Unemployment: Nigeria sitting on keg of gun-powder

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By Emmanuel Edukugho
With an estimated 60 million unemployed persons representing nearly one-third of the country’s  population, human capacity development is being seriously endangered.

This situation is not only making a mockery of Nigeria’s so-called vision of becoming one of the 20 leading economies in the world by the year 2020, but also threatening national security as obviously the nation seems to be sitting on a keg of gunpowder likely to explode at any time with devastating consequences.

But more astonishing is the recent disclosure by a human resource company, Employment Clinic, that the government spends N960 billion annually  on artisans from abroad to work in the country.

President Jonathan and Emeka Nwogu, Minister of Labour and Productivity. while at the the background job seekers scramble for few job opportunities.

Unfortunately, the Nigerian education system is still structured to prepare graduates for employment in an over-saturated labour market in which organisations or establishments in both public and private sectors of the national economy are cutting jobs while the concept of self employment remained a novelty.

Although the tertiary education system is only now trying to embrace entrepreneurial skills development to tackle problem of unemployment among graduates, the nation is still far from the ideal of education for employment, that is knowledge for practical action.

The present realities  make this style of going to school in order to be employed after graduation no longer fashionable.

The unemployment situation is worsening with every passing day moreso as thousands of graduates are being churned out from tertiary institutions yearly to besiege those already hopelessly waiting for employment and roaming our streets searching for means of earning a living. For some years now, we have piled graduates upon graduates mortgaging the nation’s future and our children’s future for the greed, avarice and planlessness of our leaders through bad governance.

The enormity of unemployment challenge which has become a colossal one – a socio-economic affliction of great proportions can be illustrated most vividly when out of the 13,000 applications received by the Dangote Group of Companies for Graduate Executive Truck Drivers, there were six Ph.D, 704 Masters and over 8,460 Bachelor degree holders.

Most astonishing was the fact that the company only needed 100 drivers but got 13,000 applications, most of them from reputable universities.

According to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, more than 41% of Nigerian graduates are without employment after the mandatory National Youth Service Corps engagement.

The National Bureau of Statistics said over 50% of youths in Nigeria are jobless, while the World Bank puts the figure at 56%. Considering the country’s estimated population of about 167 million and 60 million jobless, these are grim figures portending danger to economic growth and development of a nation with the largest concentration of black people on earth.

Perhaps worried that the youths are at the receiving end of this unemployment scourge, President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration came up with an initiative of youth entrepreneurship in partnership with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Communication and Technology, Ministry of Youth development and the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development called “The Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN)”.

This will help to generate jobs by encouraging and supporting ambitious and creative enterprising young men and women to develop and implement business ideas for job creation. It is envisaged that over a 3-year period in which the second cycle will be completed in 2013 (September) between 80,000 to 320,000 new jobs will be created at cost of N10 billion.

In addition, the Federal  Government said it has given over 1,000 youths who distinguished themselves after screening and training offered them in various vocations a take-off grant of about N1 billion to actualise their aspirations.

There is also Women and   Youths Employment project carried out under the subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment programme targeting employment for over 300,000 unskilled youths, women and the disabled each year.

Some experts doubt the sustainability of these initiatives and whether they can be permanent bearing in mind the failure of the Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) and the Micro Finance Bank initiative launched in 2005.

Invariably, all these are mere palliatives, only trying to scratch the surface of the unemployment problem.

Government can arrange special stimulus packages to several companies and conglomerates operating in Nigeria from oil to telecom, construction and manufacturing to expand and provide employment to qualified youths. Government should engage in specific projects with the objective of creating jobs.

Areas begging for massive investment include infrastructure like roads, electricity, housing, agriculture, railways, environmental sanitation, bridges, water and refineries. Others are education, health, petrochemicals, mining, excavation, as all these projects have potential to create millions of jobs.

An American scholar puts it succinctly in this way: ”One of the unwritten and unspoken commonplaces lying at the root of modern academic policy is that the various universities are competitors for the traffic of merchantable instruction in much the same fashion as rival establishments in the retail trade compete for customers.”

The school system comprising primary, secondary and tertiary is not providing patriotic, productive, self-actualising, creative thinking individuals, while at the same time, the various regulatory agencies have failed to set standards and to ensure compliance at all times.

President Obama once said that the American youth needs education that will make them possess 21st century skills like problem solving and critical thinking, entrepreneurship and creativity. This is because economic progress and educational achievement have always gone hand in hand.

It was the belief of Professor Julius Ihonvbere while delivering a Foundation Day Lecture of Lead City University, Ibadan, that Nigerian youths need even a higher level of that standard, especially in this internet age.

