By Ishola Balogun
Sixteen years ago when Joseph, now 39, graduated from the University with second class upper, he looked very promising even with his charming skills and the business acumen he had acquired during his undergraduate years in the university.
He had to pay his fees from the menial jobs he did every time during academic break, ready to explore the world of opportunities available.
He didn’t wait a bit in search for job. Rather, he started a business with the little resources he could gather. Unfortunately, five years after, his business efforts became moribund after fire razed the building where his business was situated. He lost everything he had laboured for. He was hopeful, dusted his credentials and joined millions of job seekers in search of employment.
After a couple of years when none was forthcoming, he applied for employment in the Nigeria Immigration Service. Sadly, he could not live to tell his own story as he died few hours after he wriggled himself out of the venue as a result of the stampede that killed 18 others.
With the story of the Ph.D holders applying as drivers in Dangote companies still fresh in our memories and now the death of 20 vibrant youths as a result of a stampede that occurred during the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, employment saga, it shows that all the measures to check the scourge of unemployment have defied all logic by successive governments.
The percentage of labour force that is without job is alarming while the army of the underemployed and unemployed youths are frightening. Authorities have put the figures of the unemployed at 23 per cent representing about 20.3 million Nigerians who are currently jobless.
The matter is compounded daily as more higher institutions churn out fresh graduates to add to the already saturated labour market.
Except for the bourgeoisie, there is no Nigerian household that does not have at least one unemployed university or polytechnic graduate still searching for job. A few of those who responded to questions on this issue indicated that unemployment has frustrated a number of youths and graduates into finding other means of survival no matter how menial.
Adedoyin, a Masters degree student, University of Lagos finds himself operating the popular Okada in Lagos. He said: “I am a graduate of Geography, from Bayero University, Kano, and after my Youth service, I could get any job. I tried to help myself by taking up a teaching job in one of the private schools, but even as the salary was meagre, the payment was irregular. I found out that operating okada as business is a lot better. Seven months after starting the okada business, I was able to enroll for my Masters degree at UNILAG.”
Adedoyin maintained that the recent ban on the Okada is now taking its toll on him as he had to join other job seekers to get a job. He lamented the way employment consultancy companies take advantage of the unemployment situation to extort money from helpless unemployed Nigerians.
“There are many employment consultancy companies that I have paid a lot of money to thinking they will help. But it had never worked.”
The absence of social security and paucity of basic amenities have not helped matters either. Quite a number of industries have closed shop in Nigeria since the last five years.
Adedayo Oyebanji, an employer of labour in Lagos said the inability of government to fix electricity in the last ten years has resulted to many companies closing shops and raised the level of unemployment. “So many companies, conglomerates, have relocated to neighbouring countries with smaller markets and potentials but with friendlier business environments and they are doing well there.
Go to Ghana, some of the industries that relocated from Nigeria to Ghana are doing well. These days, the high cost of doing business is enough compelling reason for their relocation. There are very bad roads, poor electricity supply, multiple taxation, among others,” Oyebanji said.
On the argument that government is not an employer of labour; that the duty of government is to create the enabling environment that would help the private sector create jobs, Oyebanji said that even in its duty of creating the right environment for the private sector to flourish, governments at all levels have failed. He cited the incessant power outage, the threatening security situation, corruption in high places as well as unfriendly policies of the CBN.
On the increasing trend of disinterest by job seekers in highly labour-intensive works such as agriculture, factory work or creative business ideas in preference for white collar jobs, Oyebanji said these are some of the reasons for remaining in the labour market for a long time, adding that there is no clear cut direction by the leaders and politicians since many of them engage in ostentatious living to spite and oppress those who don’t have.
This according to him is one of the reasons for the get-rich-quick syndrome by the younger generation who apart from not getting the desired job, search for other means to survive. This to a large extent had given rise to the menace of the Yahoo boys, Blackberry boys, Area boys, Boko Haram and other ethnic militia groups in the country. Many of these graduates may eventually be recruited into the rank of oil theft syndicates, armed robbers, kidnappers, militants and insurgents, while their female counterparts may end up as prostitutes.
The security challenges in the country caused by incessant attacks by insurgents in the North and kidnapping in the South are part of the numerous causes of unemployment in the country. To reduce unemployment in the country, the individuals concerned, the private sector and governments at all levels must put in place creative measures to stem the tide.
If the argument that the present generation have wasted a lot of time searching for jobs to better their lives and with the increase in the level of unemployment, the youths of today who will be parents in their mid life years may have been severely wounded by this problem.
Under this condition, it is doubtful how they can propel the needed wheel of development. If young people are provided with employment opportunities, they can become productive assets and take their part in mainstream society offering the best of their skills and talents.