to the fact that it has become a common feature in every household, informed that it has a chain reaction which has negative effects on Nigerians.

“It gives me a serious worry because as a Nigerian, this is my environment and in any household there are many unemployed people either graduates or school certificate holders. The impact of unemployment has a chain reaction in any given society whether your children is directly involved or not. The negative tendencies that those who are feeling the pain will bring into the society will affect all”.

The Kogi State born motivational speaker, however urged government, private sector, traditional institutions and faith based organisations to convey a National Conference that will address this menace which he said is taking an ugly trend.

“The government of the day along with other stakeholders, I mean the private sector of the economy, traditional institutions and religious bodies mighty have to come up with a national conference on how best to tackle unemployment. It has gone beyond normal policy formulation and implementation to address unemployment and I will give you my reasons”.

Though, the visibly worried Musa admitted that the Federal Government has put a lot of measures to reduce unemployment to the barest minimum, but blamed the nation’s bureaucratic bottleneck as the main factor hindering the progress of the programme.

“The money is there, policy made, but the nature of our public service bureaucracy is affecting these beautiful initiatives by this present government. So, something has to be done. Even if you take 50, 000 out of averagely 10 to 15 million unemployed Nigerian youth, what have you really done? He asked rhetorically.

He stressed the need for us to admit that we have a problem at hand and tackle it head-on before it gets out of hands.

“You are taking 50, 000 this year and you are bringing in over 100, 000 into the labour market. You can see the equation will never be balanced except as I have said. If we can come up with the courage of admitting that we are in trouble in terms of unemployment, ideas from the private sector in particular who are supposed to generate this employment for the masses will begin to come”.

Continuing, Musa urged government at all levels to concede certain responsibilities to private sector as they have no business being in business informing that they are to provide the enabling environment that will make employment creation thrive.

“Government on their part will begin to surrender some aspect of what they are doing. It is not actually the business of government to provide jobs for a teaming populace. Their mandate is to provide the enabling environment that will usher in the jobs. What is the relationship between the government and the private sector in terms of their survival and support? Opportunities are abound in this country.

He noted that the security challenges in the country caused by incessant attacks by insurgents in the North are part of the numerous causes of unemployment in the country because no investor will like to put his money where he will be afraid of moving freely and when youth are idle anything can happen.

“The civil service is already saturated. We will just be deceiving ourselves with these palliative measures introduced by the system. We have passed that level and should concentrate on manufacturing. The system has not taken enough measures to address the lingering challenges and insecurity you see today, emanates from unemployment. The unemployed are easy tool for violence” he concluded.

While, acknowledging there is high unemployment rate in the system, Chairman/National Co-ordinator, Reliable Transformation Group (RTG) Mr. Edward Odinfe said it did not start today maintaining that the system has been churning out a good number of graduates and the job available couldn’t just go round.

On whether it is a justification for it to continue, the Abia State born Property Consultant who agreed that is not a justification for it to continue noted that President Jonathan is trying to revamp some moribund companies which he believes are helping out in addressing the high unemployment rate.

When reminded that most youth have lost hope in the system, he stressed the need for them to be optimistic as the transformation agenda of President Jonathan will soon be set in motion. Odinfe sounding optimistic assured that very soon jobs will be looking for workers and not the other way round.

He therefore urged Nigerian youth to do anything possible towards rediscovering themselves as government cannot employ all of them.

John Adeh, a clergyman held that Youth unemployment in Nigeria has eaten deep into the agile and intelligent youths who despite the lack of jobs cannot do without activities.

“They get involved in crime, juvenile delinquencies, cultism, indecent partying and other social vices. I see a future where the agility of Nigerian youth would become effective productive resources to develop a Nigeria which shall be a desirable country for all to live in.

Adeh lamented that Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa and still plagued by youth unemployment which had been one of its major problems in recent years.

“Both government and the private sector had discussed this issue at forums and conferences but have not found a solution to it. Its continued existence had been linked to lack of power supply and financial empowerment for youth”.

An unemployed youth, Mr. Emmanuel Okeke lamented the situation of unemployed Nigerians whom he said that their condition is better imagined than told.

“I am tired of staying at home and for how long will my parents keep on providing for me? I went to school to get a good job, but I am now living hopelessly without knowing what tomorrow will bring”

Okeke who said that his condition has even made him to contemplate suicide on certain occasions but lacked the courage to do it, regretted that his friends have left him behind and his family has lost fate on him.

Okeke also informed that almost everybody he knew is avoiding him like a plague as none of them will want to be associated with a liability like him.

Unlike Okeke, Tokunbo Idowu a 2009 graduate of political science who did his National Youth Service program in Kogi State blamed corruption for his inability to secure a job after five years of graduating.

Idowu who is now teaching in one of the private schools in the suburb of Abuja narrated how he was close to securing a job with one of the paramilitary organisations but could not afford to bring N350, 000 bribe demanded by the people when his monthly take home was N10, 000.

Idowu is now virtually living in a cyber café applying for jobs and will be ready to settle for any one that will offer him a better living condition.

The incidence of unemployment in Nigeria is alarming. The rates keep on rising without any appreciable effort to cushion the effects. Findings revealed that corruption in both public and private and at the individual levels, industrial decay, and neglect of the agricultural sector are among many other factors responsible for the scourge. It was also revealed that widespread poverty, youth restiveness, high rate of social vices and criminal activities are prevalent because of joblessness, and if not controlled, apathy, cynicism and revolution might become the consequent. Stakeholders therefore, recommend urgent intervention in the sensitive sectors of the economy such as power, industry, and agricultural sectors in order to create employment opportunities. Also, the fight against corruption should be intensified.

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