“Rancid educational and economic policies that pay cursory attention to unemployment, coupled with unyielding and formidable peer pressure, are combined attractions for crime for the present day  youth.”

It was noted that the leaders are no longer trusted and the mill of the antisocials enlarges by the day. No wonder we have armed robbers, political thugs, kidnappers, religious/tribal fanatics, drug couriers, yahoo yahoo boys all of them designed to cut corners. And they all passed through one school or the other. Against this background, there is urgent need for massive employment in order to check youth restiveness.

A nation not interested in developing the youth (as is the case of Nigeria), will only be stranded in the earliest forms of pre-industrial and primitive stages of existence.

According to Ihonvbere, it is wicked for present day public office holders to insist that fresh graduates must be self employed without the enabling environment. In  civilised world, it is the duty of government to ignite such a revolution in the youth.

None of the big economies which Nigeria aspires to be part, leaves her productive sectors to the vagaries of market forces just like that.

Saturday Vanguard investi-gation showed most graduates of higher education are still looking for jobs rather than create jobs. Only about one out of one thousand graduates of Nigerian tertiary institutions get employment. The low level of entrepreneurial zeal among graduates of higher education can be attributed as the main reason why they are not starting their own businesses coupled with inability to access loans provided by some banks, especially bank of industry.

“In fact, the major challenge is the take-off capital or seed money required for some of these graduates in moving forward,” declared Engr. B.A. Odufuwa, Chairman, Governing Council, Lagos City Polytechnic in the 5th Convocation address.

Many eminent persons and scholars have also pointed to entrepreneurship education as a bail out from unemployment.

The Vice Chancellor, Ondo State University of Science and Technology, Prof Tolu Odugbemi affirmed that one major outstanding feature of the institution is the emphasis on  entrepreneurial training and skill development for the students.

“Our students are being trained in over 20 various vocational skills aside from their normal academic pursuit to make them self-reliant, independent and job creators after their graduation,” he told this writer recently. He expressed concern over the teeming number of graduates produced annually by universities without employment opportunities.

Similarly, Covenant University, Ota, runs a Centre for Entrepreneurial Development Studies (CEDS) aimed to develop capacity to nurture the talents and ideas of students to create and sustain businesses and become creators of jobs, not job seekers. Prof. Pat Utomi, at the 4th Convocation Lecture of Redeemer’s University, titled “Entrepreneurship  as panacea for unemployment in the 21st century – The Role of the University”, said that entrepreneurship is a fundamental part of our human dignity and it goes beyond passing a course but using  what one has learnt and apply the knowledge in what one is primarily engaged in to create value and wealth.

On the other hand, it is believed that federal government’s 2013 budget would not favour job creation needed to tackle unemployment as allocations to infrastructure such as electricity, roads, etc are grossly inadequate.

It was also noted by stakeholders that banks have zero tolerance for risk and this is stifling private sector growth and capacity of entrepreneurs to create  jobs.

Lack of skills has been identified as the reason many of our graduates are unemployable in the first place.

According to a human capital development expert, Mr. Williams Ibiyinka, there is a clear difference between acquiring university education and acquiring skills.

Human capital or skill development is another strategy to reduce unemployment in this country.  A lot of stakeholders want efforts to be intensified to ensure that youths are productively engaged and government provides necessary infrastructure to establish small and medium enterprises so as to reduce unemployment.

Again poverty level seemed to have risen, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The Statistician-General of Nigeria, Dr. Yemi Kale was reported in the press as saying:

“It remains a paradox that despite the fact that the Nigerian economy is growing, the proportion of Nigerians living in poverty is increasing every year. This trend may have increased further if the potential positive impacts of several anti-poverty and employment generation intervention programmes are not taken into account.”

If  the federal government is sincere with promises being made to provide millions of job for the unemployed, then the nation should be seeing signs towards that direction. “But what we have are mere slogans without concrete actions to show as the unemployment situation worsened.

I left school since 2006, till today nothing to do. I don’t have sufficient capital to go into productive business,” laments Mr. Tuoyo Paul, an accounting graduate of University of Benin.

Another engineering graduate of University of Ibadan who has spent the past five years going about looking for employment (names not disclosed) said the situation is highly frustrating and embarrasing.

“Most employers give conditions like obtaining second class upper, not above 25 years and some years of  experience. It’s just too bad.”

The construction sector, agriculture, environment, housing, can throw up thousands of jobs for youths if government can harness the potentials for national development.

“But government has left these options open to foreigners to exploit at the expense of our teeming young population seriously trapped by unemployment,” said Rotimi Funsho, an economist.

 

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